Universal's monster cinematic universe, kickstarted by The Mummy, is in trouble

Image via Universal

Writer-producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, who were hired as the monster universe architects, have departed the franchise, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. Universal tried to hit the ground running with their attempt to make a cinematic universe out of their existing catalog of monsters. Cracks started to show when Alex Kurtzman, one of the franchise's leading minds, stated that he wasn't sure about his commitment to future monster-themed films.

Back in May, Universal officially announced the Dark Universe, a shared cinematic franchise that would put classic monsters like Dracula, the Invisible Man and the Bride of Frankenstein back in the spotlight.

But the Dark Universe's approach-one that nakedly mimics the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the outset, planning a constellation of films that share connective tissue that doubles as marketing for the next film down the line in the hopes of a giant crossover with giant profits-might be dead. Condon is reportedly still attached, but no date has been set to resume production and its February 14, 2019, release date has been scrapped.

Kurtzman and Morgan were set to orchestrate the universe, with Kurtzman making his feature film directorial debut on The Mummy. Kurtzman is reportedly focusing on TV projects, including "Star Trek: Discovery" for CBS All-Access. Shortly before The Mummy was released in June those actors posed for a much-touted publicity photo, with Bardem signed to play Frankenstein's monster and Depp as The Invisible Man, with others like Dwayne Johnson being courted for The Wolfman and Angelina Jolie to play The Bride of Frankenstein.

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The studio had big plans for the Dark Universe.

Universal President of Production Peter Cramer said: "We've learned many lessons throughout the creative process on Dark Universe so far, and we are viewing these titles as filmmaker-driven vehicles, each with their own distinct vision. We are not rushing to meet a release date and will move forward with these films when we feel they are the best versions of themselves". One of those paths involves launching standalone films with other producers, possibly including Blumhouse head and horror mastermind Jason Blum.

Kurtzman, who also directed this year's The Mummy - the film meant to launch Dark Universe - is reportedly departing to focus on TV projects like Star Trek: Discovery.

ComScore box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian says that you shouldn't count out the Dark Universe yet. "This is Universal's legacy", he adds.

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