Over the course of the summer it became easy even for dedicated movie lovers to forget that Universal is planning a gigantic interconnected universe of monster flicks. That’s because The Mummy was the first film in this project, and it was essentially a bust. Yes, Tom Cruise was in it (and Tom Cruise is still fun), but The Mummy was basically just another fantasy/adventure movie that probably would have done better with half the budget. With that first effort not going well, many people probably tuned out what Universal apparently insists upon calling its “Dark Universe.”
What we actually know, however, is that Universal is pushing forward with this immense project, with a full schedule of films expected to come out in the next several years. Bride Of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man are up next, to be followed by The Wolfman, Van Helsing, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Phantom Of The Opera, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. There may also be a Dracula Untold 2 thrown in there, but it’s been bizarrely unclear whether or not Universal is counting the first one as part of the universe. Phew! That’s a whole lot of upcoming projects.
For the most part, those are just working titles, or our best guesses, and we know very, very little about what the movies will look like. But those first two are a little further along in their development.
Bride Of Frankenstein will reportedly be out by 2019. It’s going to be directed by Bill Condon, who at this point may be best known for his Beauty And The Beast remake this past spring, which actually went quite well. At this early stage it’s being categorized as a horror film, and perhaps it will be just that. But it will probably have an adventure element to it as well, and it’s not as if even young audiences aren’t familiar with the concept of Frankenstein’s monster.
What people are less familiar with is what this monster will look like in a live action movie. Aside from the spoof flick Young Frankenstein, Boris Karloff was the last actor to really go for the monster role, and younger audiences won’t know his work. Indeed, if people are familiar with it at all these days, it’s likely via an online game that was actually developed in association with Universal. It features Karloff’s likeness and other images from the old ‘30s film, all looming over a digital slot reel. It certainly has an audience in the gaming community, but that’s as close as it gets to any kind of overarching image of a live action Frankenstein monster
The task of establishing such an image for modern audiences will fall to Javier Bardem, who is currently the only actor listed in the cast for Bride Of Frankenstein. No stranger to monster-like roles, Bardem would appear to be a logical choice, and he’s certainly capable of spooking his viewers. He’ll have a real chance to deliver a memorable performance and put Universal’s Dark Universe back on track.
Hot on the heels of this movie we expect to see The Invisible Man, which if anything is even less familiar to modern viewers. Oddly enough, it too has been the subject of a game supported by Universal (perhaps the studio was looking to plant these characters in peoples’ minds a few years early). And many may well have read the original novel upon which the tale is based at some point in school. But there have been few if any modern takes on the story, and unlike Frankenstein tales, there is no enduring symbol or character from it.
That said, we do know that Johnny Depp will star in the film, and that should help to get people interesting. Depp may have worn out his welcome with some audiences by playing similarly eccentric characters time and time again, but here he’ll have to do something different. He plays a sinister scientist who’s accidentally made himself completely invisible and uses his unintended power for nefarious purposes.
At this stage, this pretty much sums it up! There’s no telling how these movies will do or even what kind of tone they’ll assume. But they’re on the way, as Universal seems determined to put its monster properties to use.