The ‘Dark Universe’ did not work out, but there are many (and promising) projects that are still underway.
There are characters that will never completely disappear in Hollywood. There will always be around the corner a new version of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Werewolf or any of the rest of the classic monsters from Universal Pictures, which marked the history of horror cinema in the first decades of the medium and now, almost a century later, they continue to give us joys and new projects.
A few years ago, Universal tried to build a shared universe, the Dark Universe, with stars like Tom Cruise, Javier Bardem, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella and Johnny Depp, but the resounding failure at the box office of ‘The Mummy’ undid all plans and led the company in a new direction. What was once to be a return to the classics with interconnected narrative ties is now an open door to innovation from new directors and perspectives on the characters we already know. For example, Depp’s Invisible Man has become Leigh Whannell’s “Invisible Man” (“Upgrade”), where the true protagonist is a woman (Elisabeth Moss) stalked by the invisible entity of her abuser.
With that spirit of renewal come other projects, from various visions of Dracula to a new attempt at the always difficult Werewolf, highlighting Universal’s collaboration with the house of Blumhouse and the new perspectives that acclaimed filmmakers such as Chloé Zhao and Karyn Kusama will bring. We collect all the announced productions.
The Werewolf (with Ryan Gosling)
In May 2020 it was announced that Ryan Gosling would become Universal’s new Werewolf. And it was about time someone dared to make a new version of the character. Leigh Whannell, who has already signed ‘The Invisible Man’, writes and directs the film, which, as far as we know, follows the story of a television news anchor who turns into a wolf. Among the references that are handled in the production are ‘Nightcrawler’ and ‘Network’, so we expect a dark portrait with a message.
James Wan’s Frankenstein
He is alive! Again! Frankenstein will once again return to the big screen, and he will do so from the hand of contemporary horror master James Wan (‘The Warren File’, ‘Insidious’). The director has not revealed too many details of the film, but a certain synopsis: a group of teenagers discover that a neighbor is building a monster in his basement, and, by accident, the boys will free the creature. The project has been compared to the ‘Stranger Things’ series. Robbie Thompson, in charge of writing The CW’s “Supernatural,” is in charge of the script for the film, which still has no title. Be that as it may, Mary Shelley’s novel will once again prove her immortality.
It shares the title with Lupita Nyong’o’s great zombie comedy, but it will be something totally different. Mix of live action and animation, ‘Little Monsters’ is one of the most curious projects of this new monstrous universe from Universal, where a love letter will be written to her legacy with the writer and director of ‘Toy Story 4’, Josh Cooley. Of course it could have a more familiar tone, a way to bring these classics closer to the new generations, but we will have to wait to know more details.
The bride of Frankenstein, under construction
Much has been said in recent years in Hollywood about bringing the Bride of Frankenstein back to the big screen, but the project has taken many turns. David Koepp wrote a script years ago, and it was to be directed by Bill Condon and starring Angelina Jolie, but it seems that that idea has been discarded thanks to the intervention of the producer Amy Pascal and Koepp has returned to rewrite this story with a reboot. modern focused on plot and character development rather than being a big production. “It’s not this big 150 million movie with giant movie stars. It’s not quite as indie as ‘The Invisible Man,’ but it’s a lot more reasonable and feasible, has a really cool idea and is very focused on the present, “he declared in 2020. Also, it has been advanced that the film will address the idea of possession of women in the context of #MeToo, so you can make it incredibly relevant to the present. On the other hand, Scarlett Johansson will play the character but not in this production, but in ‘Bride’ from the A24 production company.
Beyond the films that tackle Universal’s monsters individually, there are also other projects that attempt to pay tribute to this entire monstrous universe. For example, with ‘Dark Army’, where Paul Feig (director of ‘My best friend’s wedding’ and ‘Ghostbusters’) will recall the classic James Whale films and demonstrate, as he said, how monsters are simply extreme versions of the idea of the “outsider”, of those who do not fit into society. Feig has been working on this idea for a while, and recently explained why it was taking so long: It’s “a little too expensive.” Luckily, that doesn’t mean it’s been canceled, just that we’ll have to wait a bit longer.
The invisible woman
If we remember, when Leigh Whannell’s film with Elisabeth Moss was announced, many thought that the actress from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was going to become the female version of the classic character. But now we know that her approach was different, and that the true idea of ’gender swap’ continues through other channels and with the participation of Elizabeth Banks. The actress and director wants to take over the project, with a script by Erin Cressida (‘The Girl on the Train’), who has described her idea as a cross between ‘Thelma & Louise’ and ‘American Psycho’.
What is missing among all these projects? Well of course, a musical! ‘Monster Mash’ is one of the most curious titles on the list, and at the moment it is planned as an original musical film written by Will Widger and directed by video clip creator Matt Stawski. It’s been more than a year since the project was announced and no further details have been released yet, but we hope the idea will go ahead.