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Film / Dark Universe

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“Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters.”
Dr. Henry Jekyll, The Mummy

The Dark Universe was an attempt to start a combined setting of monster films produced by Universal Pictures, featuring reimagined takes of the classic Universal Horror characters in an apparent attempt to follow the success of other studios' successful franchises.

Originally intended to launch with 2014's Dracula Untold, development of a shared monster universe was postponed when that film underperformed. Universal went back to the table, formed a brain trust to plot a course for a future series that was meant to begin with 2017's The Mummy reboot, starring Tom Cruise as Canon Foreigner Nick Morton, Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, and Sofia Boutella as the titular mummy. The studio created a "Dark Universe" logo that would pair with the iconic Universal globe, accompanied with a leitmotif from prolific composer Danny Elfman titled "Monsters Legacy", and announced a second installment, a remake of Bride of Frankenstein to be directed by Bill Condon and star Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's monster. Johnny Depp was also cast as The Invisible Man.

And then The Mummy came out, underperformed at the box office, and was panned by critics. After over a year of silence about the project, Universal announced in January 2019 that the Dark Universe was completely scrapped in favor of letting directors work on smaller, individual projects starring the classic Universal horror characters. This led to a theoretical third iteration of the Dark Universe in all but name, starting in 2020 with a smaller-budget reboot of The Invisible Man co-produced by Blumhouse, written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Upgrade), and made without the involvement of Johnny Depp. That film's success led to the repurposing of an earlier Dark Universe concept as a comedy in 2023's Renfield.

In 2024, it was announced that the Dark Universe branding would be resurrected for a horror-themed section of Universal Studios’ Epic Universe expansion to their Orlando resort.

Entries in the Dark Universe include:

Released Films

Anime & Manga

  • The Mummy: Dark Stories (2017)

Video Games

  • The Mummy: Prodigium Strike (2017)
  • The Mummy: Dark Universe Stories (2017)
  • The Mummy Demastered (2017)

Cancelled/Planned Films

  • Untitled Invisible Man film (eventually became The Invisible Man (2020))
  • Bride of Frankenstein
  • Untitled Creature from the Black Lagoon film
  • Untitled Van Helsing film
  • Untitled Wolf Man film
  • Untitled Frankenstein film
  • Untitled Dracula film (eventually became Renfield)
  • Untitled Hunchback of Notre Dame film
  • Untitled Phantom of the Opera film

Spinoff/Reboot Films note 

The Dark Universe contains examples of the following tropes.

  • Affirmative Action Girl: The first full on monsters with starring roles were Ahmanet (the female mummy) and the Bride of Frankenstein. The others, like Jekyll/Hyde and Frankenstein's Monster, existed already but they weren't the headlining monsters.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: The Prodigium, a group that knows of the monsters, seeks to protect humanity from them and was set to tie the films to one another.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: Prodigium aims at protecting humanity from evil.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Dracula Untold, which was intended to be the first in this line of films when it was made, is separate from the Dark Universe, its role as the first film being taken by The Mummy.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • Nick Morton, Tom Cruise's character in The Mummy, was set to be a major recurring character alongside the monsters.
    • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were never part of the original Universal monster marketing, with the two famous adaptations around the same time having been made by Paramount and MGM.
      • Universal did however give Boris Karloff a turn at playing him for a crossover with Abbott and Costello. It also should be remembered the studio that would become Universal did make a Jekyll/Hyde movie back in 1913. Neither versions have often been included in previous Universal Monster packaging but most certainly do offer precedent for this version's inclusion.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: The music played over the opening logos contains several variations of dies irae in the background.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Egyptian God Set, who is also Satan. By the end of The Mummy, he remained sealed inside Nick Morton.
  • Mythology Gag: "To a new world of gods and monsters!" is a quote from the original 1935 Bride of Frankenstein and had been adopted as a sort of slogan.
  • Shared Universe: The general intent for this franchise.
  • Villain Protagonist: Averted Trope. The monsters who are truly evil were set to be antagonists in the films. How this would have played out for each monster would have been determined as the franchise went on, if it had.