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.
Originally intended to launch with 2014's Dracula Untold, development of the Dark Universe was postponed when that film underperformed. It instead 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.
While the only other film in this setting whose title had been announced was Bill Condon's Bride of Frankenstein remake, Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp were cast as Frankenstein's monster and The Invisible Man, respectively. Prolific composer Danny Elfman composed a leitmotif for the franchise, titled "Monsters Legacy".
Due to the critical and box office underperformance of The Mummy, Universal announced in January 2019 that the Dark Universe was completely scrapped. They are instead making director-driven films based on the classic monsters, starting in 2020 with a small budget reboot of The Invisible Man co-produced by Blumhouse, but without starring Johnny Depp as previously reported.
In June 2020, David Koepp revealed in an interview that he and Universal executives have agreed on a script and scaled down budget for the Bride of Frankenstein remake, and that they are looking for a director.
The unexpected success of the 2020 Invisible Man in turn led to the resurrection (pun intended) of the Dark Universe, starting with a Dracula reboot focusing on Dracula's sidekick, Renfield. However, there is no indication that the new films will be as tightly connected this time, suggesting that at least for now it may only be a thematic cinematic universe as opposed to a literal one.
Entries in the Dark Universe include:<!—index—>
- The Mummy (2017)
Anime & Manga
- The Mummy: Dark Stories (2017)
- The Mummy: Prodigium Strike (2017)
- The Mummy: Dark Universe Stories (2017)
- The Mummy Demastered (2017)
- 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
- Untitled Hunchback of Notre Dame film
- Untitled Phantom of the Opera film
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.
- Spiritual Successor: To the classic Universal Horror films, the earliest example of a Shared Universe in cinema. The classic Universal Horror monsters were loosely connected through crossover films. Following The Mummy there has been some consideration as to whether the franchise would have needed to follow the modern "cinematic universe" model as codified by the Marvel Cinematic Universe or blend closer to the original as it goes on. However while the setting over this door is closed, its replacements might very well still make the shift themselves.
- 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.