In an ill-fated attempt to rival the superhero juggernauts that are the Marvel and DC cinematic universes and Warner Bros's continued milking of the Harry Potter world, Universal launched an ill-fated attempt to start their own franchise spanning universe in the form of monsters.
Without having a comic book arm to pluck ideas from and not knowing if creating new characters would really be successful, they turned to previous Hollywood history and dragged up already established characters in the public consciousness and then threw a boatload of money at them hoping it would stick, which we wrote a piece on speculating on whether it would be a success, here. It was not
It started with a lackluster reimaging of the Dracula story in 2014's Dracula Untold as well as Frankenstein in I, Frankenstein, and they tried to reboot The Mummy in 2017 by hiring Tom Cruise to do that weird run he does for two or so hours. None of these films were good but they hoping to build on them and cross them over with other stars signed on to play big name monsters such as Johnny Depp playing the Invisible Man and Javier Bardem as the Wolfman. However, the tanking of the Mummy, the fall in Depp's stock since accusations of violence towards his ex-wife Amber Heard and the fact no one really cared about movie monsters from 80+ years ago led to Universal scrapping the whole idea but could it, at any point have been saved?
Well, if there was ever one man who could have done it, it would have been Mexican maestro of fantasy horror, Guillermo Del Toro. The director and producer brought the world such treats as Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, and Pacific Rim but apparently, he was also offered the reins of this dark universe in a hope that his expertise in this sort of genre would help guide it to success but he turned the offer down.
Speaking to TimesTalks about the offer. the Pan's Labyrinth director said: “I’ve said no to things that are enormous and I’ve never looked back. The only time I repent I didn’t do something was in 2007 when Universal, in an incredibly gentle and beautiful manner said, ‘do you want to take over the Monster Universe?’ And they gave me the reins of several properties, and I didn’t do it. That I repent. So this is a confessional moment, I repent. That’s the only thing.”
Hollywood history is littered with nearly moments and stories of what could have been but this is a big miss on Universal's part given Del Toro's talent for such things and the power of having his name attached to such projects. Now the studio has officially scrapped the dark universe project but may move forward with some stand-alone films at a later date with them saying that they will move forward in a statement that read:
"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."