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Universal is charting yet another new course for its tomb of classic monster properties, but that doesn't mean the Dark Universe will live again.
Variety reports that the studio has brought in Blumhouse head Jason Blum and Upgrade and Insidious creator Leigh Whannell to lead a new version of The Invisibile Man, a property which joined the Universal Monsters canon in the 1933 film of the same name, starring Claude Rains in the title role. Blum — who's already teamed with Whannell on both the four-film Insidious franchise and Upgrade — will produce while Whannell will direct. Last we heard about the project's script, Ed Solomon (Now You See Me) was working on a draft, but he left the film early last year, so we could be looking at a blank page on that front.
Whannell confirmed the news on Twitter.
Though Johnny Depp was originally hired to play the Invisible Man in the Dark Universe, Variety's report notes that he is not expected to be a part of this film, though that may not rule him out for future Universal Monsters films.
The project is the beginning of a new effort by Universal to revitalize its classic monster properties, an effort that's already sputtered on the big screen twice. First, there was the prequel effort Dracula Untold, which could have introduced a larger universe with its time-jump ending had it performed better at the box office in 2014. Then there was The Mummy, 2017's reboot of the classic franchise starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella in the title role.
The Mummy was rolled out with significant fanfare from Universal and announced as the first chapter in what the studio called "Dark Universe," an interconnected world of monster movies that would be a sort of horror answer to the MCU. In addition to Cruise and Boutella, Russell Crowe was brought in as Henry Jekyll, Depp was announced as the Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem was teased as Frankenstein's monster. A writers room was assembled, and the plan was to keep churning out new, connected takes on the various classic monsters which made their debut in the 1930s.
Then the film underperformed both critically and commercially, and plans for the Dark Universe were put on hold. Things got even shakier when Alex Kurtzman — The Mummy's director and an expected architect of the whole Dark Universe — left the writers room to focus more on Star Trek streaming series at CBS.
Now, while Universal isn't ruling out future connections between its monster films, the Dark Universe concept seems all but dead, as studio executives confirmed to Variety that the focus is more on individual efforts rather than an interconnected tentpole.
“Throughout cinematic history, Universal’s classic monsters have been reinvented through the prism of each new filmmaker who brought these characters to life,” said Peter Cramer, Universal’s president of production. “We are excited to take a more individualized approach for their return to screen, shepherded by creators who have stories they are passionate to tell with them.”
So The Invisible Man will likely be the next Universal Monsters film to hit theaters, with a powerhouse producer and an acclaimed director in its corner. With the Dark Universe on the back burner and Depp out as its star, that means the possibilities are numerous. Who would you like to see step into the role?