The idea was sound: to create a shared universe of Universal Monster properties. Cast massive stars, recruit top-notch talent, and build a massive franchise. If it worked, it would have been epic. Then the first movie, Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, was released... and the Dark Universe ended before it could begin.
One of the people responsible for the Dark Universe was Chris Morgan. Morgan, who’s written every Fast and Furious film from Tokyo Drift to this week’s Hobbs & Shaw, was tapped as a producer on the would-be franchise (along with Mummy director Alex Kurtzman), and Gizmodo recently asked him if he had any regrets about the whole venture.
“I don’t [have] regrets or anything like that,” Morgan said. “I think it’s just, you know, I think it probably was trying to come together too quickly, I would say. And I think everyone got to take a breath and take a step back and take a look at it, and now just focus on maybe doing it a little bit slower.”
After cancelling the Bill Condon Bride of Frankenstein movie, which all but killed that iteration of the Dark Universe, Universal went back to the drawing board. The first result of that is The Invisible Man, a character that was set to be played by Johnny Depp in the Dark Universe, but is now being played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen in a movie directed by Leigh Whannell and produced by Jason Blum. Whannell is now shooting that film, which is aiming for a rather aggressive March 13, 2020 release.
“I think Universal’s going about the monster films the right way,” Morgan said about the new strategy. “Which is to really focus on taking a good script, good story, put it out there, if you’re going to build a universe build it from something strong like that. And I think they’re not so much worried about putting a universe out there as they are making great monster films, so I’m looking forward to seeing them.”
One franchise Morgan is working on that’s still going on strong is Fast and Furious. And though the new film, Hobbs & Shaw, is certainly a departure from the main Fast films with an eye on multiple sequels, Morgan thinks it’s all going to come together again.
“There are a lot of things at work over Universal and I’ll let them announce things in their time, but a lot of stuff is going on,” Morgan said. “I would just say I always look at the Fast universe kind of like a spider web. Which is there are all these strings and stories and characters and they veer out and they take different directions, but then they come back and one story affects the whole. I see all these characters interweaving throughout the Fast universe. I think that’s what makes it special and cool, and in a world that people want to come to see again.”
So though Hobbs & Shaw is a spinoff from the Fast and Furious films, it seems possible its characters will come back together. And that’s possible because the franchise was built slowly over time, unlike the Dark Universe.