The proposed and then hastily aborted Dark Universe is now the stuff of Hollywood legend. Who can forget the day in May 2017 when Universal released a photo they hoped would launch new universe of interconnected movies based on their historical monster movie IP. It featured Tom Cruise (The Mummy), Russell Crowe (Dr. Henry Jekyll), Javier Bardem (Frankenstein’s Monster), Johnny Depp (The Invisible Man) and Sofia Boutella (um, also The Mummy).
These plans were abandoned after The Mummy was a critical and commercial failure. Instead, Universal went down a much more interesting route – letting independent directors have a go at individual characters, with no need to think about crossovers. That’s how we got Leigh Whannell’s excellent Invisible Man movie, and will hopefully get a Ryan Gosling Wolfman movie.
It’s also how the new movie Renfield starring Nicholas Hoult and Nicolas Cage came about. Director Chris McKay spoke to SlashFilm about being in favour of Renfield being a standalone movie; “I love these characters and I think there’s a lot more. Sure, you could absolutely tell more story in [box office] success, but we wanted to tell a self-contained thing.”
“I think that everyone, even if you are in a Marvel universe or a shared universe situation, you should always just focus on that movie. Make a good version of that movie, regardless of whether it’s a sequel or the trilogy or whatever, just concentrate on that.”
McKay continued; “I think sometimes where movies go wrong is where they’re trying to do too much. The Dark Universe thing could’ve worked there. There’s compelling … who wouldn’t want to see Angelina Jolie play Bride of Frankenstein or Javier Bardem play Frankenstein’s Monster? That would be really cool. I think, when you try to also do all these other things and you haven’t established what the tone is, what the world is, I think that’s where things go wrong.”