Universal's Dark Universe franchise isn't working the way that the studio intended. After two misfires with Dracula Untold and The Mummy, there's still no solid footing for the proposed revival of the Universal Monsters to take off. While we don't know what's going to happen with the rest of the remaining projects in line, a change is definitely in order as the leaders of the franchise, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, are no longer steering the ship. With a potential for new leadership, it's time to turn this universe into the powerhouse it should be, and there's one man who could do it best: Guillermo del Toro. This suggestion is not made lightly, nor is it made merely out of loyalty to the man, but rather because there are several good reasons that it should happen.
The first one is the most obvious, as the current incarnation of the Dark Universe has focused on making PG-13 rated tentpole films that play more like action films than horror. Both films were aiming for the middle rating that epic blockbusters shoot for, with their finished products looking more like a Marvel Cinematic Universe entry than a true horror film. If Universal wants to bring their Monsters back to life the right way, the model needs to be reversed, focusing more on the horror aspect of the characters that have been respected by moviegoers thus far. Guillermo del Toro knows that, and you can see it in his approaches to films like Crimson Peak and even his most recent project, The Shape of Water. Del Toro's style revels in classic horror trappings, while delivering a fresh take that modern audiences can get behind. He'd be able to make the horror movies that these films deserve to be, and better still, he'd be able to do it on a more sensible budget.
Just looking at The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro has crafted an exquisite vision of a film that looks like a colossus when compared to its actual price tag of $19.5 million. While he can still make magic happen with the infinitely bigger price tag of his previous film, Pacific Rim, you could give the man any budget and he'll deliver a crowdpleaser. Undoubtedly, Universal would probably favor the smaller scale approach in the beginning, allowing the already-costly Dark Universe to be course corrected without making another massive budgetary mistake. The cherry on top is, of course, that smaller budgets tend to lead to more creative control, which means that Guillermo del Toro would have free reign to go for the hard R rating, should he feel it necessary. This is how some of the most successful horror films play the game these days, and at the heart of it, the Universal Monsters are all about horror.
What's even better is, with his eye for talent, del Toro wouldn't have to write and direct all of these films himself. After all, it was he who discovered Andy Muschetti and executive produced his horror hit Mama for Universal in 2013; which helped lead to Muschietti being hired to adapt this year's wildly successful adaptation of Stephen King's IT. So if del Toro asked Muschietti to tackle a project in the Dark Universe, there's a chance that he'd be lured back by loyalty and friendship. Or, if Universal really wants to reach for the stars, there's a chance that Guillermo del Toro could lure two of his best friends, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, to contribute as well. Ultimately, this also ties into the budget factor, but whether he goes to previous collaborators, old friends or even a fresh talent pool, the man who brought Hellboy II: The Golden Army to the gates of Universal could bring all sorts of talent to the room.
But perhaps the best reason for bringing Guillermo del Toro the Dark Universe into the light is the fact that Universal tried to hire del Toro to reboot the Universal Monsters back in 2007. With his version of Frankenstein languishing for years due to scheduling and other concerns, del Toro had to pass on bringing that baby to life, and he regrets leaving it behind. Giving Guillermo del Toro another shot to tackle a universe he already loves with new resources and a fresh approach that hews closer to the classics he already emulates in his work is just sound business. The fact that he's taking a year off from work also helps, as a deal could be made for the director to return after some fresh rest, ready to tackle his most ambitious project yet once Fantastic Voyage is out of the way.
The Universal Monsters and Guillermo del Toro are a perfect fit, and it's time to let them play together. If the studio can learn to stop treating their monsters as any ordinary tentpole and bring the universe back to its purer, more satisfying roots, it could have a nice franchise that could pick up steam and quite possibly rule the box office in horror-friendly release slots. It could even try to take over the Halloween holiday, truly seizing the spirit of that time of the year when we all need a good scare. Putting del Toro in the franchise runner's chair is an elegant solution to a disastrous problem. It's something we've already missed out on once before, and if Universal is smart, they'll take this chance of a lifetime and start making nightmares we can believe in.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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