Cinematic universes are all the rage right now in Hollywood, whether they're superhero-centric like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or are more fantasy-oriented like the Wizarding World. Universal Pictures was eager to get in on that kind of blockbuster action, and today marks the one-year anniversary that the Dark Universe was officially announced. Much like in the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Dark Universe would see the studio's classic monsters, like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man, occupying the same world, and The Mummy kicked off the whole initiative. However, a year later, the Dark Universe has barely moved forward. While it hasn't been officially announced that it's been scrapped, it certainly doesn't have the same driving energy it once had, and we can presumably thank The Mummy's disappointing theatrical performance for that.
It's worth noting first that The Mummy wasn't the first time Universal attempted to launch a shared universe. Originally 2014's Dracula Untold was supposed to be the first chapter of what would be known as the Dark Universe, and the movie's final scene showed the eponymous vampire in the present day. But Dracula Untold was met with numerous negative reviews, so it was decided to keep that as a standalone tale and instead have The Mummy introduce moviegoers to the Dark Universe. Besides being a staple of the old-school Universal monsters lineup, The Mummy had already been turned into a trilogy of films starring Brendan Frasier, so the 2017 reboot had to not only launch a new franchise, but also feel different enough from the previous Mummy movies. Starring Sofia Boutella as the eponymous monster and Tom Cruise as main protagonist Nick Morton, The Mummy certainly wasn't lacking for action, but during the main story, the seeds were also planted for the wider Dark Universe, primarily through Russell Crowe's Henry Jekyll (yes, he did turn into Mr. Hyde) and the secret society known as Prodigium.
Despite its prime June release date and bombardment of marketing, The Mummy failed to critically impress, ranking at 15% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes and 35% among audiences. Commercially, the movie only made $80.2 million domestically, but by pulling in $329 million internationally (adding up to $409.2 million worldwide), it couldn't be considered a full-blown flop. Nevertheless, The Mummy did not get the Dark Universe off to a good start. A few months after the reboot's release, Alex Kurtzman, the man at the helm of the Dark Universe, was uncertain about if he would continue working on the franchise, and sure enough, by November of last year, Kurtzman and partner Chris Morgan exited the cinematic universe. The second chapter of the Dark Universe, Bride of Frankenstein, was also originally supposed to be released on February 14, 2019, but it was pulled from the schedule so that director Bill Condon and his team wouldn't be rushed.
As of January, Bride of Frankenstein is back in development, so regardless of what happens with the rest of the Dark Universe, it sounds like that movie is forthcoming. It also wouldn't be wise to completely write off the Dark Universe as a whole just yet, as artist Robert Vargas recently posted on Instagram that he had met with the Dark Universe team and will soon be contributing to the franchise. There are also plenty of other Dark Universe movies that are in development, like The Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Van Helsing, as well as monsters like Dracula, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera waiting to be introduced.
So where does this leave us? Well, it appears that the Dark Universe is still hanging on by a thread, and whoever is creatively in charge of the franchise now is working with others to get it back on course. But given how terribly The Mummy performed critically, this will be an uphill battle, and it's entirely possible that at some point Universal will just bite the bullet and scrap the entire thing. Maybe Bride of Frankenstein and a few of these other monster-led movie will still be released, but they'll be self-contained stories rather than pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is a shared universe. For now, the Dark Universe is clinging to life, but it will take a lot for it to become a true competitor for these other franchises.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for any major updates concerning the Dark Universe, but for now, you can plan your trips to the movie theater this year accordingly by looking through our 2018 release schedule.