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It wasn’t that long ago that Universal Pictures was working towards launching the Dark Universe, a shared universe filled with the classic monsters that have lived at the studio for decades. The Mummy was the first entry of this franchise, but following its negative critical reception and and underwhelming box office performance, the continuation of the Dark Universe was put on hold. Now it’s been reported that one of the projects for the franchise, The Invisible Man, will move forward, but it will be a standalone feature.
Leigh Whannell, who directed last year’s Upgrade, has signed on to helm an Invisible Man reboot for Universal. This project will see Whannell, reuniting with Jason Blum, who is producing The Invisible Man through his Blumhouse Productions company. Johnny Depp, who was previously signed on to star in The Invisible Man, will not appear in this latest version of the movie, although Variety’s sources say he could still appear in one of the other monster movies Universal has in development. This news also doesn’t necessarily mean that The Invisible Man will be the next Universal Monsters movie to go into production, as other pitches are reportedly circulating for different characters.
In terms of the Dark Universe overall, Universal has “tabled” the idea of these monsters living in a shared universe. Universal is reassessing how to keep these characters “relevant” for a new generation, but the studio is still keen on churning out “filmmaker-driven projects” based on said monsters, like The Invisible Man. Peter Cramer, Universal’s president of production, said:
Throughout cinematic history, Universal’s classic monsters have been reinvented through the prism of each new filmmaker who brought these characters to life. 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.
H.G. Wells’ novel The Invisible Man was first adapted for film in 1933. The same-named movie was directed by James Whale and starred Claude Rains as Dr. Jack Griffin, the scientist who created the invisibility formula and turned to villainy after ingesting his creation. Back when the Dark Universe was still intact, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’s Ed Solomon was tapped to write The Invisible Man reboot, but it’s unclear if Solomon’s script will still be used or not for Leigh Whannell’s version. I’m guessing not if this latest incarnation is moving away from the Dark Universe model.
While we obviously won’t know anything about The Invisible Man’s quality until it actually comes out, the hiring of Leigh Whannell feels like a step in the right direction. Whannell’s credits also include writing various entries of the Insidious and Saw franchises, and making his directorial debut on Insidious: Chapter 3. In other words, he’s experienced with the horror genre, and if there’s one thing that the Universal Monsters need to be, it’s scary. The Mummy, on the other hand, took an action-themed approach with its story, which could have contributed to why it wasn’t well received.
In fact, it was specifically mentioned in Variety’s article that future Universal Monsters movies will be “rooted in horror, with no restrictions on budget, tone, or rating, and no expectation that they will exist as part of a shared universe.” Given Blumhouse’s success with horror movies in recent years, The Invisible Man will ideally be in safe hands, and if it does end up being the next Universal Monsters movie to be released, maybe the studio will give Blumhouse other properties to work with, like The Wolf Man or The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates on how The Invisible Man, as well as other Universe Monsters cinematic projects, are coming along. In the meantime, feel free to look through our 2019 release schedule to learn what’s being released in theaters this year.