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Following the mass success of Marvel’s interconnected cinematic universe, other studios have attempted to establish their own franchises that would duplicate the model. It’s not been successful, to say the least. Warner Bros has dismantled its initial plans to serialize its movies about DC comic book heroes and villains, for the most part, and Universal’s Dark Universe idea was dead on arrival with 2017’s The Mummy. But, will The Invisible Man revive this larger movie monster world the studio had planned to create?
The short answer is no. Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man is a completely standalone film that doesn’t have cameos from the Creature from the Black Lagoon or Frankenstein (thankfully). There was previously a movie of the same title starring Johnny Depp, but the writer/director has revealed that his specific project was never a part of Universal’s scrapped Dark Universe.
In an upcoming episode of CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast, co-host Kevin McCarthy sat down with Leigh Whannell to talk about The Invisible Man. The filmmaker discussed how the movie came to him. In his words:
It was weird, this film came about in a really random way. It wasn’t like I was plugged into some kind of worldbuilding. I had just finished Upgrade, they called me in for a meeting with some of these Universal and Blumhouse execs… I go to this meeting, and they didn’t really talk about Upgrade. I mean, they said they liked it and they moved on. So, I’m sitting on this couch thinking 'What am I here for? What is this meeting about?' And they started talking about The Invisible Man.
As Leigh Whannell describes, he actually had no idea what he was getting into when he initially sat down with the studio about the horror project. He had just made Upgrade and he thought they wanted to discuss the movie further. But all of a sudden he was being asked about how he might handle his own version of The Invisible Man.
The writer/director admitted that he didn’t particularly care about the monster property, so he wasn’t afraid to blurt out his own ideas on The Invisible Man. Offhandedly, Leigh Whannell thought up the pitch for the movie coming out next week. He had the idea to tell the story from the perspective of the victim and make the Invisible Man her abusive ex. Soon after Whannell walked out of the meeting, he started getting calls from Universal and Blumhouse about it. They really liked his take on The Invisible Man.
When Leigh Whannell was approached about The Invisible Man, The Mummy had already come out and flopped hard. It made just $80 million domestically on a budget of $125 million in 2017. Although there was previous work on a Dark Universe The Invisible Man, Whannell said his project was “only ever treated as a standalone film." He expanded on getting involved with the property, sharing this with ReelBlend:
The thing is, in the movie business there’s what’s being said and there’s what’s really going on. Now with hindsight, I realize of course this was a big meeting that was had before I was ever in the room between Jason Blum and Universal where they said ‘How about Leigh Whannell for one of these characters? He’d be great for The Invisible Man.’ And so, it was an ambush you walk into. I’m such a doe-eyed fawn in the crosshairs of a rifle that I just sit there and fall right into their trap. They Jedi mind-tricked me into thinking that it was my idea. It was literally like Obi-Wan waving his head and saying ‘this is the movie you want to make.' I walked out of there like – damn right I want to make that film but I loved the experience so I’m glad they tricked me into making it because I had a really rewarding film experience.
The Invisible Man stars Elisabeth Moss and Oliver Jackson-Cohen and hits theaters on February 28.