It was a bold move, announcing a full, connected, star-studded franchise before releasing a single movie. But that’s what Universal did earlier this summer with the monster-centric Dark Universe. Then The Mummy came out. Now, it seems things may already be coming apart at the seams.
One of the franchise’s architects, Mummy director Alex Kurtzman, was recently asked by IGN if he would be continuing with the franchise, and he said the following:
“You know the truth is, I don’t know. I really don’t know. I haven’t really decided. Is the honest answer.”
That’s a pretty surprising statement from one of the two people credited with shepherding the whole universe. He’s also one of the two people (along with Chris Morgan) who said the following when the Dark Universe was announced back in May:
When Universal approached us with the idea of reimagining these classic characters, we recognized the responsibility of respecting their legacy while bringing them into new and modern adventures. The studio and our fellow creative collaborators have championed and challenged us as we’ve begun to spin the web of Dark Universe. It’s our hope these movies will engross longtime fans and spark the imaginations of brand-new ones.
That doesn’t feel like the statement of a producer planning to be one and done. Of course, that was said before The Mummy was released. The film grossed barely $80 million in the U.S. and received only 16 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. (We were not one of them.) Internationally, The Mummy has faired better, grossing about $318 million and counting, but those still aren’t numbers that scream “franchise starter.”
Nevertheless, director Bill Condon is full speed ahead on the next Dark Universe film, Bride of Frankenstein, which is scheduled for a 2019 release. Plus, Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem have been cast alongside Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe for other movies. (Dwayne Johnson and Angelina Jolie have also been rumored to possibly join the franchise).
Kurtzman’s quote seemingly puts some of that in question, though. We contacted his representatives for clarification and they didn’t comment. We also contacted Universal, who have not responded for comment.
The good thing for everyone involved is that Kurtzman doesn’t really have to make a decision soon. There won’t be a second Dark Universe movie until Valentine’s Day 2019. We don’t know how involved he is, if at all, in that movie, but Condon is coming off the year’s biggest film so far, Beauty and the Beast. There’s no doubt he’s got his own vision—one that means the studio, producers, and others involved really don’t have to make any other decisions until his film gets further into production or is released. That’s well over a year away, so Kurtzman could, hypothetically, remove himself from the franchise for a while, see how it goes, and then come back if Bride is a hit.
Either way, it’s clear the disappointment of The Mummy has made lots of people reconsider what the Dark Universe will be—including one of its architects.