Director Alex Kurtzman is defending the Dark Universe and hyping The Bride of Frankenstein as his film The Mummy opens to mixed audience reactions and poor reviews domestically. In late 2015, Universal Pictures started putting together in earnest what recently became known as its Dark Universe, rebooting classic monster movie titles made famous by the likes of screen legends Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr., yet setting the characters in a shared universe.
The first film out of the gate, of course, is an update of Karloff’s 1932 classic The Mummy – starring Tom Cruise with Sofia Boutella in the titular role – and the reception has been less than enthusiastic, at least on the domestic front. The film, which is projected to make no more than $35 million stateside, has also taken a beating by critics, leading fans and film industry professionals to ponder whether the Dark Universe concept is over before it has a chance to begin. The saving grace for the film appears to be the film’s projected global performance (it could be as high at $150 million), promising Cruise’s biggest overseas opening yet.
As one of the architects of the Dark Universe, Kurtzman, however, seems committed to the future of the franchise, which is next set to release director Bill Condon’s The Bride of Frankenstein remake on Feb. 14, 2019 (and plans for such titles as The Invisible Man (starring Johnny Depp), The Wolfman and The Creature From the Black Lagoon to follow).
In an interview with THR, Kurtzman doesn’t appear worried by the reception his big-budget version of The Mummy, and whether it will affect the future of the franchise going forward. He says:
“I think that variety is going to be our good friend when it comes to the evolution of Dark Universe. You obviously want to set a somewhat consistent tone, so that people know what to expect when you see these movies, but it would be ideal for each movie to have its own identity, which is largely going to be dependent on who is directing the films and who is starring in the films. I’m really excited to see what Bill Condon does with Bride of Frankenstein.”
Kurtzman certainly is justified in his excitement and confidence in Beauty and the Beast helmer Condon, since the filmmaker’s career breakout came with Gods and Monsters, a 1998 drama (which earned the Condon a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar) that examined the complex life of director James Whale (Ian McKellen) while he was making The Bride of Frankenstein. Saying Condon’s The Bride of Frankenstein is “in many ways different from Mummy and in some ways it’s similar,” Kurtzman believes that the filmmaker’s intrinsic understanding of the material going is going to connect with fans. He says:
“This is a guy who did Gods and Monsters, which is one of my favorite films ever. He uniquely understands James Whale and what those monsters represent and Frankenstein’s Bride. I want it to feel like a Bill Condon movie. As an audience member that’s what I would want, and I would apply that to all of our films.”
The prospects of The Bride of Frankenstein certainly look promising so far, considering the casting of Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster. But Universal and Condon aren’t out of the woods yet: they still have to cast the titular Bride, whose role will most certainly be expanded considering that the character (classically played by Elsa Lanchester in the original), only appeared in the film’s final minutes. The studio promises a casting announcement for the Bride soon, with Angelina Jolie reported as the first choice for the role.