Universal Pictures will continue to build the rebooted Shared Monsters Movie Universe that Dracula Untold kicked off in 2014, but the next brick in the wall – director Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy reboot – was recently pushed back (again) to Spring 2017. Similarly, the studio’s lucrative erotic drama novel adaptation Fifty Shades of Grey is getting a sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, in early 2017, rather than 2016 (as Universal originally wanted).
The upcoming Monsters films and Fifty Shades movies were discussed by Universal Chariman Donna Langley recently, in the context of the studio’s continuing efforts to build more high-returns franchises. Indeed, as Universal currently isn’t in the comic book adaptation business (unlike virtually every other major Hollywood studio), it will be leaning all the heavier on fresh installments in cash cow properties (Jurassic Park, Jason Bourne) and/or sequels to lucrative films (Pitch Perfect 2, Ted 2) to stay afloat over the next couple years.
Langley, speaking with THR, offer the following explanation for The Mummy being delayed:
“We’re really looking to see if there’s ways to create PG-13, more action than horror, like the early work of Steven Spielberg. The world of superheroes is black and white, the world of monsters is not. Sometimes you need evil to fight evil.”
This new comment from Langley re-affirms what she’s indicated before: Universal’s rebooted Monster features will pretty much be dark superhero action/adventures, rather than horror films. Dracula Untold set the precedent for that, providing a re-imagined origin story for Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) that could have just as easily been titled “Dracula: The First Dark Avenger” – and we even spoke with director Gary Shore about how fun it could be to watch Evans’ Dracula and the Mummy using their powers together, in an upcoming movie.
Kurtzman was going to direct a Venom comic book film adaptation, but that project has seemingly been canceled in the wake of Sony and Marvel Studios having reached an agreement to reboot the Spider-Man franchise (again) and make it part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Mummy, in other words, will give Kurtzman another chance to scratch that dark superhero/anti-hero itch he has – and, if things go well, help give Universal another unofficial superhero franchise to join The Fast and the Furious.
Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t a superhero movie (unless being violently kinky counts as a super-power), but it followed the lead of recent Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox comic book adaptations – by including a post-credits sequence, which helped setup for a future installment. That credits stinger foreshadowed that life is going to become a little more dangerous for Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) in the sequel, despite her having (for now) cut ties with disturbed billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).
Langley confirmed as much will be true in Fifty Shades Darker, which she described as “more of a thriller” than its predecessor. She also revealed that the sequel’s recently-announced screenwriter Niall Leonard – the husband of Fifty Shades of Grey creator E.L. James – even penned an uncredited script draft on the first movie, adding that “he did a really good job.”
She also defended Fifty Shades as being “exactly the movie” that she and everyone else involved had wanted to make, in the face of director Sam Taylor-Johnson having passed on the sequel (after having – allegedly – clashed heavily with James while developing the first movie). Don’t be surprised if a lesser-known (and less prestigious) filmmaker ends up recruited to call the shots on Fifty Shades Darker, though, now that James seems to have been granted her wish for even greater creative control over the franchise.
As for Fifty Shades Darker: it sounds as though the Fifty Shades of Grey will turnout closer to a pulpy thriller in the vein of Basic Instinct, compared to its predecessor. That difference may not attract m(any) new fans, but there’s little business incentive for Universal to expand the Fifty Shades property’s demographic appeal – not after the first installment grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide, anyway.
Fifty Shades Darker opens in U.S. theaters on February 10th, 2017; The Mummy will follow on March 24th, 2017.