Universal is about to launch a franchise of interconnected monster movie reboots, but legal issues with Warner Bros. could force the studio to give it a different name. The Mummy will kick off Universal’s new Dark Universe when it comes out on June 9, and the studio has already confirmed follow-ups with Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. The Dark Universe already has multiple big-name stars lined up for future installments, like Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man and Javier Bardem as Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.
Having already officially announced the Dark Universe, Universal is betting big on the Tom Cruise-starring The Mummy to do good-enough business at the box office to confidently move forward with the franchise — which could also feature Dwayne Johnson as The Wolfman. However, despite its commitment to release the movies under the Dark Universe banner, Universal could hit a legal snag with Warner Bros. over that very name.
THR published a feature on Wednesday detailing Universal’s big bet on monsters and their bid to create a powerful cinematic universe on par with Marvel and DC’s recent output. But buried in the middle of the story is an intriguing, potentially explosive legal nugget regarding Warner Bros. and their own Dark Universe project. Warners is reportedly “mulling legal action” regarding the name “Dark Universe,” which is the working title for an upcoming DECU movie based on the Justice League Dark comic book series.
Doug Liman was previously attached to direct the upcoming Dark Universe movie for Warner Bros., but recently left the project due to scheduling conflicts. IT director Andrés Muschietti and Argentinian filmmaker Damián Szifron are now both in the mix to take the helm. The name “Dark Universe” is still just a working title, but it’s been known as far back as at least 2013 when original director Guillermo del Toro announced the project.
Warner Bros. could certainly have a case against Universal if it plans on sticking with “Dark Universe” as the official title for the Justice League Dark adaptation. If Warner Bros. decides to move forward with legal action, perhaps Universal would be better off settling (if necessary) or simply re-branding its own Dark Universe. Ultimately, if Universal’s new monster movies aren’t successful, the name of the cinematic universe won’t matter.
At the end of the day, the real competition between Warner Bros. and Universal will be over the movies themselves. The DC Extended Universe is off to a great start in 2017 with Wonder Woman, which is projected for a $175 million global opening at the box office. But it remains to be seen if Universal will have the same kind of success with and subsequent movies. If the franchise itself can truly be on par with Marvel, this potential legal dispute could end up being an afterthought.