The chief architects of Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe – Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan – have reportedly left the franchise. Aimed at reviving the classic monster movie icons in its vault, Universal Pictures officially kicked off its Dark Universe franchise of films in June with The Mummy, an action horror vehicle starring Tom Cruise as a modern day adventurer in a new take on the 1932 classic starring Boris Karloff. If everything had gone according to plan, the film would have set up a shared universe of films that would eventually include Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, among others, starring the likes of Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp, and Russell Crowe as the head of a secret organization that would connect the films.
Under the helm of Kurtzman, The Mummy met immediate disappointment domestically, with mixed reviews at best and a lower-than-expected $31.6 million take in its opening frame the second weekend of June. While the film (which starred Sofia Boutella in the title role) would move on to make more than $409 million globally, its tepid final tally of $80 million stateside seemed to put the Dark Universe franchise on notice for potential cancellation – given the losses Universal was facing due to the film’s large production budget, marketing spend and back-end deals. Even Kurtzman expressed doubts about his future with the franchise in an interview in early August, saying, “You know the truth is, I don’t know. I really don’t know. Haven’t really decided, is the honest answer.”
Now, it appears Kurtzman has given Universal an answer, and one of his creative partners with the Dark Universe has gone along with him. Sources tell THR that Kurtzman and Morgan have exited the franchise to pursue other industry interests. The publication says Kurtzman’s deal with Universal expired in September, and he’s since moved on to concentrate on his television deal with CBS that includes the new CBS All-Access series Star Trek: Discovery. Morgan, meanwhile, has reportedly rejoined Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise and is writing the Hobbs and Shaw spinoff movie (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham) that’s scheduled to arrive in 2019.
While the move was somewhat expected, at least by the prior indications made by Kurtzman three months ago, it definitely will come as a blow to Universal’s aspirations of keeping the Dark Universe alive. The exit of the two creatives comes as the latest blow to the studio, after director Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein was put on indefinite hold last month – after previously staking a February 14, 2019 theatrical release date.
With any luck, at least for fans of Universal’s monster movie genre, the studio will find new creative partners to keep the concept alive and still find a way to mine its rich vault of characters. THR says the studio is “exploring its options” and may offer “one-off movies not connected to a larger universe” to high-profile filmmakers, including Blumhouse magnate Jason Blum. The other option would be to simply find new creative architects to overhaul the Dark Universe concept altogether.
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