When Universal officially launched its Dark Universe monster movie franchise in May, it looked set for success. The first movie in the series, The Mummy, starred Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, and the likes of Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem were lined up for future films. But the disappointing box office results for The Mummy and the indefinite delay of the second movie, The Bride of Frankenstein, have cast doubt on the future of the series.
It has now been reported that the two producers in charge of the franchise's creative direction have quit entirely. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have left to focus on other projects. Kurtzman is heavily involved with TV, including Star Trek: Discovery, while Morgan is writing the Fast & Furious spin-off which will star Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.
In a statement, Universal president of production Peter Cramer, said, "We've learned many lessons throughout the creative process on Dark Universe so far, and we are viewing these titles as filmmaker-driven vehicles, each with their own distinct vision. We are not rushing to meet a release date and will move forward with these films when we feel they are the best versions of themselves."
Whatever happens, there is no denying that this situation is a mess for Universal. The launch of the interconnected universe was very high profile, and THR states that the expensively refurbished Hollywood offices designed as a headquarters for the series are now sitting empty. As Cramer's statement suggests, one option the studio is reportedly considering is making standalone monster movies with established filmmakers, and abandoning the connected universe concept entirely.
The first sign that the Dark Universe was in trouble came last month, when Bride of Frankenstein director Bill Condon denied that his film was connected to a wider cinematic universe. "It has nothing to do with anything else. Nothing. Zero," he told Collider. Shortly after this, Universal cancelled pre-production entirely, and removed the film from its release slate.