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Producers Kurtzman and Morgan depart Universal's Dark Universe

Russell Crowe Javier Bardem Tom Cruise Johnny Depp Sofia Boutella

In the summer of 2014, Universal hired Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan to head up their endeavor to craft a new cinematic universe around their classic monster movie properties - a universe that eventually became known as the Dark Universe. Kurtzman and Morgan were to oversee the development of the monster reboots and serve as producers on the films. Three years of work resulted in the release of one film - this year's THE MUMMY, which Kurtzman also directed. A movie that managed to be a box office disappointment despite making over $400 million worldwide because it had an excessive production budget of $125 million, with marketing costs of at least $100 million on top of that. Regardless of the outcome, I think most horror fans could have told Universal that spending over $225 million to put a new MUMMY movie into the world wasn't necessary.

That was the first bump in the road for the Dark Universe. The next one came last month, when director Bill Condon's BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN reboot was put on hold, and removed from its February 14, 2019 release date, so revisions could be done to the screenplay by David Koepp. Now the Dark Universe has run into another issue - universe architects Kurtzman and Morgan have both abandoned the project.

Kurtzman's deal with Universal lapsed in September, so he has left the monsters behind in favor of focusing on his television deal with CBS (which includes the CBS All Access show Star Trek: Discovery). Meanwhile, Morgan is directing his energy toward the FAST & FURIOUS franchise, which he has written every installment of since the third film.

Where does that leave the Dark Universe? Universal is said to be exploring their options - considering whether to hire a new producer/architect, or just offer individual monster properties to high profile filmmakers and producers.

Universal president of production Peter Cramer had this to say about the future of the Dark Universe: 

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."

THE MUMMY starred Sofia Boutella as the titular character and introduced Tom Cruise as Nick Morton and Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, both characters who could return in future films. Javier Bardem is attached to play Frankenstein's Monster in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, with Johnny Depp set to play the Invisible Man at some point down the road... If these actors remain on board while Universal figures out how to proceed with the Dark Universe.

Kurtzman and Morgan's vision for the Dark Universe was to have the films tied together through the presence of an organization called Prodigium, headed up by Crowe's Dr. Jekyll. 

At its organizing principle, Dark Universe films are connected by a mysterious multi-national organization known as Prodigium. Led by the enigmatic and brilliant Dr. Henry Jekyll, Prodigium’s mission is to track, study and—when necessary—destroy evil embodied in the form of monsters in our world. Working outside the aegis of any government, and with practices concealed by millennia of secrecy, Prodigium protects the public from knowledge of the evil that exists just beyond the thin membrane of civilized society…and will go to any length to contain it.

If another producer takes over the franchise, it's possible that Prodigium could get left out.

I like the basic idea of the Dark Universe and really want to see this series of connected monster movie reboots happen. The fact that Kurtzman and Morgan won't be involved if/when more monster movies are made isn't necessarily a bad thing - I think there are other producers out there who can guide more crowd-pleasing films than THE MUMMY into production, with much more reasonable budgets. I'm in agreement with box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian: 

It's never too late to course-correct, because with each movie you get another shot. There's no way to give up on this. This is Universal's legacy."

I don't think the departure of Kurtzman and Morgan should be seen as a disaster for Dark Universe, but rather a chance to do something even better with it.

Extra Tidbit: Who would you like to see take control of Universal's monsters?
Source: THR

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