Since the announcement of Universal’s shared universe concept, the “Dark Universe,” almost nothing has gone right for the studio. It was meant to begin way back in 2014 with Dracula Untold, but that Luke Evans-starring vehicle performed so badly that the “official” beginning to the dark universe was pushed back for 2017’s The Mummy. That movie fared no better, heavily lambasted by both critics and audiences for slapping a generic action movie veneer on the frame of a classic Universal monster in an effort to replicate Marvel’s MCU. The would-be blockbuster made only $80 million domestically, despite a budget of almost $200 million, with only foreign box office grosses to save it.
Now, the Dark Universe has hit yet another roadblock. Writer Ed Solomon, first announced as the director of The Invisible Man way back in 2016, just announced that he’s parted ways with the film due to creative differences. The Invisible Man was meant to star Johnny Depp as the title character—also not a feature likely to be received very kindly these days, as Harry Potter fans have recently petitioned to have him removed from the Fantastic Beasts franchise following accusations of domestic abuse by Amber Heard.
“At the end of the day, I think Universal and I had a different idea of what the movie was gonna be,” Solomon said to Digital Spy. “We began thinking that our notions would meld, and I should’ve listened more closely to what they really were wanting. I think Universal has had to come to a kind of reckoning of, ‘What are we doing with the Dark Universe?’ and, ‘What is our real intention with it?’, and I think they’re reconfiguring it now, which I think is probably good. So I’m not working on it.”
The whole franchise has been undergoing plenty of “reconfiguring” lately, and may well reconfigure itself right into the trash heap. The universe lost producers Alex Kurtzman (director of The Mummy) and Chris Morgan, intended to be its shepherds through the production of each film, leaving the universe without a top figure in charge. The second film, Bride of Frankenstein has likewise been delayed, with no confirmation of the intended casting of Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster and Angelina Jolie as the title character. Then there are all of the other uncertain future films, including remakes of The Wolfman and The Creature From the Black Lagoon.
Note to Universal: Given that Guillermo Del Toro just gave us the best new version of Creature From the Black Lagoon that anyone could have hoped for in 2017’s The Shape of Water, it might be time to cut bait here.