Universal’s Dark Universe – their answer to Marvel’s MCU where they intended to bring in big stars to revamp their classic monster library as part of one shared universe – is no more. After Tom Cruise‘s The Mummy failed spectacularly, the studio was forced to move away from that strategy and into something new.
Now, Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) has signed on to direct a new version of The Invisible Man for the studio, re-teaming him with Jason Blum, who will produce via Blumhouse. Universal is now moving away from the star-studded shared universe and instead “bringing creative directors with distinctive visions to the classic characters”.
They had previously cast Cruise alongside Johnny Depp – originally slated to play The Invisible Man -, Russell Crowe, and Javier Bardem, but word is that Depp is no longer a part of the revamped project, and neither are the others, although they do have the option to return for monster projects if they wish.
Peter Cramer, Universal’s President Of Production, said of the change in strategy:
“Throughout cinematic history, Universal’s classic monsters have been reinvented through the prism of each new filmmaker who brought these characters to life. We are excited to take a more individualised approach for their return to screen, shepherded by creators who have stories they are passionate to tell with them”.
Whannell is the first director to sign onto a project, but reportedly Universal has met and spoken with plenty of other prominent filmmakers and other projects are quickly coming together, so it’s not a guarantee that The Invisible Man will head into production first.
A Variety report also excitedly notes that while Universal have shelved the idea of an interconnected universe, they’re still big on the idea of legacy of their classic monsters, and want directors to put their own distinct spin on the characters: “The titles will be rooted in horror, with no restrictions on budget, tone, or rating”.
What this will hopefully lead to is a variety of unique director-driven films that all have their own voice, rather than something like the MCU whose films often have a very similar tone and look. Rather than a homogenous collection of movies acting as set-ups for the next instalment, we could get a set of tangentially-connected – but very different – films from myriad different filmmakers.
It’s certainly good to see a studio quickly change their original plan which wasn’t particularly inspiring, and replace it with something new and potentially great. Teaming up with Blumhouse is also a smart move for anyone in Hollywood right now. We’ll wait and see which other directors sign on, and also who will replace Depp and play the Invisible Man.