3 Reasons Why I'm Still Upset Universal's Dark Universe Never Took Off (And Two Reasons Why I'm Secretly Glad)

Sofia Boutella as The Mummy
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Every so often, when I can’t sleep at night, I lie awake and feel bad for the “failed” experiment that was Universal’s Dark Universe.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t. But, really, I just can’t help it. Being a huge fan of Universal’s monster line-up, the idea of a whole monster universe for the modern era akin to the MCU just seemed too appealing not to get excited about.    

Then, we got 2017’s The Mummy with Tom Cruise, which was so bad it pretty much sank the series before it even got a chance to leave the port. But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Here are three reasons why I’m upset Universal’s Dark Universe never took off (and two reasons why I’m secretly glad it didn’t).  

Dracula 1931 Bela Lugosi

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Why I’m Upset: I Would Have Loved To Have Gotten A Fresh Take On A Universal Monster On A Frequent Basis 

We were supposed to get a new The Bride of Frankenstein movie, Frankenstein, a picture about The Invisible Man (starring Johnny Depp, no less), another Wolfman  (even though I secretly love the much maligned 2010 Wolfman), and a new flick on Van Helsing (and, in case you’re wondering, I LOATHE the Hugh Jackman Van Helsing).

That’s a lot of monsters! Even though we actually did eventually get an Invisible Man movie (which was freaking amazing, I might add), the fact that we didn’t get a string of monster movies, a la Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and then The Avengers, really bugs me.   

I mean, seriously. How cool would it have been if we got The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, and then Van Helsing, with a post-credits stinger of Dracula stepping out of his coffin and smirking like Thanos at the end of The Avengers? I mean, come on now. Are you going to tell me that that doesn’t sound awesome? You can’t! Because it does! On paper anyway… 

Godzilla charging his atomic attack in a city battle in Godzilla vs. Kong.

(Image credit: Warner Bros./Legendary )

Why I’m Upset: The MonsterVerse Has Proven That Shared Universe Movies Can Work If Done Properly 

In my article on why the MonsterVerse is the best shared universe we currently have, I go over a number of reasons why I think it’s been so popular. Hell, it’s even been around since before the Dark Universe was announced in 2017, as we got the first Godzilla movie back in 2014.  

In the article, I go over how the MonsterVerse was able to take it much slower than other shared universes like the MCU or the Snyderverse/DCEU. Instead of knocking out a movie (Or two. Or three! Or four!) on a yearly basis like the MCU, the MonsterVerse would steadily release films like Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) at a nice pace so that it didn’t wear out its welcome or induce fatigue (like the MCU seems to be doing as of late).

Unfortunately, we didn’t even get to see what pace the Dark Universe might have taken after the catastrophe that was 2017’s The Mummy. But, if we had gotten a good Mummy movie, and then a great The Bride of Frankenstein maybe like, two years later, I think people might have been hungry for each new installment. 

Another thing I mentioned in that MonsterVerse article was that said universe is giving the people what they want. The box office has proven that Godzilla vs. Kong was a hit, and now we’re getting a sequel, Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire.     

Obviously, the heads at Legendary could have forged ahead with plans for something like a Mothra movie, or a Rodan solo flick. But, would people (well, besides me) have wanted a Rodan or Mothra movie? Probably not. King of the Monsters, which featured both, didn’t do too hot, so Legendary likely saw those ticket receipts and decided that Godzilla vs. Kong better do well, or that would have likely spelled the end for the MonsterVerse as a whole. Thankfully, it was a success, and now we’re getting more of what we want in the show Monarch: Legacy of Monsters on Apple TV+.  

In this way, I truly do think that a Dark Universe could have worked if monster fans were given what they actually wanted. Unfortunately, all it took was one flop to show that it wasn’t going to work out.  

Luke Evans stands with concern amid a field of dead bodies in Dracula Untold.

(Image credit: Universal/Legendary)

Why I’m Upset: I Actually Really Liked The Wolfman And I Think The Dark Universe Could Have Worked If That Was Included In The Plans 

Okay, so hear me out. I know 2010’s The Wolfman is technically considered “a bomb” (it reportedly cost $150 million just to make, and only made something like $140 million back at the box office), but I genuinely think that the Dark Universe could have worked if it included both The Wolfman, and Dracula: Untold in its plans (I mean, hell, Dracula: Untold kind of DID try to push its way in), and here’s why I think that.   

Yes, a lot of this all hinges on The Mummy actually being a good movie (which I’ll get into next), but if it had been, it might have recontextualized our feelings for The Wolfman, and Dracula: Untold, just like She-Hulk added value to the tepid Edward Norton The Incredible Hulk movie, or how Avengers: Endgame made the highly disregarded Thor: The Dark World seem like crucial viewing. 

My point is, I think there was already a foundation set in place, and 2017’s The Mummy didn’t necessarily have to be the movie that jump started the Dark Universe. It was a modern take, whereas maybe a flick about The Mummy should have been a period piece, like Wolfman, and Untold. And, if it was good, man, could you think of all the possibilities? Unfortunately, it wasn’t good, which brings me to my next point.  

Tom Cruise in 2017's The Mummy

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Why I’m Secretly Happy The Dark Universe Never Took Off: The Mummy Was Not A Good Indication Of Where The Dark Universe Was Heading 

2017’s The Mummy is bad. Maybe not 2004 Van Helsing bad, but bad. The problem is, it’s trying to be fun, and it’s not. The Brendan Fraser Mummy movies were actually fun, and I love them (at least the first movie), but I also don’t think that it’s the kind of film series that you would want to start a shared universe around Universal’s monsters. Really, it was the tone, which sort of brings me back to 2010’s Wolfman, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Dracula: Untold

2010’s effort was a horror movie. Maybe it wasn’t a great horror movie (Debatable!), but it was horror all the same. And, the Universal monster movies of old were meant to be horror movies. I mean, come on. Stay in your lane, Universal. 

The MCU is a cinematic universe of Marvel comic book characters. Same with the DCEU, just with DC characters. The MonsterVerse is a shared universe of kaiju, so, in turn, a Universal universe of monsters should have stuck to horror. So, then why was 2017’s Mummy more of an action-adventure movie? Shouldn’t it have been, I don’t know, HORROR? 

But, you know what’s kind of crazy? By not starting a “dark universe,” we kind of got one anyway…sort of. And, in a good way! 

Dracula in The Last Voyage of the Demeter

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Why I’m Secretly Happy The Dark Universe Never Took Off: We’ve Actually Gotten Some Excellent Monster Movies Out Of Universal Without The Dark Universe  

My colleague, Mike Reyes, wrote an excellent article postulating that if The Last Voyage of the Demeter had started the Dark Universe rather than The Mummy, then it might have survived, and do you know what, I’m going to agree with that assessment.    

Because, even though Demeter is also a box office flop, I genuinely do think that it will eventually find its audience. Plus, why the heck was this movie released IN AUGUST? I managed to see it (even though I still haven’t seen Oppenheimer), and I LOVED it. It’s dark, gory, and everything I love in my horror movies. 

You know what I also loved? 2020’s The Invisible Man, which was also a horror film. With these two movies, which I enjoyed WAY more than Mummy, Untold, and even my guilty pleasure, Wolfman, I realized that maybe a Dark Universe would have been a terrible idea. 

The Invisible Man we got was truly unique, and if we had gotten some goofy action adventure movie starring Johnny Depp, well then thank God we dodged that bullet. If Universal continues to put out excellent horror movies – with a fresh take like Invisible Man and Demeter – then I’m all in! Forget the Dark Universe! 

Now, just remind me of that when I’m up late at night, staring at my ceiling fan, and wondering what could have been.

Do you ever wish the Dark Universe had taken off? For more news on things that go bump in the night, be sure to swing around here often! 

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.