Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Universal officially announces Dark Universe, sets 'Bride of Frankenstein' for February 2019

Marvel has given us so many great movies over the years. The thrilling origin stories of Iron Man and Captain America, the spectacular fun of The Avengers, the cosmic madness of Guardians of the Galaxy, the epic drama of Civil War- Marvel has consistently delivered entertaining, high quality blockbusters.

They also cursed us with cinematic universes.

Ever since Nick Fury told Tony Stark that he was part of a bigger universe in 2008, and especially since Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel pulled off the team-up magic trick in 2012, studios across Hollywood have been playing catch-up. Warner Bros. has been desperately trying to create a connected universe of DC Comics films, Sony at one point hoped to create multiple Ghostbusters films in one shared universe, and Universal has mentioned numerous times that they hope to bring together all of their classic monsters for one big movie. Even though tracking for The Mummy is somewhat soft, it appears that the studio is pushing forward with this idea. Yesterday, Universal revealed more details about this cinematic universe, which is either exciting or horrifying depending on who you ask.

In a press release today, Universal officially revealed that Dark Universe will bring together their new world of gods and monsters. Here is the press release:

"Universal Pictures Unveils "Dark Universe" With Name, Mark And Musical Theme For Its Classic Monsters Series of Films"

Universal City, CA, May 22, 2017- "Universal Pictures announced today that its series of films reviving the studio's classic monster characters for a new generation will be known as "Dark Universe." The motion logo for the new initiative features a musical theme composed by Danny Elfman and will debut in theaters preceding The Mummy, which will be released on June 9. The announcement includes details of the enterprise relaunching Universal's iconic characters into modern cinema, as well as confirmations of superstar cast and that Academy Award winner Bill Condon will direct Bride of Frankenstein.

Dark Universe was begun by core creatives Alex Kurtzman, who also serves as director and producer of The Mummy, the inaugural film in the new classic monster series, and The Mummy producer Chris Morgan, who recently saw The Fate of the Furious, the sixth film he wrote for the Fast & Furious franchise, claim the biggest opening in history at the global box office when it opened on April 14. Also joining the enterprise to inspire and entertain a new generation are such visionary talents as Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible series, The Usual Suspects) and David Koepp (War of the Worlds, Jurassic Park).

"We take enormous pride in the creativity and passion that has inspired the reimagining of Universal's iconic monsters and promise audiences we will expand this series strategically," said Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Pictures."The enterprise masterfully developed by Chris and Alex will allow each subsequent chapter the right time to find the perfect cast, filmmakers and vision to fulfill it. As we launch Dark Universe and Danny's provocative theme before The Mummy and collaborate with a brilliant filmmaker like Bill to weave the story of a very modern woman in a classic tale, we feel confident we're off to a tremendous start."

"When Universal approached us with the idea of reimagining these classic characters, we recognized the responsibility of respecting their legacy while bringing them into new and modern adventures," said Kurtzman and Morgan. "The studio and our fellow creative collaborators have championed and challenged us as we've begun to spin the web of Dark Universe. It's our hope these movies will engross longtime fans and spark the imagination of brand-new ones."

From his first score on Tim Burton's Pee Wee's Big Adventure and his iconic theme to The Simpsons- not to mention his collaborations with filmmakers including Ang Lee, David O. Russell, Sam Raimi, Rob Marshall, Guillermo del Toro, Joss Whedon, and Peter Jackson- four time Academy Award nominee Danny Elfman's inimitable compositions have vaulted him into one of the most versatile and accomplished composers in history.

"I grew up on monsters," said Elfman. "Monsters were my life, and these iconic Universal mosnters were almost like my family. I simply wouldn't be the same without them. When I got the opportunity to compose a theme for the Dark Universe logo, of course I jumped at it. What could be more fun than connecting to this world that has always been so deeply embedded in my psyche? I tried to find something that was new but still had some connections with the past- the origins- at least in a subtle way. Something that was looking forward to a creative, fertile, imaginative future that Dark Universe will enter, and at the same time saluting the heritage of the tragic heroes (or anti-heroes) of my childhood. To the Monsters!!!!"

In another exciting development, Oscar winner Bill Condon will follow his worldwide smash Beauty and the Beast, one of this year's biggest hits- which crossed $1 billion at the global box office and became the most successful musical of all time- by directing Bride of Frankenstein, from a screenplay by Koepp. The next film from Dark Universe, Bride of Frankenstein will be released on Thursday, February 14, 2019.

In a related move, Universal announced that it will not release a Dark Universe film as previously planned for April 13, 2018, and that Bride will instead be the next chapter in the unspooling series of movies following this year's The Mummy. The actress chosen to play the lead role in Condon's version of this timeless story will be announced soon.

"I'm very excited to bring a new Bride of Frankenstein to life on screen, particularly since James Whale's original creation is still so potent," stated Condon. "The Bride of Frankenstein remains the most iconic female monster in film history, and that's a testament to Whale's masterpiece- which endures as one of the greatest movies ever made."

Dark Universe films will be distinguished by performances from some of the most talented and popular global superstars stepping into iconic roles, as well as electric new talents whose careers are starting to break through. While previously announced, the stars of both imminent and future Dark Universe projects are gathered for the first time in the attached photo. The Invisible Man and Frankenstein's Monster will be played by, respectively, blockbuster icon Johnny Depp and Academy Award winner Javier Bardem, who appear together later this summer in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Those actors join superstar Tom Cruise as soldier of fortune Nick Morton and Oscar winner Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, who lead the all-star cast of The Mummy, along with Sofia Boutella, the actress who embodies the title role in that film.

Both the graphic and the motion logo were created by five-time Academy Award-winning visual effects facility Weta Digital (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, Avatar).

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.

Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters. Welcome to Dark Universe."

So, uh, okay. I feel like they should have waited until The Mummy actually hit theaters, but this might actually be an effective way to get people to the theater for this film, which is currently slammed between several big blockbusters. There's a lot to unpack in this press release, which is quite possibly one of the longest I've ever seen. The casting of Bardem and Depp has been rumored for quite some time, and Condon's connection on Bride of Frankenstein was widely reported weeks ago. I've said before that I love the idea of a Universal Monsters cinematic universe, and while I'm not exactly encouraged by what I've seen from The Mummy so far, I'm still excited at the prospect of big-budget films with a solid dash of horror. It's good to know that Universal has a plan, and even though this could certainly crash and burn, this announcement got me oddly excited. At this point, I'm hoping for the best.

The first installment in Dark Universe, Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy, opens on June 9.

Images courtesy of Universal/Pop Culture

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