Universal has announced production has started on a new Dracula movie as the studio begins to find its footing on monster movies.
In 2017, Universal announced their answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Titled the ‘Dark Universe’, Universal intended to reboot the classic monster movies of the 1930s and 40s for a new audience. What’s more, Universal also disclosed that their monster franchise would interconnect in the Marvel fashion, where possibly everyone’s favourite monsters would join up to fight some unknown enemy.
Then, ‘The Mummy’ was released. With a combined production and marketing budget of $345 million, the Tom Cruise action-fantasy film needed $450 million to break even. The film grossed approximately $80 million in the US and even China, a much-relied box office for today’s blockbusters, only contributed approximately $90 million.
The failure of ‘The Mummy’ was so spectacular that the chances for a Dark Universe died then and there. The next slated film ‘Bride of Frankenstein’, which had attached Javier Bardem to the project as Frankenstein’s monster, was due for a February 2019 release date. Fellow ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ co-star Johnny Depp had joined as the Invisible Man.
Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella, from ‘Kingsman’ and ‘Atomic Blonde’, had also debuted in ‘The Mummy’ as Dr. Jekyll and the title character respectively. Crowe’s Jekyll would have acted as a Nick Fury for the cast, overseeing a secret organization called Prodigium, who would likely have shown up in the other films.
But recently, Universal’s partnership with Blumhouse Production has culminated in the release of ‘The Invisible Man’, starring Elizabeth Moss. Directed by Leigh Whannell, ‘The Invisible Man’ signals that Universal will undertake less of a genre approach and focus more on storytelling in the low-budget style of Blumhouse films like ‘Get Out’ and ‘Whiplash.
“It’s a ‘best idea wins’ approach,” says an unnamed Universal producer, “and they are having the filmmakers find the individual stories.”
This Blumhouse technique to constructing franchises separates Universal from cinematic universes like Marvel and DC, who have dabbled in a similar method with film’s like Taika Watiti’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and Todd Phillip’s ‘Joker’. By producing films that favour narrative to visual effects and action set-pieces, Universal is shaping up to set themselves apart from the current studio system.
“It shows that by being very agile, they were able to pivot and try a new direction,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a Comscore senior media analyst. “Had Invisible Man not worked, that would have been a cause for concern. But this sets them up very nicely.”
Now, off the success of ‘The Invisible Man’, Universal has announced through The Hollywood Reporter that they’re developing a new Dracula film. From Karyn Kusama, director of ‘Jennifer’s Body’ and ‘Destroyer’, this latest Dracula film would take place in modern times, like ‘The Invisible Man’.
Universal hasn’t attempted a Dracula film since 2014’s much-forgotten Luke Evan’s ‘Dracula Untold’, another underwhelming entry in the studio’s history. But with the release of Netflix’s ‘Castlevania’ series, with its third season released March 5, and the BBC series ‘Dracula’ starring Claes Bang, audiences have been treated to a well-written Dracula and will have high expectations for this new film.
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