Once upon a time, Universal Pictures laid out an ambitious plan to assemble their classic Universal Monsters into a cinematic franchise that they dubbed the Dark Universe. The studio gathered up a bunch of stars to populate their new franchise, including Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster, and even tapped Tom Cruise to star in the first installment of the Dark Universe — THE MUMMY. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what happened next, but long story short, it crashed and burned in a spectacular fashion.
Universal had gathered up a number of writers to plan out their Dark Universe franchise, which included Eric Heisserer (Arrival), but the writer recently told The Playlist that he knew the franchise was destined for failure.
It was a very strange experience. There was certainly a big brain trust of writers around the table. You had a lot of different voices and none of them could agree on much. It felt much like when I’d visit my relatives for Thanksgiving and everyone’s arguing with each other…You had some people saying, ‘Should our monsters all be villains in these movies or can they all be heroes?’ And someone else would say, ‘We can build the plane as we fly it.’ And it’s me and Jon Spaihts at the table going, ‘That’s a terrible analogy. We don’t want to be on that plane. What are we doing here?’
Eric Heisserer said that the other writers started snagging up the monsters they were excited about, but Jon Spaihts and himself chose to work on Van Helsing, partly because they were convinced the franchise wasn’t going to succeed. Heisserer explained, “This is sort of a terrible motivation, but we were also like, ‘You know? I don’t think some of these movies are going to work at all. So what if we create the character who kills the monsters in the movies that don’t work?’” Heisserer also believes that a successful cinematic universe shouldn’t be pre-packaged, but rather built upon one good movie. “To try and assume you are building something that is already pre-packaged as a cinematic universe, there’s a kind of hubris that I think audiences pick up on right away,” Heisserer said. “They know you’re selling them a trailer to a bigger movie and assuming they’re going to show up. I don’t think that’s the right approach.” Can’t say I disagree. Eric Heisserer’s latest project found him developing Shadow and Bone for Netflix, a fantasy series based on the novels by Leigh Bardugo that debuted today.