dark        
spacer

The Dark Universe films, revisited (Fauxclusive)

0

At least the second most ambitious crossover event ever

There was a time during our collective naivete where we all guffawed at the very idea of the Dark Universe—nearly a decade later and with several films in the bank, the fruits of Universal's labors have produced a very different result. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was once thought to be the pinnacle of the shared universe, the mega-franchise, the series-of-series, but the Dark Universe swooped in and gave us iconic characters like Nick Morton, the Invisible Man, and multiple performances from Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll of Prodigium that even Samuel L. Jackson and his dumb eyepatch couldn't hold a candle to.

Everyone remembers the chills they felt when they first saw the Dark Universe logo on the big screen: after the traditional Universal logo came from the right side of the screen, the studio completely subverted expectations when the Dark Universe logo came from the left. And to think that this ambitious muti-film project all started with a humble, lavish photoshoot with a bunch of rich, famous actors.

In celebration of this spooky Halloween season, in which we're all reminded of the scary monsters so well-depicted in these truly classic films, let's talk about each celebrated entry of the Dark Universe.

The Mummy

Here's the movie that started it all—the Iron Man of the Dark Universe, if I may. Say what you want about Tom Cruise's personal life, but the man knows how to make an action movie. It's tough to not admire his willingness to perform all of those insane stunts himself, with the zero-G airplane crash in the first act of the film being a highlight.

Sure, Cruise's screaming was comically over-the-top, but The Mummy was bolstered by Sofia Boutella's performance as the titular character, giving her villainess a menacing aura. I thought it was strange, however, when Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character abruptly transformed into Mr. Hyde, resulting in a fight scene that completely interrupted the movie's main plot. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

The Bride of Frankenstein

Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Beauty and the Beast) brought an auteurist approach to the Dark Universe, with his usual penchant for visual flair reflected in every aspect of the film. From the intricate production design of Dr. Frankenstein's lab to the lavish costume design for the Bride of Frankenstein herself, played by Angelina Jolie. She is well complimented by Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's monster, and the cast is rounded out with the inspired choice of Danny DeVito as Igor.

It was so easy for this film project to turn into eye-rolling cheese, but those behind the production made it work. I thought it was strange, however, when Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character abruptly transformed into Mr. Hyde, resulting in a fight scene that completely interrupted the movie's main plot. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

The Invisible Man

It's a classic tale of a scientist too ambitious and too cocky, only to have his downfall brought upon him by his own hubris. As the film began in media res with Dr. Griffin (Johnny Depp) being inflicted with his invisibility, many were confused why there was no dialog from Invisible Man since Depp took the unprecedented step of not actually showing up on set whenever he was invisible, which was the pretty much the whole film. Thanks to this strikingly powerful non-performance the film depended a lot on context clues and visual storytelling to figure out just what was happening—not to mention, it included the bombshell revelation that the Invisible Man has had a secret cameo in every single Dark Universe film, making for some excellent world-building.

I applaud the originality of The Invisible Man, but I question the studio’s hiring of an actor of Johnny Depp’s caliber to portray a character who is neither seen nor heard throughout the entire two and a half hour runtime—watching his co-stars talk to thin air with no response required much patience. I also thought it was strange when Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character abruptly transformed into Mr. Hyde, resulting in a fight scene that completely interrupted the movie's main plot. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

The Mummy Returns Returns

In the first (unexpected) crossover in the Dark Universe, The Mummy actually crossed over with the previous Brendan Fraser Mummy films with some time-travel and dimension-hopping hijinx in The Mummy Returns Returns. I was worried about behind-the-scenes stories of Tom Cruise and Fraser getting into disputes on who would be the true leading man, but luckily, director Alex Kurtzman solved the problem by having both actors in every scene together and simultaneously delivering the same lines in unison.

Perhaps Kurtzman could have cut down on the twelve-minute long scene of Sofia Boutella and Dwayne Johnson’s Scorpion King snarling at each other, and I also thought it was strange when Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character abruptly transformed into Mr. Hyde, resulting in a fight scene that completely interrupted the movie's main plot. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

The Phantom of the Opera

I think some Universal executive was severely confused during this project, as the studio accidentally adapted the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical instead. Nevertheless, the cast and crew did what they could given the situation. In an odd move, the film double-cast Russell Crowe as both Dr. Jekyll and the titular Phantom, allowing Crowe to once again grace the screens with his singing ability as first melodically displayed to audiences in Les Miserables.

I thought it was strange, however, when Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character abruptly transformed into Mr. Hyde, resulting in an unbearable sing-off sequence that completely interrupted the movie's main plot. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

The Wolf Man

Weirdly enough, Universal chose The Wolf Man to capitalize on the "monster fucking" phenomenon of The Shape of Water. With Willem Dafoe as the titular character, director Lars von Trier crafted a story about the Wolf Man trying to reconnect with his wife after his hideous transformation that was not only genuinely emotional but also featured unsimulated full wolf-penetration. You'll remember that the hashtag #uncomfortablyaroused trended for months after the movie's release.

It was an amazing feat that Dafoe was able to naturally grow all the hair himself, just for the purpose of the film project. I thought it was strange, however, when Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character abruptly transformed into Mr. Hyde, resulting in an orgy scene that completely interrupted the movie's main plot. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

You'd think that a movie that is straight up about a creature who lives in the water would have gotten The Shape of Water treatment but, having already tackled that with The Wolf Man, Universal tried something a little more bold with this installment. With no credited director to the film, the entirety was just a static image of a lagoon, with the occasional splash and the possible glimpse of a creature every once in a while.

It was by far the most experimental and avant-garde film I've seen that received a wide release, so props to Universal for trying something different during the blockbuster season. I thought it was strange, however, how the slightly transparent image of Russell Crowe's head appeared throughout the entire runtime, staring the audience down and making for an uncomfortable viewing experience. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

Van Helsing

The crossover that took years to set up was finally worth the wait, with Paul W.S. Anderson directing Nicolas Cage as Van Helsing, in a movie that had the character ward off every monster from the previous movies. Fighting the Mummy, Frankenstein's monster and his bride, the Phantom of the Opera, the Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and what I presumed was the Invisible Man (we never got a good glimpse at him), Cage brutally murders every single monster in his path.

Cage has no speaking lines as Helsing, only screaming and yelling—additionally, Anderson shot every scene in either fast-motion or slow-motion, giving the film a unique brand of momentum. Weirdly enough, Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character was not in this movie. It didn't work for me.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The beginning of Phase 2 of the Dark Universe gave audiences an intimate look into Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character, explaining the origin story of both the mysterious Prodigium organization and his horrific Mr. Hyde persona. It comes across as more of a character drama rather than some sort of horror, thriller, or action film—there's more A Beautiful Mind here than there is Gladiator.

Crowe has been the glue to hold this entire universe together, and it was wonderful for him to finally get his due. I thought it was strange, however, when Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll character abruptly transformed into Mr. Hyde, resulting in a fight scene that completely interrupted the movie's main plot. Otherwise, the film worked for me.

***

When talking to various other Dark Universe fans, everyone will have their own different rankings and favorites. What's your favorite movie (and respective WayForward video game adaptation) in the Dark Universe? Sound off in the Russell Crowement section below, and be sure to sign up on the official Dark Universe website for future updates on the franchise, which is actually a real thing you can do to this day (seriously)!


You are logged out. Login | Sign up

 
 

 

TwitterRedditEmailFacebook
 
Chris Compendio
Chris Compendio   gamer profile

Chris Compendio is one too many Chris's (Chrises?) writing for Flixist and Destructoid. They are a massive MCU fan who also writes and podcasts for Marvel News Desk, and a Nintendo fanatic who wr... more + disclosures


 



Also on Flixist: The Mummy   (5)   From our database:

  • Universal's Dark Universe has been mummified - Matthew Razak
  • Movie studios fear bad Rotten Tomatoes scores, are trying to thwart the Tomatometer - Hubert Vigilla
  • Tom Cruise's excessive creative control may have ruined The Mummy - Hubert Vigilla
  • Review: The Mummy - Matthew Razak
  • Things not looking so hot for The Mummy - Matthew Razak
  • The Mummy reboot featurette has Tom Cruise getting bruised behind the scenes - Hubert Vigilla
  • Trailer for The Mummy with Tom Cruise reveals a new world of gods and monsters - Hubert Vigilla
  • Universal Monsters reboots to be action, not horror - Matthew Razak
  • Dracula Untold reshoots tie it into Universal's monster universe - Matthew Razak
  • More related stories
    Filed under... #Monster Movie Universe #monster movies #Universal #Vampires

    READER COMMENTS LOADING BELOW...


    LET'S KEEP THE COMMUNITY GREAT


    You're not expected to always agree, but do please keep cool and never make it personal. Report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community team. Also, on the right side of a comment you can flag nasty comments anonymously (we ban users dishing bad karma). For everything else, contact us!



     
     
  •