It’s proven to be difficult to create a successful franchise, although every single year, almost every single studio in Hollywood tries… and more of then not fails. Besides the James Bond and Harry Potter series, plus the MCU of course, it’s hard to think of a franchise that’s been as consistent as the near-twenty years of films that came out of 2001’s The Fast and the Furious.
Chris Morgan wrote and produced next week’s Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, and he’s been the man behind the franchise since writing 2006’s Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. It was the next movie that brought Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker back into the fold that helped revive the franchise to the multi-billion global hit it is now.
As it happens, Morgan was also part of Universal’s plans to revive its monster library with something that was supposed to become a series of films collectively known as “Dark Universe.” It was supposed to be launched with the 2017 The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, but bad reviews– no, I mean 16% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes bad! – and a poor box office showing, at least in North America, forced Universal to rethink, if not completely table the idea. (That didn’t stop Universal from releasing a publicity picture that included Cruise, Crowe, The Mummy‘s Sofia Boutella, as well as Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem.)
In the past year, one of the planned movies, The Invisible Man, has been taken over by Blumhouse with Insidious and Reset director Leigh Whannell, and who knows if we’ll ever see any of the other planned movies?
Besides producing The Mummy, Morgan had written a screenplay for Bride of Frankenstein, and was one of the overall producers, so when I had an opportunity to speak to Morgan, it seemed like a missed opportunity not to ask about “Dark Universe.”
As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and Morgan seems aware of the problems with basing a franchise around The Mummy while still optimistic about some of the ideas that were in play.
“I love the monster movies,” Morgan told me over the phone earlier in the week. “In particular, we got to work with some amazing writers and amazing directors and storytellers and just daydream about what stories we wanted to tell. We had an amazing story for Van Helsing, which we’ll see what ends up happening with that down the road. Originally, I think the Dark Universe came together pretty quickly. I think in reconstructing and thinking about it, that it should be what it always is and it’s what everybody is embracing now, which is do one great movie and then let it build itself out from there. We don’t have to focus on trying to build the universe – just let it be what it is. I think that’s where they are now, and there’s some really great stuff coming down the road from Uni with that.”
Look for the rest of my interview with Morgan sometime next week.