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Why Universal’s Dark Universe Failed Before It Began According to ‘Van Helsing’ Writer

Ever since the MCU became the most lucrative cinematic universe franchise of Hollywood, other studios have been rushing to set up their own takes on a cinematic universe. One of the most promising projects in that department was Universal Studio’s planned Dark Universe, which would see Dracula, the Mummy, and Van Helsing among other horror legends in an interconnected series of films.

Unfortunately, the Dark Universe was over before it began with the poor performance of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise and Dracula Untold. At the time, Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer was working on a Dark Universe reboot of Van Helsing. In an interview with The Playlist, Heisserer admitted that the franchise was doomed from the start, as was evident from the studio’s writers table.

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“It was a very strange experience. There was certainly a big brain trust of writers around the table. You had a lot of voices and none of them could agree on much. 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 when 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?'”

For general audiences, the best-remembered version of Van Helsing was when Hugh Jackman played the part, as a swashbuckling adventurer setting out to kill monsters a couple of centuries ago. That version of Helsing owed its existence more to superhero movies than the Draculastories where the character first appeared in. While parts of the movie were praised, Jackman’s turn as Helsing did not kickstart a new franchise as had been the hope at the time.

When the project was first announced, the Van Helsing reboot under Universal Studios sounded promising enough. In interviews, Heisserer spoke about taking the story of the vampire hunter and putting it in a modern setting. The famed screenwriter had also stressed the importance of moving away from depictions of Helsing as a supernaturally gifted fighter. Instead, Heisserer intended to portray the character as an ordinary man, who relies on his courage and resourcefulness to take on the powerful Universal Monsters.

Unfortunately, the project was quietly shelved once it became clear that the Dark Universe was not getting a very warm reception from the audience. In fact, Heisserer admits that one reason why he decided to work on Van Helsingwas because of a growing conviction that the franchise was doomed to failure.

“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 that kills the monsters in the movies that don’t work?’ [Laughs]”

This story arrives from Playlist.

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