When Tom Cruise’s The Mummy reboot belly-flopped into cinemas, that sodden slap became the death knell of the Dark Universe. Despite its very first entry delivering that killing blow, Universal’s movie monster-focused cinematic universe didn’t get a swift death. As Hollywood accountants grimaced at The Mummy’s critical and box office failures, Universal still toiled away at ways to keep its new franchise from being DOA. And the studio’s best hope at the time was Bride of Frankenstein.
Directed by Bill Condon, written by David Koepp, and starring Angelina Jolie as the Bride with Javier Bardem tapped to play Frankenstein’s Monster, Bride of Frankenstein actually got pretty far in its development. The script was in the can, pre-production was completed, sets were being built. But then in October 2017, Universal pulled the plug on the entire Dark Universe and it was all scrapped.
Since then, some of the Dark Universe properties have reemerged as Universal took pitches from filmmakers to tackle them as standalone projects rather. Leigh Whannell gave us the utterly fantastic Invisible Man and Ryan Gosling is now working on The Wolf Man. And earlier this year, producer Amy Pascal indicated that she’s looking for a way to bring Bride of Frankenstein back to life. And now it’s back… and all it took was a little global pandemic.
That’s what Koepp revealed to Collider, saying that due to the COVID-19 lockdown he was able to knuckle down and successfully rework his original script into a standalone feature that the studio brass are very happy with.
That was one thing I did during quarantine – I brought back Bride of Frankenstein into a place where I kind of always wanted it to be. Universal was very gracious to let me try again. Because they had geared up and shut down famously in the Dark Universe fiasco. Well, not fiasco, but disappointment. So I have a version now and they have a version that we all really like. I think they’re talking to directors now
With The Invisible Man, Whannell and producer Jason Blum completely pivoted away from Universal’s original tentpole blockbuster plans to give us a lean and highly effective small-scale thriller. The film turned its shoestring $7 million budget into a $129 million mega-success. Is that micro-scaled approach the same one Koepp and co will utilize for this new Bride of Frankenstein? Not quite.
It’s not the great big, $150 million extravaganza with giant movie stars. It’s not as scaled down as Invisible Man but much more reasonable, doable thing, with, I think, a really cool idea and it’s all present day.
I think that’s a good approach. Despite its classic status, Bride of Frankenstein doesn’t quite have the modern household recognition of some of Universal’s other movie monsters. The argument can also be made quite loudly that by turning The Mummy into a blockbuster starring one of the biggest actors on the planet (not literally, yuk yuk), it pulled the property away from the monster-horror roots that the Dark Universe was originally supposed to reinvoke. Keeping things mid-range with Bride of Frankenstein can hopefully do the same thing.
As Koepp further explains, how Universal admitted its mistake with the Dark Universe and decided to switch up its plans to take approaches like this is commendable (and very rare in Hollywood). And thus far, it’s turned out to be a damn good plan. Let’s hope it continues with Bride of Frankenstein.
Last Updated: June 15, 2020