Film: Universal! You’re building the Dark Universe wrong!

By James

So, the title may be a bit brash and unreserved... The thing is though, I got very, very, very excited over this announcement. My mind raced before I discovered what the Dark Universe actually was: a re-hash of all their previous monster movies... Why!? Come up with something original!

I’ve quite possibly come on a bit strong so I’ll try and explain. I’m not adverse to the universe but it needs some life injected into it, not just a bunch of A-listers in big budget remakes attempting to inject life into them. (Used inject twice) By all means, include the popular characters; Dracula, Wolfman, Dr. Jekyll, Frankenstein, Van Helsing but spread your wings a little! Whilst he may be one of the most original and potentially one of the freshest inclusions, the invisible man is only so interesting and in a universe full of creatures bordering on superheroes and villains, he may not be the most useful. The mummy, whilst it was vaguely entertaining, was very thrown together and isn’t even one of the interesting characters in the universe.

Having said that, these are only some of the minor issues I have with this rebranding. When I heard/read/discovered that this dark universe was a ‘thing’, I imagined so much more. I thought it had huge potential; I had pictured Universal taking the Gothic monsters and combining them with a plethora of other myths, legends, literary villains and creatures to create a rich, globally encompassing … well … universe.

So rather than moan I thought it would be more reasonable to offer suggestions to Universal so they can salvage some intrigue from their mediocre plans (top bosses from Universal will obviously read this blog and more importantly, obviously, take into consideration everything I suggest and throw millions of dollars into their production); so, introducing my top 5.

1. So kicking us off are my favourites from the long list I have developed, the first of which is Beowulf and Grendl. This would make a good edition, in my opinion. It is already rich in story and has not been done before (to a standard that is worth mentioning). It could be sinister and dark whilst it also provides an absorbing protagonist/antagonist struggle, both being open to interpretation.

2. The second from my short list is anything and everything from the Lovecraft Mythos (but specifically Cthulhu). Part man, part octopus, and part dragon; this beast, is a beast. H. P. Lovecraft created an awesome creature and if Set, the Egyptian God of death and war, can embody a human, accompanied with all his power, then Cthulhu would put up a fight worth watching.

3. Whilst on the topic of death, we have the third member of this little gang, The Grim Reaper. Arguably a cliché but this dude could make quite an interesting character; imagine him as a protagonist? The finger of death trick might have to be toned down slightly but I’m sure it could work if he had wants and needs. He must have started at some point? Was he pulling pints before the mantle of responsibility landed on him?

4. Now, our fourth would need some thought (and a fair amount of character development); Prometheus, the man that stole fire from the Gods. Just from that sentence, you get the impression that Mr. P was a pretty impressive guy. I mean how do you steal fire? And from the Gods? Admittedly, he was a titan... The big draw back with this dude is that he’s, kinda, in the universe already, as Frankenstein. A little birdy told me that was what Mary Shelley was going for... It could make for an interesting duel though. Ancient Prometheus faces off against modern Prometheus.

5. The Jabberwock. Completely open to new interpretation, I appreciate he/she/it may be something more of a villain than a hero but it could be creepy, humanoid, ethereal, who knows; we’re open to suggestions, right Universal?

So they’re my top 5 but there is plenty of room for more. The fun just never stops. Initially, I had thought of a Greek triplet:

- Medusa
- Theseus and the Minotaur
- Odysseus and Scylla

Despite having a semi-recent incarnation in Louis Leterrier’s, Clash of the Titans, Medusa could be done a lot more efficiently with a lot more suspense, a building of character and focus on the horrifying creature that she was meant to be. There is a goldmine to be had within the Greek mythos which brings me neatly on to the other two aforementioned pairs. Theseus and the Minotaur and Odysseus and Scylla. The two protagonists would need some ‘wow factor’ to avoid them becoming generic, ‘old-world’ lead characters that nobody pays much attention to, but there could be a twist? Theseus is the Minotaur? They all have to band together in order to defeat Scylla? Food for thought...

 

In fairness, I may have strayed from anything achievable so I’ll bring it back a bit. I think these next two are much more consistent with the vibe Universal is going for; Bloody Mary and Dorian Grey. These two rays of sunshine fit the bill and yes Dorian Grey has been characterised time after time but I still think there is life in the old dog yet... He just needs to be done right, fresh and not so regurgitated that writing this suggestion seems silly. Bloody Mary, however, could be interesting. I’m thinking Wolf Among Us style? I mean, she does go a little nuts but if she was maybe a supernatural merc? An anti-hero? If you’ve played Wolf Among Us or even seen how this character turns out then you’ll know that she has the potential to be utterly terrifying.

The final entries are somewhat unknown, or at least unusual. There would have to be a half decent writing team behind them in order to make them work. So, we have:

- Solomon and the Jinn
- St. George and the Dragon
- Rabbi Loew and the Earth Golem
- Emperor Jimmu

I had thought about Atlantis, the terracotta army and the Nordic Pantheon (specifically Fenrir, the monstrous wolf) but I’m not sure how much I like those ideas. Universal, you can decide.

A bit of background on the above then. Solomon and the Jinn is an ancient legend about King Solomon, who was able to speak to animals and control Jinn. They were servants in his court, required to do his bidding and perform magical tasks. Could be a classic servant defeats the master story?

I feel obliged to include St. George and the Dragon as it’s a classic (for me, as I’m British). The legend of Saint George is a pretty simple one and basically a tale of a Christian proselyte and a town in Libya. A plague-bearing dragon is offered sheep in order to appease it; when they ran out of sheep, they used children but when the King’s daughter was offered up, George, conveniently, happened to be riding past on his valiant steed, clad in armour with his posh lance. In exchange for slaying the dragon, he requested that the town converts to Christianity. Oh, Religion...

Possibly my favourite out of this little list of wild cards; Loew, a rabbi from Prague, created a Golem to protect his town from anti-Semitists (religion again). This Golem could make himself invisible and summon legions of the dead in order to fulfil his task. Awesome. But Loew deactivated him every Friday evening before the Sabbath for fear of him desecrating the sacred day. Anyway, there are different versions of what happens next but the Golem ends up going on a rampage and is only stopped when Loew risks his life to pull the control stone from his mouth. Legend has it that the body was stored in a synagogue attic, from which, all manner of conspiracy theory has emerged. Some say the Nazi’s stole it, some say it was buried in a graveyard where a tower now stands, but who knows. It’s open for creative input.

So there we have it. It may be somewhat more of a series of ranting tangents than a coherent article that is thoroughly researched and well-informed but ah well, you can’t win them all. I guess it’s now up to Universal to make my films and give me at least 50% of the royalties... Lubbly jubbly.

If you have any other interesting ideas then feel free to leave a comment. I’m sure I’ve missed many awesome tales that would make good films.

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