Filmmaker Paul Feig is eager to get his monster movie Dark Army off the ground, but it sounds like Universal Pictures is still figuring out how it wants to approach its library of monster titles. One may recall that, a few years ago, Universal was developing an interconnected universe approach to the Universal Monsters. The Tom Cruise-fronted The Mummy was to be the first film to kick off this MCU-style franchise, but when The Mummy crashed and burned critically and commercially, Universal pulled the plug on the “Dark Universe.”
The studio subsequently changed tracks, eschewing an interconnected universe for any number of disparate takes on Universal monsters. The first to go in front of cameras was filmmaker Leigh Whannel’s domestic abuse take on The Invisible Man, with Blumhouse Productions producing on a very small budget. That film opened in theaters earlier this year to rave reviews and stellar box office, and its smashing success may have caused Universal to reconsider a unified approach to Universal monsters.
Feig has been developing Dark Army for a little while and has now written two drafts of the script. The story is said to involve both classic monster characters and new characters, and the A Simple Favor and Spy filmmaker intends for the film to be in lockstep with the classic Universal monster movies of the 1930s. When Feig was on our remote interview series Collider Connected recently to talk about his career and the upcoming HBO Max series Love Life (which he produced), he provided an update on Dark Army and said Universal is still deciding how it wants to proceed:
“Well I’ve done two drafts and I love it, it’s one of my favorites scripts I’ve ever written. Universal, they’re not quite sure what they’re doing right now. Because Invisible Man did really well on a very micro budget, and my movie’s a little more expensive than that. So I’m hoping to God we get to make it, because I just absolutely love it. I’m so thrilled with it.”
Feig has quickly emerged as a filmmaker extremely capable at working in very different genres. He first broke out with comedies like Bridesmaids and The Heat, but he proved adept at handling vibrant visual effects with the underrated Ghostbusters, and crafted a full-on Hitchcockian thriller with A Simple Favor. But for Dark Army, Feig doesn’t want to go the horror movie route:
“Tonally I’m being very true to the traditional monster movie genre. Not horror movie, monster movie. I love those movies of the 30s, the James Whale movies, [and] Bride of Frankenstein I still think is one of the greatest films of all time. So I want that tone because those movies were very fun. They treated them seriously, but you also know they were also having a lot of fun with them, so there are a lot of extreme characters in them and funny side characters. That’s what I want, I never wanted to make a horror movie. I want to make a true monster movie.”
And for Feig, who has always kept character front and center in all of his films and TV shows, Dark Army is a film about outsiders:
“To me, it’s about outsiders. Those monster movies, a lot of them were directed by gay directors, and I’ve read a lot about how these monsters represented outsiders in society and how they felt and all that. So that kind of realism and the emotions of it are very important to me. It’s not just scaring people, it’s how do you invest in these situations and these characters? You know, Frankenstein is such a tragic character. That’s the kind of feel I want with this. It’ll be funny, but it’s not a spoof. It’s fun and funny in the interactions of these characters, but the situations are very real and serious. I hope we get to make it. Who knows what’s happening? Right now everything is in turmoil because of the virus.”
As a huge fan of Feig’s, I really hope Dark Army happens. The Invisible Man was a brilliant twist on that particular title, but I think it’d be a mistake for Universal to once again go all-in on a “house style” for its monster movies. These characters are iconic, but they’ve resonated with people for very different reasons. And allowing different filmmakers to basically tell audiences, “here’s what this monster means to me,” is a unique opportunity other studios and IP can’t really afford. But since the Universal monsters are so ubiquitous, audiences can handle seeing two different takes on the same monster in different films. Plus, just look at Feig’s filmography. The guy has more than proven adept at telling character-centric, resonant films that are also wildly entertaining. Why wouldn’t you let him play in Universal monsters sandbox for a while?