Universal Studios’ ‘Dark Universe’ Adds ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’

One of the consequences of living in a post-Avengers world is that any blockbuster hoping to make bank in the next decade has jumped on board the shared universe bandwagon.  And while this makes sense for Marvel and DC — companies whose business models for decades have been based on crossing over as many franchises as possible — not every series was meant to be more than the sum of its parts.

When it comes to Universal’s cinematic universe efforts — the so-called “Dark Universe” — there’s at least historical precedent for it.  The original Universal monster movies were a loosely connected series of horror franchises whose numerous sequels frequently crossed over into one another.

Frankenstein would meet the Wolf Man.  Generations of Draculas would square off against Van Helsing.  Everyone, eventually, ran into Abbot and Costello.

I’ve nervously watched Universal’s ambitions take shape over the last several years: excited by the prospect of a cinematic universe not based on a comic book, but concerned by how good such a thing could possibly be.  The most recent announcement down the pipeline is that the big-screen lineup is going to include more than the usual Invisible Men and Creatures from the Black Lagoon.  Digging through movies not as often associated with horror, Universal is planning to add the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame to their Dark Universe.

While neither of these really work with what studio executives have planned for the mega-franchise, the Phantom of the Opera at least makes a degree of sense.  While he predates the most iconic monsters and is a strictly Human adversary, the Phantom is considered to be one of the original Universal monsters.  While he’s become disturbingly romanticized in recent years, the original character is a psychopathic stalker who masquerades as an Opera House ghost to torment his hapless victims.

What really sticks in my craw, however, is the inclusion of Quasimodo, the title character of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The concept of a poor, deformed and systematically abused man as a monster hasn’t aged well since his cinematic debut at the turn of the last century and flies completely in the face of the source material it purports to adapt.  It’s not a matter of “being PC” or not: it’s a conscious decision to depict the deformed and unprivileged as explicitly “monstrous.”

It’s actually downright disgusting of Universal to even consider the idea in the first place.  Exploiting Quasimodo’s real-life disfigurement as some kind of Clive Barker-esque superpower — like he’s a Cenobite or Nightbreed — is the most despicable kind of corporate cash-grab.

That’s not even trying find a way to narratively justify the presence of a strictly Human character from 1482.   It’s not like he’s an immortal vampire or the latest in an ancient line of vampire hunters.  He’s not just “some guy who got bitten by a werewolf” or a lumbering, ageless corpse or have powers derived from science: all of which make either as much or more sense in a contemporary setting than they did in their original one.

Quasimodo is just a guy: a regular, Human guy with no extraordinary, life-prolonging powers.  And it’s not like they can transplant him into the 21st century to make this work.  His story is inseparably tied to the socio-political and religious realities of late fifteenth-century Europe.  Sure, people still get persecuted by ignorant, cretinous zealots, but that fact alone is not enough to justify his modern-day existence.

I desperately hope that Universal Studios reconsider this ill-conceived idea.  It is an exploitative, damaging and entirely besides-the-point depiction of a tormented character that cannot possibly make any sense in their monster-driven blockbuster franchise.  No good can possibly come of it for them.

Save

Save

Add Comment

American Horror Story BMF Cobra Kai Dexter Hawkeye Heels Money Heist Ozark Shark Tank Squid Game Stranger Things Succession Ted Lasso The Mandalorian
Several Guest Hosts Announced For The Daily Show Following Trevor Noah’s Departure
Becky Lynch as Cyndi Lauper? That Could Work
Willow: The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb-Recap
Action Adventure Comedy Documentary Drama Fantasy Horror Movie Lists Mystery Romance Sci-Fi Thriller
Scream
Scream Movie Star Admits Scream 6 is “Hundred Times Gorier”
Violent Night is Packed Full of Christmas Movie References
Who is The Book of Life Movie Cast?
Comics Lists News Things You Didn't Know Whatever Happened To
Scream
Scream Movie Star Admits Scream 6 is “Hundred Times Gorier”
Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds
An Inexcusable Mistake: Ryan Reynolds Apologizes to Wife, Blake Lively
Joe Rogan & The Rock
“Come Clean Right Now”: Joe Rogan Calls Out Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson About Steroid Use
OPEN WORLD RPG
Open World RPG Games Every Anime Fan Should Play
Aldis Hodge on Today Show
6 Aldis Hodge Movies and Tv Shows You Should Watch
The Photograph (2020)
6 Best Black Romance Movies of the 21st Century
joker characters across comical franchises
Joker Characters Across Comical Franchises To Check Out
Call Of Duty Modern Warfare II Shows That Activision Can Still Make Great Games
Splatoon 3
The Splatoon Video Game Series Detailed
Oregon Trail Video Game Headed Back to Computers
Everything We Know So Far About the Upcoming Diablo 4 Game