This episode kicks off our four-part monster month. Monsters have a special place in storytelling. They're the cornerstone of how we tell stories. This episode we look at a time when things didn't go quite their way when Universal Pictures dropped the ball trying to adapt them all into their Dark Universe.
On Pathfinder this week you'll find out why Count Dracula, Dr Jekyll, and The Mummy lost their way only to become action film stars, when they needed something far smaller and intimate to win over audiences.
Come back next week for part two of Monster Month.
Episode 6: Sitting On The Wrong Side of Darkness
Ollie: [00:00:00] Let's talk about cinematic universes, even if you've never heard of them. You've experienced one. The cinematic universe is a series of films that are connected into a singular world. The one you're probably the most familiar with is the Marvel cinematic universe. Kicking off with Ironman Marvel's characters.
[00:00:19] Now make up a huge share of box office takings. Ever since Disney kicked off that universe, we've seen studio after studio try to replicate that success. The worlds of star Wars and foster peers quickly stepped up to the plate to become not quite as successful, but forces of their own to be reckoned with.
[00:00:36] But there was one universe that on paper should have been as successful. If not more than most universities. One based on the monsters that have haunted humans for hundreds of years, starring Johnny Depp, Tom cruise, and Javier Bardem, and backed by universal the dark universe. This is the story of not understanding the characters you're working with.
[00:00:59] This is Pathfinder a show about storytelling.
[00:01:10] So what makes up the ingredients for a good cinematic universe? Well, you might, I think it's having a brilliant creative team or the world's best actors, but if you actually break it down, it comes down to source material. To create a university. You need enough stories to fill it universe both big and small.
[00:01:29] You need to understand how big events shape the world you're working with, but also understand the side stories that people experience outside of those events. We usually start with books or comics. Comics has been a huge driver for this style of storytelling because it's already been mapped out.
[00:01:43] Spider-Man has already met. Iron man, and a comic book. So adapting that for the silver screen is much easier. Oh, Mr. Parker, um,
[00:01:51] Music: [00:01:51] what,
[00:01:51] Ollie: [00:01:51] what did he get? Hey, uh, I'm I'm Peter, Tony. The relationships are charted and the rules of the universe that defined universal was brought us some incredible films. 30 is the gem of their collection though, is their monsters.
[00:02:05] Dracula and Frankenstein, the invisible man and the both man all live under Universal's classic monster line. In theory, outside of Western inspired space, adventures, or superheroes, the stories of the things that go bump in the night of one of the richest sources of universe, building material ever created.
[00:02:21] These stories have been adapted in every way imaginable. People will have an inherent understanding of the welds that these monsters exist in because it's built into the stories that we grew up with. The creatures don't have to be explained. We just know how they work. So when universal decided to throw their hat in the ring, everything felt like it should work.
[00:02:39] The studio kicked things off with none other than Dracula, starring Lou Kevin's Dracula untold in true superhero fashion took you through the famous vampires origin story. Dracula untold attempts to re-establish the classic universal monster and into some sort of superhero though, that's left a little unclear much like the rest of the film.
[00:03:04] The thing about direct Lauren told was. It was only late in the process that they decided to actually make it part of the dark universe going in for reshoots. At the last minute, the film was strung up to create the opening scenes of what was to come by bringing Dracula into modern times. Drag killer does lend himself to being something of a superhero.
[00:03:21] He has fantastical powers, multiple stories, and has existed in both the good and bad sides of the coin, but in Universal's first misstep, they lost what makes Dracula so interesting. The mystery of how he became to be following Dracula untold. The dark universe train was moving. Danny Elfman had composed music for the dark universe logo.
[00:03:42] The studio was pushing reports of their talent for the movies to come. The universe was gaining steam with Russell Crowe is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Johnny Depp filling the shoes of the invisible man. Have you ate bell? Damn, that is Frankenstein's monster. And Tom cruise was to him. The reboot of the mummy, the mummy was the second dark universe film out the door.
[00:04:00] And it wasn't exactly what people were expecting. It feels like about two hours of exciting action sequences that are also looped in with a bunch of scenes needed to explain or set up a future universe. Instead of being in an Indiana Jones style adventure through Egypt, or a slow build horror thriller.
[00:04:18] Tom cruise built a film that was more mission, impossible than monster flick. The film tried to do too much dark universe characters, but crammed in left, right and center. The action is constant and goes for big thrills over building its atmosphere or world. The mummy failed at the box office. There were rumors of Tom Cruise's interference with the films direction by Alex Kurtzman.
[00:04:38] But at the end of the day, again, universal faced a misunderstanding of what made their source material was so interesting. After the mummy failed to meet box office numbers or positive, critical reception, universal put their monsters on ice. The dark universe has moved into a back pocket to be reworked recently, the universe lives on, but it's not in a form.
[00:04:57] It was set out to be instead of an Epic world spanning series, the films are no longer connected. With smaller separated stories being told with more of a lenient horror, the first being the recent invisible man, the films are created on a much smaller scale to cater to a much narrower audience. So why am I telling you all about a failed attempt to bring monsters to life?
[00:05:17] Well, for the next three episodes of Pathfinder, we're going to be digging into the darkness to understand what actually makes these monsters so powerful as a storytelling tool, monsters hold a very special balance. They're not just characters, but also plot. They represent humans, fear of the unknown, and don't just exist to scare people.
[00:05:34] But also to understand that the world around them Universal's attempt to start a universe off the back of these monsters, missed the Mark because it didn't understand the world, the monsters inhabit, the characters were not designed to be jammed into action sequences or unpacked to the finest detail.
[00:05:48] The reason why these classic monsters have held up so well over time is because the world that they exist in is ours. Once those are the shallow at the end of the corridor or the person who lives in the crumbled house on a Hill, or the thing that you assume to be dead coming back to life monsters, aren't really characters in the traditional sense.
[00:06:06] They're ideas. Those ideas are made up of a mix of emotions and assumptions that create visceral storytelling in a way that taps into different sides of our brain. If we look back at stories throughout history, monsters make up the backbone of pretty much every one of them, they come in all shapes and sizes from fantastical beasts to slight variations on what we understand to be human.
[00:06:27] So for the next month, we're going to go where universal didn't and get to the bottom of what makes a monster, a monster. We've delved into history, poetry, books, and most of all, mythology to break open. Why monsters are so enduring and who've always been around every
[00:06:42] Music: [00:06:42] corner
[00:06:46] Ollie: [00:06:46] over the night. It's three episodes. We'll be finding out where mocks has come from exploring the most interesting people behind them. Uh, most of all, why sometimes as civilization, we need monsters to keep us going.
[00:07:03] Music: [00:07:03] Thank you so much for listening to Pathfinder. You can find out more about the stories on our firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at find a show. This show is written by me Ollie Judge, and it is edited and produced by Roger Morley. We'll see you next week for more monsters.