'Upgrade' Director Leigh Whannell Set To Helm 'The Invisible Man' As Universal Retools Its Monsters Universe

The Dark Universe is rising from the grave! Sort of! Almost two years after Tom Cruise's The Mummy both launched and killed Universal's monster cinematic universe in one fell swoop, Blumhouse is set to take over with a new version of The Invisible Man. Leigh Whannell, who helmed the kick-ass horror action flick Upgrade, will direct. At one point, Johnny Depp was attached to star – but that's no longer the case. This is going to be a fresh start.

Variety broke the news about The Invisible Man remake. Jason Blum will produce and Leigh Whannell, who wrote scripts for SawDead Silence and Insidious, and made his directorial debut with Insidious: Chapter 3 before making Upgrade, will helm. This is said to be a back-to-the-drawing-board approach to Universal's monster properties. The studio had hoped to emulate Marvel with the Dark Universe, a series of connected films featuring their classic monster characters adapted for a new era. As everyone knows by now, it didn't work out. The Mummy, the first and last film in the series, underperformed and was met with monstrous reviews. The Bride of Frankenstein, the next film in the series, was soon shelved. Now, Universal will give it another go. Per the Variety story:

Universal has tabled the idea of an interconnected universe and is reassessing how to keep the enduring characters relevant for a new generation. Sources tell Variety that Universal remains committed to creating compelling filmmaker-driven projects based on characters from the studio's vast monsters legacy.

I never thought the idea of a Universal monsters universe was a bad idea. I just hated the approach the studio was taking, trying to turn these horror properties into action films. The Universal monsters were sad, lonely, tormented characters steeped in gothic tradition. If Universal had taken a horror movie approach from the get-go, they might have succeed. The Conjuring Universe is all the proof you need that horror franchises can actually work (at least at the box office).

"Throughout cinematic history, Universal's classic monsters have been reinvented through the prism of each new filmmaker who brought these characters to life," said Peter Cramer, Universal's president of production. "We are excited to take a more individualized approach for their return to screen, shepherded by creators who have stories they are passionate to tell with them."

Having Whannell at the helm is a great start. He's already proven himself as a writer, and Upgrade established him as a strong filmmaker as well. Starting things over with The Invisible Man is also a wise move, because the character isn't as popular as Dracula or Frankenstein or the Mummy. That gives the film a little more room to breathe.

There have been several films inspired by H. G. Wells' novel. The most famous is Universal's 1933 adaptation directed by James Whale and starring Claude Rains. That film employed what were at the time cutting-edge special effects, and remains one of the best Universal monsters movies – it's funny and surprisingly dark. In the film, Dr. Jack Griffin discovers a potion that can turn him invisible, but the experiment ends up driving him insane.

Back when Universal was mapping out their Dark Universe, Johnny Depp was locked down to star in The Invisible Man, but Variety says that's no longer the case. That's fine.