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Tom Cruise braces for death in The Mummy. Universal Pictures

You have to make a great film before you can make a great film series. That's what Universal Pictures has learned following the release of The Mummy earlier this year, which was intended to kick start a sprawling "cinematic universe" based on the studio's classic movie monsters.

However, following the Tom Cruise film's critical panning and meagre box office performance, the two men tasked with steering the franchise – Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan – have now departed the ambitious project.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, the pair will no longer oversee the production of planned follow-up films, which included Van Helsing, The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein.

In addition to their departure, the office space on the Universal lot that had been set aside for the Dark Universe "now sits mostly empty".

Ahead of The Mummy's release in June, Universal announced the casting of Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man and Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's monster in the action-orientated franchise.

They would join The Mummy stars Cruise, who plays a soldier granted ambiguous supernatural powers at the end of the film, Sofia Boutella as the titular undead and Russell Crowe as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Bride of Frankenstein was set to be the next film in the series and had Beauty and the Beast's Bill Condon on board to direct for release in 2019. The plug was pulled on pre-production in October however, but the film could still happen if Universal decides to change its approach rather than scrap their plans entirely.

THR reports that Universal is "exploring its options".

"One road involves offering the IP to high-profile filmmakers or producers (Jason Blum has been mentioned) with ideas for one-off movies not connected to a larger universe," the report states. "And the studio could find a new architect who could overhaul the concept."

The Mummy made just over $400m at the worldwide box office, but was an incredibly expensive movie to make. It also made just $80 million domestically despite Cruise's star power, and wilted in the face of competition from superhero hit Wonder Woman, Transformers: The Last Knight and Despicable Me 3.

In our review of the film, we said: "Taken on its own, The Mummy is your standard sub-par summer blockbuster. The kind that will be forgotten very quickly. What makes the film worse is its standing as the apparent starting block for an ambitious new film series.

"Every aspect of the film attempting to build this planned cinematic universe falls flat, particularly its hilariously bad, Dark Knight-aping final moments."