It’s safe to say that 2016 has been a great (if divisive) year for comic book movies in general, with the massive successes of #Deadpool and #DoctorStrange standing proud among the many blockbuster hits. However, it would seem that not everything is rosy over at 20th Century Fox. Indeed, following the disappointing performance of X-Men: Apocalypse, and the troubles with Deadpool 2 and #Gambit, rumors have recently hit the internet which state that the studio is seeking to reboot the X-Men franchise.
Immediately, many fans have cried out that they want Fox to give the character rights to Marvel Studios, or for a deal to be worked out similar to that which Sony has with #SpiderMan. Unfortunately, recent interviews have hinted that this isn’t likely any time soon. So what’s going to happen next?
Fox sounds keen to renew the contracts of #JamesMcAvoy, #MichaelFassbender and #JenniferLawrence, though given that the report suggests they aren’t all that enthusiastic about more mutant movies, a full reboot of the franchise is looking more and more likely.
So what should #20thCenturyFox do with the X-Men going forward? How could they ensure the success of the new Merry Mutants?
1. Firstly, Take a Breather
Deadpool 2 is gearing up for a release in the relatively near future, as is Josh Boone’s New Mutants movie, but otherwise there are very few X-Men movies that have a fixed release date. And this could actually work in Fox’s favor.
It would be an astute move on the studio’s behalf if they were to dial back on the X-Men for several years, before jumping back into the fray with a new slate bursting with projects. Some fans may find this suggestion crazy – we’re living in a golden age of superheroes, after all! Surely its suicide for Fox to take their foot off the gas?
Not necessarily. As of 2017, with the release of #Logan, Fox’s X-Men series will be ten movies strong, all of which have been distributed over an eighteen year period. That’s quite a long time in movie terms; after all, the rapidly expanding #MCU isn’t even eight years old yet!
Whilst there is still a lot of life to be breathed into the Merry band of Mutants, they’re up against the formidable House of Ideas and the burgeoning #DCEU. As a result, the X-Men movies have become a little tired and left by the wayside. A couple of years of R and R over at Fox would help reinvigorate public interest in the series when that big comeback is announced. This isn’t to suggest that they should take a #StarWars-esque gap between releases (there was a ten year break between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens) but several years of tantalizing teasers wouldn’t hurt.
As the old saying goes – absence makes the heart grow fonder. Additionally, it would also give the head honchos at Fox to get on with a bit of this...
2. Do Some Forward Planning
As Fox’s executives work out how they can liven up the X-Men, their writers may also want to sketch out the future of the franchise at the same time. Because, let’s face it, shared universes and forward planning are all the rage now, and there is a reason for it.
Take the DCEU for example. For all its faults, it has a clear progression from film to film; for example the fact that Dawn of Justice follows the events of #ManofSteel is made explicit through the writing and dialogue. As such there are very few inconsistencies in the DCEU’s characters and where they are positioned in the respective stories.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Fox’s X-Men series. This isn’t necessarily the studio’s fault; after all, when it started all the way back in 1999, shared movie universes didn’t exist, and as such the series has really struggled to break free of that traditional trilogy format.
Fans do over exaggerate the movie-to-movie discrepancies, but its safe to say that there are some glaring issues in the franchise’s continuity. For example, why is Beast (Kelsey Grammer) so surprised by the mutant cure in The Last Stand when he himself (Nicholas Hoult) trialed one back in First Class?
That it one of the milder examples, mind you. And that’s without the various timelines and different realities, courtesy of the reboots in First Class and Days of Future Past which are increasingly more confusing to those fans who haven’t kept up to date, or aren’t as au-fait with the source material.
As the various differences between James Bond movies show, continuity isn’t everything, but it is definitely more important in shared universes. This isn’t to say that Marvel and #DC aren’t guilty of their own errors, but these are slighter and don’t quite generate the same frustration as the X-Men’s many missteps.
Therefore, getting the filmmakers at Fox to make a series of cohesive movies as their competitors do is a no-brainer.
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3. Go for the Young 'Uns
Many fans agree that, in approach, the slight but underrated First Class was a step in the right direction. If the X-Men series is to be revitalized, then it should focus on exploits of a younger group of mutant superheroes...it is a school for mutants, after all!
Every X-Men movie has so far followed the exploits of the adult characters, with relatively little screen time being given to the students. As we all know, mutants in the Marvel Universe have long served as allegories for racial or sexual discrimination. Coupling this with the angst of adolescence is ripe for the movie makers to sink their teeth into, as they briefly did with the infamous “coming out” scene in X2.
You may argue that this idea is made redundant by the upcoming New Mutants movie, but giving the students of the X-Men as much focus as their teachers serves another purpose as well.
Boy Meets World? Harry Potter? Twilight? What makes these stories so popular is that audiences (especially younger audiences) can chart the characters' progress as they meet new challengers and grow. Tapping into into the youth market is a recipe for success in Hollywood blockbusters, since they are a lucrative audience for tie-in merchandise. Yet focusing on younger characters also serves another massive purpose: studios can keep younger actors around for far longer, and make more movies with them.
The signing of actors and actresses like Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr proved to be major boons for their respective studios, but now Marvel and Fox are faced with problems. At 48 and 51, the pressures of stunt work become more problematic for these actors, and with contracts due to expire, the lure of other projects after so many movies in the same role, grows every stronger. Therefore, if Fox was to cast younger actors it means that they could make a lot of films over a longer time period, in a way that Marvel are evidently looking to do with Tom Holland as the current Spider-Man.
4. Focus on the Other Mutants
Wolverine. Mystique. Magneto. Professor X. These are all fascinating and complex characters, but what links them all together? The fact that have all had a lot of screen time throughout the series.
Indeed, as sorry as we all will be when the great Hugh hangs up the claws for good, many fans have criticized just how much the movies have revolved around him, or how many times we’ve seen best frenemies Charles and Erik clash. The success of the MCU has undoubtedly been guided by #RobertDowneyJr’s Tony Stark, but due to the company’s focus on and cultivation of other characters, his departure would not seal the franchise’s demise.
Moreover, it is time for Fox to utilize the lesser-seen X-Men characters; cinema goers have already yearned to see a confident and charismatic Cyclops decisively lead the team, or to see Jubilee and Kitty Pryde beyond a few minutes of almost wordless screen time. This doesn’t mean that Wolverine and other firm favorites shouldn’t appear; more that they should take more of a back seat so that fresh faces can come to the fore.
And this rule can extend far beyond the X-Men themselves, for there are other villains that we can see them fight apart from #Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants. Onslaught is a name that has been bandied about in certain quarters, as has Cassandra Nova and Proteus – why couldn’t these lesser-known characters appear to keep the X-Men on their toes?
Even taking on wackier villains like Mojo could be highly rewarding, if challenging- which brings us to the final point...
5. Embrace the Zaniness!
This year’s comic book movies have proved yet again that both a steady hand and an adherence to the comics are the way to please fans. Take Deadpool, which captured the irreverent tone of the comics and was a massive hit with both comic book fans and critics. But with the X-Men, there is a far more middling response among comic book fans, due to their laissez-faire approach to the source material, and the uneven tone which defines the series.
It’s true that the series is known for keeping one foot firmly in realism, but if the X-Men are to succeed once again, they need to find their own groove again, and maybe start to embrace the zanier aspects of the comics. Bryan Singer suggested that the mutants might be going into space in the near future, and that would be a great place to start, since few films apart from Guardians of the Galaxy have spent a great deal of time away from Earth.
Without a doubt, broadening the X-men’s horizon’s is the way to go...and comic book accurate costumes like those at the end of Apocalypse couldn’t hurt either!
Marvel’s Kevin Feige has openly discussed how superhero movies need to innovate and borrow aspects from other genres; otherwise they run the risk causing the dreaded superhero fatigue. However, with care, patience and consideration, it’s clear that there are a lot of possibilities for the X-Men under 20th Century Fox. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they do with them over the next few years! Will there be a new #Wolverine? Could we see finally see Genosha? The suspense is killing me already!
What do you want 20th Century Fox to do with the X-Men going forward? Head on to the comments and let me know!