Back when Fox launched the X-Men franchise in 2000, they were (with the exception of Blade) the only player in town. Warner Bros. hadn't really done much with Superman since Christopher Reeve, and 1997's Batman and Robin had pretty much killed off that franchise. So, when X-Men fans were finally introduced to the cinematic version of #Marvel's merry mutants, we were delighted.
When Marvel launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008's Iron Man, though, everything began to change. Now, the X-Men franchise stands in a crowded room, and is compared to both the well-developed #MCU and the fledgling DC Extended Universe. Worse still, it's frequently found wanting.
Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter released a rumor that Fox is seriously considering their second reboot of the franchise. Given Fox had only recently decided to incorporate their much-anticipated Legion series into the X-Men timeline, it's hard not to see this as a sign that the studio is panicking, and lacking an overall vision. Still, I have to say that I do think this is the right call for Fox. The franchise does need to be rebooted — and here are the reasons why!
1. The Franchise Isn't Built for a Cinematic Universe
When Marvel launched the MCU with 2008's Iron Man, they immediately clued viewers into the fact that their future movies would live in a shared, interconnected universe. It didn't take long for Marvel to give their films a sense of trajectory, with a clear build-up to 2012's The Avengers. DC followed suit, using 2013's Man of Steel as the launch-pad for this year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Although it seems those films could have been a lot more tightly-connected than they ultimately were, the reality is that DC worked hard to give that same sense of direction. The DCEU is heading for an exciting early climax, with next year's Justice League introducing us to a handful of new superheroes, and once again uniting DC's core Trinity.
In contrast, 2000's X-Men was only intended to launch sequels. Worse still, 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand was clearly intended to round the series off, killing major characters such as Patrick Stewart's Professor X. 2011's X-Men: First Class was originally intended to launch a prequel series, but Fox soon realized that this approach meant they couldn't use the iconic characters we saw in the first trilogy. The most recognizable mutants, such as Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm, were unavailable to them. 2014's Days of Future Past served as a hard reboot for the franchise, making those characters available to Fox once again.
Here's the thing; when you look at the history of the X-Men franchise, you don't really see much evidence of forethought. Fox's approach has been a traditional one, where each film has been developed on its own; as a result, the impact each movie has on the franchise as a whole has often been something of an afterthought. Sure, Fox saw real success with Deadpool, but that was hardly a mainstream X-Men film. If Fox is going to build a successful cinematic universe out of the X-Men, then they need to start planning ahead. Each film needs to be plotted carefully in relation to the overall franchise's ultimate direction. Each movie has to tie in to an overarching narrative - just as the MCU is heading towards Thanos, and Justice League will continue to set the DCEU on the road towards Darkseid.
2. The Timeline Is Already a Mess
Fox's habit of treating each film in isolation, rather than as part of a shared cinematic universe, is causing real problems. Next year we see the release of #Logan, Hugh Jackman's final outing as Wolverine. Although it looks to be a great movie, already we can tell that it's really going to cause problems for the X-Men franchise as a whole.
The film is set in the 2020s, in a time when the mutant race has mysteriously died out. Only #HughJackman's Wolverine and #PatrickStewart's Xavier are left. It looks moody, it looks atmospheric — and, significantly, it was set up by an end-credits scene in X-Men: Apocalypse. That means the future direction of the new timeline is a dystopia where the mutant race has died out. We know the end of the journey and it's an unpleasant one — future X-Men films will have to deal with that if they want to work in the same continuity as Logan.
The reality is that Logan causes real problems for the franchise's direction, and those can only be rectified by doing a reboot.
3. The Films Aren't Performing How Fox Expect
The core X-Men movies should be the tentpole films of the franchise, with the other films orbiting around them. Unfortunately for Fox, the box office figures just don't show that pattern. Take #Deadpool. On a budget of $58 million, it made $782.6 million. That's an incredible success! But contrast that with #XMenApocalypse. On a budget of $178 million, it made approximately $548 million.
Those figures clearly show that Fox has a problem with their tentpole movies. They should be performing better than the tie-ins and spin-offs — just as, for Marvel, Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron are the best-performing movies to date, and are sure to be exceeded by 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. Instead, the tentpole films simply aren't resonating with fans, or with the moviegoing public, the way they should.
Fox need to take a step back, and ask what's working — and what isn't. James Gunn, of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, explained why Deadpool was so successful. It wasn't the R-rating, the gore, the sex scene, or even (shock horror) the comic-book-accuracy. As he observed:
"After every movie smashes records people here in Hollywood love to throw out the definitive reasons why the movie was a hit. I saw it happen with Guardians. It “wasn’t afraid to be fun” or it “was colorful and funny” etc etc etc. And next thing I know I hear of a hundred film projects being set up “like Guardians,” and I start seeing dozens of trailers exactly like the Guardians trailer with a big pop song and a bunch of quips. Ugh.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
Deadpool wasn’t that. Deadpool was its own thing. THAT’S what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks."
Marvel go to great lengths to differentiate their films in terms of style, giving directors freedom to do some intriguing plots. Captain America: Winter Soldier is a political action-thriller, Guardians of the Galaxy is space opera, Ant-Man is a heist movie. Altohugh Marvel movies have an overarching style, each film is its own thing. But what was X-Men: Apocalypse? Realistically, it was only another superhero film. The tentpole films need to be better.
4. The Franchise is Centered Upon Individual Actors
Structurally, the X-Men franchise has a major weakness; it's too dependent on key characters. Considering the X-Men are supposed to be a team, the majority of the X-Men films revolve around Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart and / or #JamesMcAvoy), Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, #JenniferLawrence's Mystique, and Magneto (played by #MichaelFassbender and / or #IanMcKellen).
X-Men: Apocalypse showed the weakness of this approach. When the first trailers were released, one question was consistently asked: "Where's Wolverine?" Ultimately, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine was tossed into a mid-section scene that had nothing to do with the overarching narrative of the film.
But, in the long-term, this causes a crisis for the franchise. If you only have a handful of core characters, what happens when they move on? One reason Fox has to reboot the X-Men is simple: they need to build a cinematic universe based on a team, not four or five characters. That way, the franchise escapes the trap of becoming dependent on big-name (and big-bucks) actors.
- Fox May Be About to Reboot the X-Men Universe
- Fox's 'Legion' Will Coexist With the X-Men Films! What This Means For Fox's Universe…
- Why 'Logan' May Cause Yet More Continuity Problems For Fox's X-Men Universe Timeline
I'm not surprised to hear that Fox is considering rebooting the X-Men franchise. In truth, although I loved X-Men: Apocalypse, I think this would be the right move. The franchise needs a new, stronger approach — one where the arcs have been forethought, where the characters are consistently developed, and where each film is a product of love.
Do you think Fox should reboot the X-Men films?
Poll Image: DarthTerry. All other images: 20th Century Fox