With Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. competing at the box office with their respective superhero universes, Fox has been trying to hold its own, taking full advantage of #Marvel's flagship comic book property to which it holds the rights: the X-Men. Using the franchise's success as a springboard, the studio tried to develop its own interconnected cinematic universe, which was announced in 2015. So, how has the plan changed in two years?
Let's take a look:
The Original Plan
During 2015's San Diego Comic-Con, Fox revealed its entire line up of films and indicated that from that point onward, every Marvel superhero film released would exist in the same universe. To underscore this, the studio brought together its entire line-up of actors that would be carrying its superhero franchise for years to come, which included Hugh Jackman, #RyanReynolds, Channing Tatum and James McAvoy. Here's what the original slate looked like:
- Fantastic (August 7, 2015)
- Deadpool (February 8,2016)
- Gambit (October 7, 2016)
- X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27, 2016)
- Wolverine 3 (March 3, 2017)
Unfortunately, shortly after this look at the exciting future of the franchise, things started to go awry and #Fox's planned slate of movies slowly started morphing. Whether it was due to bad critical reception or unexpected hits, the slate changed considerably.
Fantastic Four Franchise Was Scrapped
Prior to the release of the reboot, rumors started coming in about on-set struggles with director #JoshTrank (both personally and with some cast members), as well as heavy reshoots, with Simon Kinberg having to take over the production in order to complete it. While those were rumors, they were pretty much confirmed by a source from the project who spoke to THR:
"[The movie was] ill-conceived, made for the wrong reasons and there was no vision behind the property. Say what you will about Marvel but they have a vision."
As well as Trank's now infamous tweet a day before the film premiered:
Once the movie was released, every single detail about it - from the acting and special effects to the story - were heavily panned by critics and fans.
Financially, the movie didn't fare much better, as it earned a mere $168 million on a $125 million budget. This terrible outcome made Fox pull Fantastic Four 2 from their release calendar in late 2015 and ultimately scrap their plans for a #FantasticFour franchise that would tie in with the X-Men universe.
Rumors and hints have come out since then of Marvel secretly regaining the rights to the property but nothing has been concrete. But with now three unsuccessful attempts to make a franchise out of the four superheroes, it's safe to say Fox will leave the Fantastic Four alone for a while.
'Gambit' Was Pretty Much Cancelled
Everything went downhill after the Comic-Con panel for this film. In July 2015, The Wrap reported that - despite his heavy involvement in the project - #ChanningTatum's Gambit deal was falling apart and he was threatening to walk. That problem seemed to go away and film on a good path, as Lea Seydoux was cast as Bella Donna Boudreaux shortly thereafter.
But the good track record stopped just three months later, as Rupert Wyatt dropped out as director with the explanation of scheduling conflicts. THR then reported the director actually left due to script and budget issues. In November of that year, Doug Liman was hired as director. But thanks - once again - to script issues, the movie was taken off of its October 2016 release date and production was delayed, so Liman went on to direct The Wall for Amazon Studios. Ultimately, in August of 2016, Liman dropped out to work on Justice League: Dark.
While these signs are enough to tell us the movie's not happening, in August of 2016, #SimonKinberg told Slashfilm that the movie was still very much in development, and that the delays helped to figure out the voice for the project:
“I think the truth is when you have these movies that need a very special and unique tone, it takes a little while to find that tone. 'Deadpool' feels like it exploded out of nowhere but it was a ten-year development process on that movie [...] I hope that 'Gambit' doesn’t take ten years but it takes a little honing to get that tone and that voice exactly right. The character has such a specific voice in the comic [...] that we want to make sure that we capture that voice on the page. Really it’s just about getting a screenplay that is worthy of that character and I think we’re really close right now.”
In January of 2017, Lauren Schuler Donner stated during the Television Critics Association press tour that Channing Tatum was still attached to the project - despite rumors he was eyeing a DC project - and #Gambit was still in development:
There are still many questions about Gambit, such as the state of the project, actors' involvement (such Lea Seydoux's) but hopefully, we'll get more information on it soon.
Deadpool Is The New Face of The Franchise
Deadpool was the hit Fox needed to validate their superhero franchise. The Merc with a Mouth proved that getting weird and heavily adult would be embraced by audiences. Initially a risky aspect was the R rating, but #Deadpool went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, which certainly gave the studio the confidence to make Logan another gritty, R-rated offering in its lineup.
Now, the love child of Freddy Krueger's face and a topographical map of Utah is set to take Hugh Jackman's #Wolverine's role as the poster boy for the franchise. Fox announced in late 2016 that #Deadpool2 and Deadpool 3 were in development. There have been some bumps in the road, however, as director Tim Miller left the project due to "creative differences." Fortunately, that problem was quickly fixed with the hiring of David Leitch (John Wick) as director. And so far, it looks like the people working on the movie know where they want it to go, with confirmed new characters like Cable and Domino and returning characters in Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
"Fox already is planning 'Deadpool 3', readying a filmmaker search for a storyline that will involve another X-team, X-Force."
Well, Deadpool, the X-Men universe is resting on your disturbing regenerating hands... make us proud.
Uncertainty For The Core X-Men Team
#XMenApocalype was expected to breathe new life into the X franchise, finally embracing its comic book roots and giving us a faithful line-up of mutants (and exciting costumes to go with it). Unfortunately, fans and critics did not embrace the film as expected.
That reception seemed to have made Fox take a step back and restructure their plans. But even before that, in August of 2015, Kinberg stated that he was still trying to figure out where to go with the X-Men during an interview with Slashfilm:
“I’m a lifer for the X-Men movies. I’m just working now, without giving anything away, I’m figuring out what the next of the mainline X-Men movies is going to be.”
With no official announcement whatsoever for a sequel to Apocalypse, it seemed the team had been quietly buried to make way for Fox's other mutant-inspired projects. That wasn't the case though. In 2016, Production Weekly - a website listing movies in production - had an entry for X-Men: Supernova. Another website, My Entertainment World, had the film listed as well. Fast-forward to this year, Production Weekly updated its listing by updating the production title with "Dark Phoenix."
That's the name of the storyline tackled in X-Men: The Last Stand, one director #BryanSinger has been trying to adapt for a long time and teased at the end of Apocalypse. So, for now, it looks like the main #XMen's next movie will see them dealing with the Dark Phoenix entity.
The Exploration Of Other Options
Until the release of Deadpool, the X-Men universe was very contained. But comparing Apocalypse's disappointing reception to Deadpool's overwhelmingly good reviews, audiences showed they were ready to see Fox play with a new toy in its vast sandbox. And Fox gave us an answer in the form of New Mutants and X-Force.
#XForce has been in development since 2013. In July of that year, Fox registered the domain name X-Forcemovie.com. Shortly after, it was announced that Jeff Wadlow (director of Kick-Ass 2) had been hired to write the script and possibly direct the film.
While we assumed their introduction would be in Deadpool 3, during an interview with Collider, Deadpool writer Rhett Resse revealed it might happen earlier:
"There is a responsibility we have to the X-Force universe, and I do think we will not disappoint the fans going into 'Deadpool 2' and then setting up X-Force and beyond... ['Deadpool 2''s] purpose is not to set up X-Force. It will likely set up X-Force, but the drive of the movie won’t be our eyes on Movie 3."
#NewMutants is a different story because, while it has had about two years of development, it's been taking shape fairly quickly. The project already has Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) attached as director and we already know which mutants will comprise the new superhero team and the super villain they will fight.
So, with all these changes, what does Fox's slate look like now?
The New Slate
As you can see, Fox's new planned slate is much bigger and more ambitious than before:
- Logan (March 3, 2017)
#Logan and Deadpool were the only movies from Fox's original plan that suffered no major alterations.
The rest of the lineup is as follows:
- Mystery Marvel Film #1 (October 7, 2017)
- Mystery Marvel Film #2 (January 12, 2018)
- Deadpool 2 (Release date: TBA)
- New Mutants (Release date: TBA)
- Deadpool 3 (Release date: TBA)
- X-Force (Release date: TBA)
- X-Men: Supernova (Release date: TBA)
Overall, despite the controversy surrounding their character choices, Fox has a very good track record when it comes to their superhero adaptations. What its cinematic universe lacks, however, is a clear direction, evidenced by the constant shifting of strategies (not to mention timelines).
- The X-Men Cinematic Universe Timelines Explained
- From 'The Crow' To 'Justice League 2': 9 Comic Book Movies With The Highest Risk Of Getting Axed
- Why 'Logan' May Cause Yet More Continuity Problems For Fox's X-Men Universe Timeline
Most recently, there have been rumblings that the character of X-23, who will be introduced in Logan, will be an integral part of the future of the franchise. Not to mention the ongoing rumors that we might see a Wolverine-Deadpool team-up after all. Ryan Reynolds has been lobbying hard for it and just today, Reese's Deadpool co-writer Paul Wernick indicated to The Playlist it isn't as farfetched as we might think:
“We’ve come a long way from 2009, when we couldn’t get the movie off the ground ’til now. And to have [this team-up]? It would be amazing to have Hugh resurrect Wolverine in the Deadpool universe, and again, Ryan’s making a hard push to make that happen, and hopefully the public gets behind it and we can all convince Hugh to put the claws on one more time."
So far, #HughJackman has been adamant that Logan will be his last run as the adamantium-clawed mutant, but on the other hand...maybe it won't be.
Reese explained that if that crossover were to happen, it would require some more rejiggering of the X-Men universe from where it currently stands with two more Deadpool films and the X-Force movie.
“Yeah, it would, if you think about it. If you’re looking at Deadpool 2, if you’re looking at X-Force, if you’re looking at Deadpool 3, there’s not necessarily room for [another] team-up movie. I think it does create real scheduling and universe issues and something that could be ironed out, but it would need to be ironed out. I don’t think any of us operated under the assumption that it would be even possible to do a Deadpool/Wolverine thing, so we just haven’t planned for it, it’s still not in the plan, but if it were to happen, it would require a hard look at the overall architecture of our storylines.”
But for now, it seems like Fox is finally getting the hang of how to portray its X-Men universe, balancing non-generic stories with great character development. Let's hope that it continues.