When Fox launched the #XMen film franchise back in 2000, they never imagined that superhero films would become the mainstream. The last two years have seen the studio finally begin to realize the X-Men's potential, embracing their comic book roots and launching a series of exciting spinoff films. But now, with the X-Men franchise about to head into space, it's time to explore some pretty radical possibilities.
I've got four words for you: bring on the Starjammers.
Who Are The Starjammers?
Back in the 1970s, artist Dave Cockrum created a band of intergalactic space-pirates and freedom-fighters known as the Starjammers. Although Cockrum had initially hoped to have the Starjammers appear in their own series, he was doomed to disappointment; at the time, Marvel liked to try out new concepts in the Marvel Spotlight and Marvel Premiere series, but both were fully-booked for two years solid. Frustrated and impatient, Cockrum approached X-Men writer Chris Claremont, and persuaded him to integrate the Starjammers into his planned cosmic direction.
Claremont and Cockrum were a tremendous team, and it didn't take much effort for them to weave the Starjammers into the X-Men comics. They revealed that the Starjammers were led by Major Christopher Summers, the father of Cyclops and Havok. Christopher and his wife had been abducted by the alien empire of the Shi'ar years ago, and after his wife's tragic death, Christopher led a handful of slaves in an escape. He took up the name Corsair, and led the escapees as pirates and rebels.
The longest-serving members of the Starjammers are Hepzibah, Ch'od, and Raza. Hepzibah is a beautiful, sexy feline warrior-woman, often acting as Corsair's love interest. Ch'od is a technical expert who's also a physical powerhouse. Raza is a phenomenally skilled warrior who's particularly gifted with a blade. Together, this motley crew are a force to be reckoned with! They've also frequently been joined by X-Men, including their sometime-leader Havok and his lover Polaris.
Adapting The Starjammers
According to Deadline, Fox is currently in talks with Jessica Chastain to play the part of Shi'ar Empress Lilandra in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. That said, let's be honest; the film's focus isn't on Lilandra, it's on Sophie Turner's Jean Grey. Fox would be wise to use Dark Phoenix to set up a cosmic backdrop, with a powerful but ruthless alien empire. They could then follow this up by spinning a whole new cosmic franchise out of the tentpole X-Men films; and that's where the Starjammers come in.
Marvel's success with Guardians of the Galaxy has proved that there's a real interest in cosmic superhero adventures. What's more, a Starjammers movie is a unique enough concept to avoid feeling derivative; you're talking the ongoing adventures of a ragtag bunch of space pirates who are attempting to overthrow an alien empire.
Fox could easily tap into plot threads launched in the early-to-mid 2000s, during an arc called 'Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire.' That arc featured a mutant powerhouse named Vulcan taking control of the Shi'ar, with the Starjammers forced to take the lead in opposing Vulcan's regime. A couple of second-tier X-Men actually stayed as members of the group, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix could easily set that up, by having the movie end with some of the X-Men prisoners, or with them swearing to bring the Shi'ar Empire down.
An Ideal Opportunity For Fox
The last two years have seen Fox diversify their X-Men range in a way no other studio has even attempted. We've had the raunchy humor of Deadpool (with an inevitable sequel on its way next year), swiftly followed by the brutal and bloody Western that is Logan. Equally exciting is Josh Boone's New Mutants, which promises to dive deep into the horror genre!
A Starjammers movie would give Fox another string to their bow, and it's likely to be a popular one at that. After all, Starjammers would be tapping into the same science-fantasy / superhero sci-fi tone that characterizes Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy — two franchises that are on everybody's radars.
It's worth noting that we don't yet have any evidence that Dark Phoenix will introduce the Starjammers; personally, I rather hope it doesn't. By all accounts, the film is already set to introduce a lot of concepts, up to and including the Shi'ar themselves. I'd be wary of overstuffing the movie with too many concepts. Instead, a better approach would be to use Dark Phoenix to set up the Shi'ar as an enemy, and then simply launch the Starjammers franchise in this wider context. The great thing about this approach, of course, is that fans would always be wondering whether or not the Starjammers stars would soon cross paths with the X-Men. No doubt fans would be thrilled to imagine an encounter between Tye Sheridan's Cyclops and the Starjammers; how would he take to learning his dad was alive?
This is an idea whose time has come. Dark Phoenix has the potential to launch a whole new cosmic X-Men franchise. With careful planning, a strong script, and a competent director, I have no doubt that Starjammers could become a hit.