With the #Marvel Cinematic Universe towering over Hollywood and the #DC Extended Universe just gearing up, it's sometimes easy to forget that neither Marvel/Disney nor DC/Warner Bros. would've gotten to where they are without frontrunners 20th Century Fox. Fox's mega hit with Marvel's X-Men back in 2000 showed the world that superhero movies could be fun and profitable, and cracked wide open what had previously been a pretty niche genre.
#XMen was the beginning of a major franchise, one that has now grossed more than $4.3 billion worldwide with the addition of last year's massively successful Deadpool and the more lukewarm (but still a lot of fun) X-Men: Apocalypse. The 20th Century Fox superhero universe is the oldest of the three superhero titans now at 17 years, with the MCU just racking up nine and the #DCEU a toddler at four, but recent reports have us worried that Fox may be beginning to run out of steam.
For all its bright points, Apocalypse marked a dip in quality after the likes of the critically adored X-Men: First Class, and much of Deadpool's success came from the subversion of the X-Men Cinematic Universe itself ("McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are confusing"). Apocalypse also marked a dip in profits, making $200 million less than Days of Future Past.
Out With The Old...
Fox is also in danger of losing its stars. The Hollywood Reporter clarified that Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult's X-Men three-picture contracts are now over and done with, and due to their ever increasing A-list status, their return will come at a steep cost.
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Perhaps this is why the recent timeline reset is pushing the younger generation of X-Men to the forefront of the franchise: Sophie Turner's Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan's Scott Summers and Alexandra Shipp's Ororo Munroe. And, of course, Hugh Jackman finishes his much loved run as the iconic Wolverine with this year's Logan, and his departure will be a great loss to Fox both in terms of star power and audience pull.
It's entirely possible we could see Logan replaced by Laura Kinney (or a version of the character) as in the comics, but recasting Wolverine seems as unthinkable as recasting Iron Man right now. Logan is also expected to be Patrick Stewart's last outing as Charles Xavier.
There've already been several resets in the X-Men Universe, from the prequel First Class to the timeline altering Days of Future Past, which led into the backend of Apocalypse, setting up a new universe featuring the younger cast.
But even now there are rumors that we'll see another reboot/reset, with THR reporting industry sources who claim that X-Men frontrunner Bryan Singer will be replaced by Simon Kinberg at the head of a new iteration of the series. Whether or not Lawrence, McAvoy, Hoult or Fassbender would return for these is still subject to much debate.
With the #Wolverine franchise shuffling off this mortal coil for the foreseeable future and the future of the X-Men in flux, you'd be expecting Fox to step up elsewhere, capitalizing on Deadpool's success.
So when Deadpool director Tim Miller and composer Tom Holkenborg pulled out of Deadpool 2 due to reported conflicts with both the studio and star Ryan Reynolds, it came as a bit of a shock. John Wick co-director David Leitch is now confirmed as Miller's replacement, but the departure of the #Deadpool director could spell trouble for the themes of the sequel; although Fox reportedly already has Deadpool 3 in the works, so probably not that much trouble.
Playing A Gambit
And then there's Gambit, featuring the dubious casting of Channing Tatum as the Southern Belle, which has been plodding in pre-production hell for more than a few years. Initially tapped for a 2016 release, #Gambit was eventually due to begin production last year, but it did not. Instead it lost its director Doug Liman to DC, as he hopped ship to direct the upcoming Dark Universe (the Justice League Dark movie).
So it's no surprise that there's been much speculation that the Gambit project may never appear — although X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner insists that it is still happening. Or, at the very least, that Tatum is still attached to the project.
The highly speculated X-Force movie has yet to make an appearance on Fox's release schedules too. Although, Cable and Domino are both hotly rumored for Deadpool 2, and sources say Deadpool 3 will feature or intersect with an X-Force storyline.
One thing is for sure, the Fox-Marvel Universe is at a precious tipping point right now. Resetting their lot seems to be the way to go, but it's going to be very difficult to tap into the specific market that existed 17 years ago.
In many ways the success of X-Men — which, in all honestly, is a very imperfect movie — back in 2000 was a product of the times, and so will be difficult to replicate in the current climate of the superhero dominated box office. But as Deadpool proved, fresh but familiar is the way forward now. That and an excellent social media marketing campaign.
Where do you think the X-Men franchise could go next? Have your say in the comments below!
(Sources: The Hollywood Reporter)