Despite all odds, the X-Men film franchise flourished to be one of the biggest in the world. When Fox acquired the film rights to the X-Men from [Marvel](channel:932254) Entertainment in 1994, the movie studio had no idea that it would change the landscape of pop culture with the advent of the modern superhero movie in the future. With the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the seventh in the series, the film franchise is stronger than ever with over $600 million in box office returns. Its success is mainly due to the vision of its head creative force, director Bryan Singer.
Although Singer didn’t direct all of the X-Men movies, he did direct the most important ones: X-Men (RT; BO), X2: X-Men United (RT; BO), and [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942) (RT; BO). The original paved the way for the franchise, while the second one is considered to be the best in the series by a majority of film critics, and the latest is the highest grossing. (See links Rotten Tomatoes scores and Box Office Mojo numbers)
There are now reports that Fox is considering hiring a new director for [X-Men: Apocalypse](movie:1194267). The movie studio doesn’t want to get caught up in Singer’s lawsuit stemming from recent sex abuse allegations from the late 90s. Fox doesn’t care if the director is guilty or innocent, but they’re not very confident in giving him upwards of $350 million, if he’s going to be otherwise tied up with a hefty and very public lawsuit. From Radar Online:
"They [Fox] don't really care whether he's innocent or guilty — they're only concerned with the bottom line, which is giving him another $250 to $350 million to make Apocalypse. There have been talks about who else he'd let direct it, with him producing, but those led to heated arguments and walk outs," the source revealed.
The source tells Radar that there's concern if the lawsuit goes to trial it could also affect the movie's production rate.
"They're also looking at how far back they can push production without moving the release date, if any lawsuit did get a court date," the source said.
Now it’s important to put things in perspective. Bryan Singer is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This article will not go any further than that in talking about the ins and outs of the director’s legal problems and the issue of sex abuse in Hollywood. But rather, this article will try to examine how Singer’s exit might affect the franchise’s quality and longevity going forward. Think of this as a little disclaimer, I suppose.
Let’s look at the first time Bryan Singer left the franchise after X2. He opted to direct Superman Returns instead of X-Men: The Last Stand instead. While Matthew Vaughn was on deck to take over, he bailed out at the last minute to direct Stardust instead. Director Brett Ratner took up directing duties for The Last Stand, as the franchise fell in quality with the third movie and its spinoffs, namely X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The film series didn’t come back to prominence until X-Men: First Class in 2011. This time Vaughn stayed on the project throughout production and Bryan Singer came back, but only in a producing capacity. The constant throughout is producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who has stayed with the series since the beginning.
It’s obvious that Bryan Singer and Lauren Shuler Donner make a great team and I’m afraid that the X-Men might suffer if Singer exits. He might still produce Apocalypse, but Singer’s strength lies in directing. I have no doubt that Apocalypse will be a huge moneymaker for everyone involved, but it’s quality is in question in my eyes. It’s no coincidence that Days of Future Past was a critical and commercial success with Bryan Singer in the director’s chair, but it’s not going to be easy to top unless Fox hires a director like Jon Favreau, Doug Liman, or Justin Lin. Studio directors that know how to put together a fun, exciting, and profitable blockbuster.
While we wait for confirmation from Fox that Bryan Singer is, indeed, not directing X-Men: Apocalypse, the film franchise is not in any trouble unless Fox replaces him with a director with absolutely no vision like Brett Ratner or, perhaps, Roger Spottiswoode (the director behind Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Turner & Hooch) and/or the studio rushes production to make a release date, despite production problems. Hopefully, X-Men: Apocalypse is not a disaster.