With anticipation building for X-Men: Apocalypse, director Bryan Singer is doing the rounds. In an interview with Fandango, he's just given us a lot of new information about the future of the X-Men franchise. Now, it's worth remembering that Singer seems to be flying kites at the moment - previous comments have hinted at everything from the famous "Dark Phoenix Saga" to the mutant menace Proteus. So don't take this as anything solid - yet.
“But we’ve also introduced the tenants of time travel, which already exists in the comic book. Also I imagine – and this is the first time I’ve actually answered the question this way – but another thing that’s been introduced in the comics is a big alien, interstellar tenant within the X-Men universe that hasn’t been explored. And to me, that might be kind of fun because I’m a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan, and exploring the X-Men universe and being able to utilize that would be exciting, visually. “
When the #XMen franchise launched in 2000, Singer famously grounded it in the real world as much as possible. Never was this more pointed than in a crack about no spandex costumes.
But, from X-Men: Days of Future Past onwards, the franchise has been abandoning those grounded roots. With time-travel and timelines introduced, the franchise has embraced some pretty cool science-fiction elements. With X-Men: Apocalypse, we're getting an ancient and powerful mutant who triggers a global war. So it looks as though Fox are considering going still further, and introducing this "big alien, interstellar tenant".
Who can this be?
Meet the Shi'ar!
Although the Avengers have typically been Marvel's star-spanning heroes, the X-Men have alien friends of their own. Specifically, they're associated with a race known as the Shi'ar. The Shi'ar are an Avian race (i.e. evolved from birds) who are strong and powerful. When they were introduced, they were led by the insane D'Ken, whose plans threatened to destroy all of reality.
D'Ken's sister Lilandra fled to Earth seeking help, her mind managing to connect with that of Charles Xavier - who believed himself being driven mad by haunting visions. Ultimately the X-Men allied with Lilandra in overthrowing D'Ken and establishing her as the new Majestrex of the Shi'ar Empire.
The X-Men have been connected to the Shi'ar ever since. For years, Xavier and Lilandra were lovers, and the Shi'ar provided advanced alien technology to benefit the X-Men. In return, the X-Men regularly headed out into space to overthrow threats to the Shi'ar - from shapeshifting Skrulls to the deadly techno-organic race known as the Phalanx.
Meanwhile, the X-Men have regularly clashed with the Shi'ar's Imperial Guards, a small, super-powered army whose characters have generally been fleshed out about as much as most Fox X-Men villains. Introducing the Imperial Guards sounds like a smart move, too.
Does this mean Fox are doing the Phoenix Saga?
There have been rumours for some time that Fox were considering revisiting the classic "Dark Phoenix Saga", an arc that was poorly handled in X-Men: The Last Stand. I've argued that it's not necessarily a good idea, but this comment from Singer suggests that he's really considering it.
When the Shi'ar first encountered the X-Men, Jean Grey had manifested the tremendous power of the Phoenix Force. It was only due to the Phoenix Force's colossal power that all of reality survived D'Ken's madness. If Singer chooses to make a film version of this iconic plot, he's pretty much got to have the Phoenix Force in it.
My hope is that he treads with care, introducing us to the powered-up Jean Grey, and only making her fall as the next X-Men trilogy continues.
One thing's for sure; this comment suggests we may see a radical departure from the traditional X-Men films. Cast into space, the X-Men lose the concept of 'hated and feared' and become superheroes in a way they've seldom been on Earth. Cast into science-fiction, the X-Men lose the grounding that Fox have previously insisted on, and perhaps become something greater than they've ever been before.
Oddly enough, I find myself rather hoping this is the direction the X-Men films go in.