(Warning: The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the recently released 'X-Men: Apocalypse.' If you haven't yet seen the movie, and don't want to know some pretty huge plot points, then feel free to head out and watch it before reading on. Don't worry, we'll wait.)
So, here's the thing. For all that its title promises an apocalyptic end of the world (or at least seems to), the X-themed reality that X-Men: Apocalypse leaves us with at the end of its running time is ultimately pretty similar to the one we saw before it began. That, though, could soon prove to be something of a red herring, as it seems entirely possible that...
(Note: Those aforementioned SPOILERS kick in below, right from the get go.)
The X-Franchise Could Change Completely In The Wake Of X-Men: Apocalypse
Y'see, for all things seem to have more or less returned to normal in the X-Universe, with the uniformed X-Men finally stepping up to defend the Earth from whatever might threaten it, there's a distinct possibility that X-Men: Apocalypse will nonetheless be the final 'normal' X-Men movie that we'll see for a while.
Fox Looks Set To Re-Focus Its Attention Elsewhere
The rampant box office success of Deadpool, after all, looks set to make it (and its sequels) Fox's new tentpole franchise — with the upcoming Wolverine 3 likely to arrive with similarly lofty financial expectations. Added to that, the imminent arrival of a New Mutants movie looks set to strip the core X-Men franchise of its traditional monopoly on (theoretically, at least) training young mutants to be X-Men.
With its central importance to Fox as a whole in doubt — barring a huge opening weekend, of course — and a new franchise stepping on its training-based toes, it seems likely that the next X-Men movie will be forced/allowed to take a different approach to its predecessors.
It Seems X-Men: Apocalypse May Have Left Some Helpful Breadcrumbs For The Franchise To Follow
In fact, as has been ably argued elsewhere, there's a distinct possibility that X-Men: Apocalypse is intended to directly setup one of the most iconic stories in X-history.
Specifically, some version of the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix sagas, during the course of which Jean Grey, having transformed into a quasi-malevolent cosmic God, sacrifices her life to save her friends from the alien superpower — the Shi'ar — that believes she is too powerful to live.
With Jean finally realizing her potential as the world's most powerful mutant in X-Men: Apocalypse's final moments, it's entirely possible that we could see the next X-Movie open with the arrival of the Shi'ar, and the very beginnings of an intergalactic conflict of some kind.
In other words?
The X-Franchise Could Be Heading To Space
Which, if it actually comes about, could well mark the beginning of a whole new phase in the main X-Men movies' development — one set largely off-world. The New Mutants, Deadpool and Gambit, then, could provide the Earthly entertainment while the X-Men are — as has happened several times in the comic books — believed lost in space.
That in turn, though, could mark one of the biggest potential changes to the X-Franchise in years:
The X-Men Movies May No Longer Have Professor X and Magneto At Their Heart
In fact, with Michael Fassbender's Magneto seemingly walking off into the sunset at the end of Apocalypse, with his narrative arc largely, if not entirely, concluded, and James McAvoy heavily tipped to star in the upcoming New Mutants movie, there's a distinct possibility that we could see the next cycle of X-Movies focus more on the new young team of X-Men, with Mystique at its core.
In other words, we could be set to see an X-universe in which — much like the comic books — the main focus is both adventure, and the development of the young heroes on the front lines. An X-universe where Cyclops and Jean Grey's romance is key, or where the debate over who should lead (Cyclops or Storm, typically) is a major question. In other words, we may finally be set to see an X-Men movie far closer in tone and subject matter to the iconic Chris Claremont run of the 1970s and 1980s than any that has yet been filmed.
Which would actually be pretty darned exciting...