Marvel Studios needs to relaunch the X-Men franchise from scratch, and here’s why.
In an astonishing case of life imitating art, The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox’s Marvel franchises will collide to create a single cinematic universe in real life’s answer to Secret Wars. And while the details of the Hollywood deal to end all deals probably won’t be as confusing as a Jonathan Hickman plot, there are still many unanswered questions.
Fans of Fox’s X-Men universe, specifically, wonder what will happen to the cinematic universe they’ve come to know and tolerate. Will the continuity director Bryan Singer launched back in 2000 be honored in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? If not, will audiences at least continue to see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s takes on Professor X and Magneto? And what will happen to upcoming X-projects, like that long-promised Channing Tatum Gambit film that has so much potential it’s been in the works since 2014?
Well, wonder no longer, X-fans, because I have the answer to all these questions. Well, actually, Hollywood’s current-favorite villain Kylo Ren actually has the answer:
“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.”Play that X-Cutioner’s Song
Fans of superhero cinema owe a huge debt of gratitude to Singer–yes, the same guy who’s rumored to be yet another Hollywood creep. Still, 2000’s X-Men, the film that launched Fox’s lucrative franchise, is very much a product of its time. From the need to play the story extremely safe so as not to offend an audience that wasn’t quite ready for a true comic book adaptation to the dated black leather Matrix influence, it was far from the ideal foundation on which to build a series based on one of comics most fantastical properties.
And true to those X-Men comics, the Fox series got complicated–fast. Wolverine villain Colonel William Stryker alone has been played by three different actors. I mean, when you have to use time travel to give the series new life, you know it’s time to board up the windows and move on.
In total, there have been 10 movies in the extended X-Men film universe, including the fan-favorite Deadpool. While I’ve enjoyed some of them (X2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past rise to the top), the bad ones far outweigh the good. X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: Apocalypse are the cinematic equivalents of whatever gunk Toad spits out of his mouth.And along this tiring cinematic journey, various filmmakers have left behind a trail of butchered characters, from The Last Stand’s exploding Cyclops and Professor X to Apocalypse’s Psylocke and Archangel, who would have been better off exploding rather than becoming Horsemen to Ivan Ooze. Then, there are the bizarre takes on characters, such as Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, who managed to be Charles Xavier’s sister, Magneto’s lover and the leader of the X-Men–just like in the comics! #NailedIt
X-Men: Dark Phoenix won’t be in theaters until Nov. 2018, but do you really have faith in writer-director Simon Kinberg to pull off adapting one of comics’ most iconic storylines? After all, this first-time director has twice admitted to botching X-Men films as their writer.
In 2014, Kinberg told ScreenCrush that Days of Future Past was “sort of a chance for me to go back and do differently what I did 10 years ago on ‘X3.'” And just this month, Kinberg told Entertainment Weekly he thinks “we took our eye off what has always been the bedrock of the franchise which is these characters,” regarding Apocalypse.
Why does this guy keep getting X-Men film jobs? I actually wrote about the need to remove Singer and Kinberg from this franchise back in 2016, and I see Fox completely ignored me. Either Fox executives don’t read AiPT! or they just hate constructive feedback. Either way, they’ve made Cyclops cry.But wait, there’s more
In addition to Dark Phoenix, Fox has The New Mutants, Deadpool 2 and Gambit (I guess?) on the way. Although Deadpool has its own confusing take on the X-Men universe, I don’t mind that it’s treated as its own weird thing. A lot of people seem to be excited about The New Mutants, despite the fact that it looks like Cannonball and company have been dropped into a generic horror movie. And Gambit… well, that’s a card we need to slip back into the deck, mon ami.
Also, James Franco is apparently cooking up his own little Multiple Man feature, because he’s James Franco.
I realize there are readers out there who want to see every single one of these movies, but it’s my job to convince them we can do better. You can still have your Gambit, but wouldn’t you rather wait for a really good take on Gambit? Remember that doofus in the hat who was stuffed into the already bloated X-Men Origins? You want another one of those? Let’s not become the high school senior who’s settling before even exploring the wider world. It can get better, trust me.What would comics do?
What else? They would relaunch!
Following the merger announcement, I’ve seen a lot of people talk about bringing Hugh Jackman back as Wolverine. I know Logan’s lived a long life, but Jackman is almost 50–not sure he can play the definitive MCU Wolverine, bub. I’ve even seen current X-Men actors weighing in…Unless you cut a deal with Feige we’re unaware of, I wouldn’t bet on it, Alexandra.
I say, release Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants and Deadpool 2, and then it’s over. We’ll see all these characters again, only they’ll be truer to who they really are, under the supervision of more capable filmmakers.
Based on everything you know of Kinberg’s next X-Men film, can you honestly tell me a Marvel Studios-helmed adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga, in which the X-Men can actually interact with an established Marvel cosmic universe, wouldn’t be closer to the original Chris Claremont/John Byrne epic?
Now, the idea of a complete film relaunch may seem strange to casual moviegoers, but this isn’t a new concept for regular comic readers. Series go through major shake-ups all the time. New creative teams, new No. 1 issues, All-New, All-Different directions and sometimes entirely new continuities–Wednesday Warriors have seen it all. Fresh starts are necessary when series and characters lose their way. X-Men fans know this better than anyone. It’s why we have Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler.
And while Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s Batman films took a huge nosedive in quality from the Christopher Nolan trilogy to the Zack Snyder dumpster fire, Marvel Studios proved they can deliver, successfully relaunching Spider-Man following the Batman and Robin-level embarrassment that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Seriously, did anyone like this? Also, why are people watching and cheering on this battle against a heavily armed and armored Rhino man? Oy.
[Not-So] Deadly Genesis
In order to please all X-fans, Marvel Studios needs to really plan out how the Fox characters migrate over to the MCU. It seemed like Spidey swung into his new home right after that Sony deal was announced–with positive results–but we can’t risk any more rush jobs following the haphazard creation of the DC Cinematic Universe.
The greatest mistake Feige could make would be to shoehorn Wolverine, Magneto, Deadpool and the rest of Fox’s heavy hitters into an upcoming film without a long-term plan. With Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and other stars expected to jump ship soon, the X-Men have the potential to keep audiences happy for years to come.
But the X-Men must stand out in the MCU, just as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther each have unique POVs. Professor X’s students aren’t Avengers clones, they’re heroes who are feared and hated by a world they swore to protect. I think it would be awesome if we started hearing about mutants in upcoming Phase Three films, setting the stage for the X-Men’s official introduction in Phase Four (remember when Spider-Man was casually mentioned at the end of Ant-Man?). This page alone from Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’ iconic Marvels miniseries is a great starting place for Feige.And while the Fox films have been more focused on showing the X-Men in different decades of late, Marvel Studios could tell some really poignant stories about racism and bigotry via the mutant population right now, in our current hyper-charged political and social climate we’re forced to navigate every single day.
Feige also has the advantage of launching an X-Men universe with 10 movies to look at and pick apart. That’s 10 cinematic experiences–including positive and negative fan feedback for each–that he can use to develop his own version of Marvel’s mutants. Could we finally see a Cyclops who’s a true leader? A Storm who’s a goddess, not whatever the Hell Halle Berry was going for? And through Iceman, Marvel can finally feature a prominent gay character in one of their films.Perhaps the character that stands to benefit the most is Deadpool. Think about the damage the Merc with a Mouth could inflict on the Marvel Universe, tormenting everyone from Doctor Strange to Spider-Man. Heck, throw everyone into one film and create the most outrageous Marvel film yet: Deadpool Vs. The Marvel Universe! But best of all, Deadpool could perfectly bridge the gap between the two universes. He could remember and reference the time when Fox made X-Men films, and the MCU characters would just assume he’s insane. But fans would know the truth, and they’d probably love it.
MCU Wolverine: Shut it, bub.
Deadpool: Crikey! I liked you better when you were played by Hugh Jackman.
Finally, abandoning the past would allow the X-Men movie brand to distance itself from Singer and Brett Ratner, two of the film series’ directors who have faced sexual assault and misconduct accusations. Personally, I don’t like to check the news and see “X-Men” and “rape” in the same headline. It’s not a great look for a franchise that’s about heroes protecting others from persecution. This is a franchise that can–and should–be a source of positive change in the world.
So to the fans who aren’t quite ready to let go of Fox’s X-Men universe, I say, change is hard. But, to be a fan of the X-Men, you have to be a fan of change–of evolution–because that’s what the X-Men are all about.
And through this change, we could see Magneto clashing with the Avengers while coming for his daughter Wanda, who is actually something known as a mutant. We could see Spider-Man visiting the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters to learn more about his radioactive blood alongside Professor X and Beast. And yes, we can finally see Wolverine go toe to toe with the Hulk on the big screen.
Submit to the House of Mouse, X-fans, the true House of M.