Now that the dust has settled after the explosive box office opening of X-Men: Days of Future Past, let’s think about where this leaves the franchise. Fox has to be feeling pretty confident about its ability to still sell tickets to a 14-year-old franchise without going the way of a total reboot. Some other installments’ box office receipts may have called that longevity into question, but the marketing did a good job selling this as a can’t-miss X-Men event, just like the comics do when there’s a major crossover.
Writer Simon Kinberg has intimated that the next X-film, X-Men: Apocalypse, will follow the First Class cast (for the most part) into a “disaster movie” against the longtime villain Apocalypse. He said some of the original cast might be returning, and the assumption is that it would involve time travel again, but the way Days of Future Past ends, this might only mean that Wolverine comes back. Maybe some X-Men that were already introduced in the earlier installments of the X-franchise (Nightcrawler? Gambit? Ben Foster’s Angel seems obvious, as that character becomes Archangel at the hands of Apocalypse) get recruited into this timeline before their introductions in the other films. It’s a possibility, and one that would keep time travel out of Apocalypse. Should they go to that well two films in a row?
Knowing that there was a sequel on the way already was one of the stranger, more bittersweet disappointments with Days of Future Past. With Bryan Singer coming back, and with the crowd-pleasing “reset button” of the film’s finale, we could’ve applauded a bookend to the superhero franchise that started it all. With the knowledge there’s more on the way, one starts to wonder what this franchise would look like in different hands.
There were a lot of people wishing that Spider-Man would return to Marvel Studios after the relative disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but I’m not hearing the same cry for X-Men, though it’s equally as deserved. Fox seems dead set on providing only one flavor of X-Men movie, and with its foundation established 14 years ago, we’ve seen there’s not much that can or will change in these sequels. Even Days of Future Past works backwards to erase past storylines and resurrect departed characters so that the franchise looks closer to what it did at the start than what it should by now. That’s great for a rousing finale; not so great when your idea of a fresh start means recycling past ideas.
Kinberg would like a second chance with the “Dark Phoenix” saga seen in X-Men: The Last Stand, which is understandable, but to do so with the exact same players seems foolish. I’m sure it would make a perfectly fine movie. We like these actors, we like these characters, we’ve paid to see them every time. We’re also seven films in and we haven’t seen Wolverine in his iconic superhero costume one single time. The X-Men haven’t gone to space. They haven’t explored the Savage Land. There’s no Morlocks, no Mojo, no Mister Sinister, no Genosha, no Madripoor, no nothing that makes the X-Men of the films resemble the X-Men of the comics beyond their abilities and names. The argument can be made, no matter how appealing Jackman is in the Wolverine role, that Professor Xavier and Magneto are the two characters who most closely resemble their four-color counterparts.
Fox isn’t going to let the rights revert; not with so much potential money on the line. So, while I may wish for a Marvel Studios X-Universe, that’s really just shorthand for what I really want, which is no more Singerverse X-films. Let’s close the door, and not in the “left it open a crack” way that First Class did. Fox should rip a page from Marvel and make these guys into full-fledged superheroes; a team that doesn’t just solve their own mutant problems. Get strange -- the X-Men are strange. Ramp up the soap opera, always a huge part of the X-Men’s appeal, and show them as the “Alt-Avengers” that they are. The X-Men protect a world that hates and fears them. We’ve spent far too many movies with the team as Magneto’s stop-gap instead.
When the X-Men franchise got stale, Marvel Comics overhauled the book entirely. Giant-Size X-Men #1 introduced all-new characters and an all-new flavor and it’s how the series has routinely stayed alive over the years. It reinvents itself. Let’s hope Apocalypse is the swan song to a specific era of X-Men. Then, let’s hope Fox makes the Uncanny X-Men uncanny.
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