Marvel Studios Countdown is a biweekly column focusing on all things related to Marvel Studios and its movies, past, present and future.
Twentieth Century Fox may have let the Daredevil rights slip through its fingers back to Marvel Studios, but the company is still sitting pretty on the X-Men and Fantastic Four brands. Fox recently hired comic scribe Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Ultimate X-Men) to oversee its Marvel films, and it wants to do what Marvel Studios is doing -- it want to make millions with superhero films in one shared, cohesive universe. It’s funny to see Fox competing with Marvel with Marvel’s own properties, but it makes sense from a business standpoint for Fox to milk these franchises for all that they’re worth.
In fact, Millar intimates that there are 10 potential films that Fox is considering, outside of its announced projects like The Wolverine (summer 2013), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), and Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot. Some of these projects have been hinted at before, but how could Fox pull 10 films out of just two licenses? We’ll start with the obvious one...
Fox has wanted a Deadpool solo film for a while now, and tested the waters a bit by casting Ryan Reynolds as the “merc with a mouth” in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Though that film ultimately wasted the character (how do you make a movie where one of Marvel’s biggest smart alecks has his lips sewn shut?), Reynolds has always been game to revisit the role. There’s only the slowest movement on the project as of this article, with director Tim Miller, an effects artist who worked on X2 and Daredevil, still attached from a potentially R-rated screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).
“X-Force #1 was the second-biggest book of all time behind Jim Lee's X-Men #1, so there's an immediate brand recognition to that stuff and a built-in fanbase,” Millar told CBR when discussing potential spin-offs. The book has gone through a few iterations over the years, but its core concept is as a more military strike force than the X-Men, led by Cable, a grizzled expert strategist from the future, who also happened to be the grown son of Cyclops and Jean Grey.
The New Mutants
As the X-Men became more of a superhero team than a student body, The New Mutants returned to the idea that Xavier’s mansion was a school, a place where teens with incredible powers could be taught how to control those abilities and live fruitful lives. Earlier this year the former head of Fox, Tom Rothman, entertained the idea of a New Mutants film, but no formal announcement has been made.
I’d imagine Fox is taking a wait-and-see approach to Marvel’s riskier Guardians of the Galaxy film before it approachs its own space opera. The lukewarm reception to the Fantastic Four sequel halted the plans to spin Surfer off into his own film, but anything’s game now that FF is getting a relaunch. The Surfer was once Norrin Radd, a man from another world who sacrificed the life that he loved to become the herald for the world-devouring Galactus and prevent his own planet’s destruction. Eventually, Surfer turns against his own master, and realizes his full potential as a cosmic hero. Silver Surfer’s story is certainly rich enough to support a film completely removed from the Fantastic Four.
X-23’s pitch is simple -- she’s a young female Wolverine clone. I’m not sure if audiences would go to a film that featured another Wolverine when there’s already a Wolverine film franchise, but the character has had a few high-profile gigs, first appearing on the X-Men: Evolution cartoon and showing up as a playable character in the best-selling Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 video game. That level of character recognition, coupled with Wolverine’s existing popularity, probably puts her on Fox’s short list.
This is another fan-favorite character who appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and who currently stars in his own monthly solo title from Marvel Comics. Remy LeBeau, aka Gambit, is a master thief (and obvious Cajun) with the mutant ability to charge any object with kinetic energy. Being ever so slightly disconnected from the X-Men team (at least right now) actually gives him an edge as a potential film property.
This is bit of a dark horse, but there’s a ton of potential here. The danger might be that Fox could be perceived as “copying” Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy. The Starjammers are another ragtag group of space-faring adventurers from Marvel, this one led by Cyclops’ father Corsair. They’re more space pirates than the Guardians, who are more of a proactive task force, but the teams have a lot of similarities including a swashbuckling captain and a unique blend of alien personalities on the crew. The Starjammers have often worked alongside the X-Men, protecting the Shi’ar empire from harm, and they’re ripe for a big-budget space adventure movie. However, outside of Star Trek and Star Wars, big-budget space adventures aren’t always a gamble that pays off for studios.
The book started as a government-sanctioned squad of mutants, but its recent incarnation, from writer Peter David, has a more distinct personality for a film adaptation. David’s book is about mutant private investigators who solve mutant-related mysteries. It’s an ensemble piece, as much about drama within the team as it is about the investigations, and it’s a unique concept for both comics and film. It almost seems easier to translate to television, but Millar assures us that every potential X-Men brand is being considered viable for film.
X-Men Origins: Storm
I think a lot of fans, including myself, would like to see the life story of Ororo Munroe brought to the big screen. Halle Berry’s portrayal was a bit of a cypher for a character with a long, rich history, defined in the films only by her weather-controlling mutant power, but, again, here’s an X-Man who can carry a film on her own. A streetwise orphaned child growing up in Egypt has her life changed when her powers manifest and she finds herself worshipped as a goddess. Storm, despite her popularity and recognizability, has never been exploited as a property in the way that, say, Wolverine has, though the potential is certainly there.
Namor, the Sub-Mariner
I can’t find much clarification on who owns the rights to Namor, but he’s long been a Fantastic Four supporting character and recently a prominent member of the X-Men as well (he is a mutant after all). Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige has said in the past that Fox has all the mutants, but Namor predates the X-Men franchise. He first appeared in 1939 and fought alongside Captain America against Axis forces. If he does belong to Fox, then there’s no doubt that they’re looking long and hard at the Prince of Atlantis. Namor is usually characterized as prickly and arrogant, with a grudge against those who would cause any environmental harm to the oceans. A Namor movie, with its underwater world, could feature a lot of impressive special effects and fantasy environments... all in digital 3D of course.