Now that the Disney/Fox deal is a reality it is time to start asking some tough questions.
First, and perhaps the most important: What exactly should be done with the “X-Men” movie franchise?
Just last week we were given a reminder that this universe continues to exist outside the creative genius of Marvel Studios when Entertainment Weekly posted its first look at the “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” movie, which is scheduled for a November 2018 release.
The images featured actress Sophie Turner set ablaze in superpowered fire. This film is an attempt by Fox to retell perhaps the most classic and beloved X-Men comic-book story line of all time (“The Dark Phoenix Saga”), a story they already got wrong back in 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
The question you should be asking yourself is: How excited were you when you saw those images? Be honest with yourself. Were you eager for Fox to finally get “The Dark Phoenix Saga” right? Or did you, like myself, spend just as much time hoping the at-the-time still-not-final Disney/Fox deal would mean a redo on future X-Men movies?
Historians of superhero cinema will tell you the original “X-Men” films gave birth to our current era of comic-book-inspired movies. With this I will agree wholeheartedly. And because Fox got there first with 2000s “X-Men,” before Sony’s “Spider-Man” films (now under the guidance of Marvel Studios) and before the formation of Marvel Studios, they have always been praised, even though fans deep down know Marvel Studios could do a better job with these characters.
“X2: X-Men United” from 2003 is considered to be in the upper-echelon of superhero movies. This franchise has given us arguably the greatest superhero performance of all-time with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. That does not mean we should keep going with the franchise the way it is now.
It’s time to move on. It’s time to reboot.
If “Dark Phoenix” is already in the can, so be it. Let it run, and let that be our goodbye to this corner of the “X-Men” movie universe. I say “corner” because there are pockets of Fox’s “X-Men” properties worth allowing to continue as they were. Ryan Reynold’s “Deadpool” franchise, with a sequel on the way in June, should continue to be an R-rated moneymaking machine. There’s nothing there that needs fixing.
“The New Mutants,” set for 2018, looks to have potential and appears to be aiming to do with horror and the X-Brand what “Deadpool” did with raunchy comedy.
When it comes to the main “X-Men” movie universe, it would be an absolute waste to not have Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios take a crack at them, now that the Disney deal is proceeding. A move like that could give you another decade of “X-Men” movie fandom. Keeping things the way they are could make fans ask when things are going to end.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014) and “X-Men: Apocalypse” (2016), while enjoyable in parts (especially those Quicksilver moments), still felt like they were being made so Fox wouldn’t lose those X-cinematic rights, as opposed to rabid fan demand.
The recent X-movies that have been exceptions have been “Logan” and “Deadpool” — movies that took chances and tried something different.
The other superpowered elephant in the room is what to do with the Fantastic Four, a franchise that is dead on arrival of this Disney/Fox deal.
Let’s not bash the original two FF films from 2005 and 2007. At the very least they gave us the brilliance of Chris Evans’s superhero acting range. Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” (2015) killed the brand, even forcing Marvel Comics to put a stop to publishing Fantastic Four comics.
(Side note: Now that this deal is done, can we get Fantastic Four comics back please?)
“Fantastic Four” from 2015 didn’t work for a lot of reasons, one of them being that it was a movie no one was asking for. It was a let’s try this one more time so we don’t lose the rights move, and it didn’t work. But a Marvel Studios Fantastic Four movie is something fans would want to see. It seems likely Feige would love to get his creative teams working with Marvel’s first family.
The best thing Fox can do for their superhero movie future is give the keys to Marvel Studios. If Sony can realize they were on the path to destroying the Spider-Man brand and have the guts to realize they needed Marvel Studios to fix things, Fox can do the same thing with the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
Just don’t mess with “Deadpool,” and everything will be fine.