Everybody Wants to be The Avengers1 of 12
Today, Entertainment Weekly unveiled the first public look at several characters from X-Men: Apocalypse, including the titular villain. With our first glimpse of the X-Men’s next film, we thought we’d take a look at Fox’s endgame for the X-Men franchise.
What’s the ultimate goal for Fox, the license holders of the X-Men?
A mega-Franchise. The Marvel Studios model is the one to follow, to catch, and to beat right now, and so far, it seems like no one else can quite figure it out.
So, as avid observers of what has worked, what can work, and what should be avoided, we thought we’d take a stab at it for Fox. With X-Men: Apocalypse currently filming, Deadpool already complete, and Wolverine 3 and Gambit on the horizon, it might not seem like they have a lot of room to bend from their current plans. Luckily, there are things they can do as early as those next two movies - and major moves they should be making now to plan for those beyond.
So here’s our latest “Unsolicited Advice” on how Fox can have their very own Mega-Franchise with the X-Men.
Start Thinking in Phases2 of 12So, Fox, let’s say that from the first X-Men to X-Men Origins: Wolverine was Phase 1, and X-Men: First Class to 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse is Phase 2.
That means that right now you should be planning Phase 3.
Yes, now. Before Wolverine 3 is shot, before Gambit is shot, you should start thinking about the next 3-5 films for another round of X-Men movies. If the plans are there, then groundwork can be laid. If the plans are there, you can take more chances. And if the plans are there, you have real goals to achieve.
Before you ask, yes, you should also be just a little more transparent about those plans, too. But the important thing is to make them, and to be thinking in these groups. You had a three movie trilogy with the first cast, you’re in the middle of a three movie trilogy with the cast from the past, and that’s perfect - so who is next? And don’t worry, we have some suggestions for that soon, too…
Think Bigger, Think Stranger for Phase 33 of 12Once you’re thinking in phases, it’s time to start thinking about going bigger and stranger. What does that mean? That means adding in more characters we never thought we’d see on screen, like Blink. It means going to outer space, or Limbo, or the Savage Land. The X-Men thrive in environments that are just as crazy and beyond regular human comprehension as the characters themselves are, and so far, they have not done that on the big screen, not even once. Let’s see Genosha, let’s go to Krakoa (or well, something that’s not an island - lots of islands in X-Men mythos), let’s get weird.
Remember, Marvel's X-Men titles are the most diverse line in superhero comic books, encompassing more than just a team but an array of different characters, teams, concepts, worlds and even dimensions.
Integrate Fantastic Four into Phase 3 & Beyond4 of 12Fox, buddies, pals: you have two marquee Marvel franchises, both of which have tons of offshoots and the occasional overlap in history and mythology.
So use them already!
Yes, there has been talk about integrating the Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises into one cohesive movie universe, but talk is cheap, it’s time for action. More on this later, but hey, you’ve introduced time travel in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Fantastic Four looks to have dimension-hopping, something that factors heavily into both franchises. Some suggestions on how to tie them together? Kang the Conqueror, The High Evolutionary, and yes, Franklin Richards (meaning a future version) are all viable candidates. Make this the culmination of Phase 3, a jumbo, joint movie, and then move on from there with them existing in the same world.
Pick Your Wolverine Replacement5 of 12Spoiler alert: it should be Cable.
Yes, we’ve pontificated before on Cable and how he can be useful in the X-Men movie universe (and even suggested a mega-casting for the character), but even moreso here, we want you to use Cable as your next “anchor character.” This is something every mega-franchise has. For Marvel Studios, their anchor character is clearly Iron Man - and they’re in a similar situation, where they’ll need a new one relatively soon. For Fox, it has clearly been Wolverine, and why not? Hugh Jackman’s critically and fan-acclaimed, and Wolverine has great, deep ties to many characters in the X-Men universe.
But man, so does Cable. If played right, Cable can be a bridge to so much in movies. He’s a bridge to the far future, to the science fiction, and to a whole new cast of characters. He also happens to be a super soldier and a cyborg - it’s like he’s Captain America and Iron Man rolled into one, with a dash of mutant powers and a side of time travel.
Yes, Cable, who has one of the most complicated histories in the Marvel Universe (I mean, just look at his name: Nathan Christopher Charles Summers Dayspring Askani’Son) is ironically your simple solution to the “Hugh Jackman” problem. At some point, yes, you’ll also have to recast Wolverine, but don’t worry about replacing the actor right now - first replace the character.
Don’t Be Scared to Be Science Fiction6 of 12We’ll grant you, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a good start on this one. You have time travel and mutant-hunting robots, two absolute staples of the X-Men world, but don’t forget about those other things we mentioned before.
Take the X-Men and make a crazy space romp adventure - just look at the hype around Guardians of the Galaxy! The X-Men have the Starjammers (they’re freaking space pirates and give you another great Summers connection); they have the Shi’ar, a race of bird people who have their own freaking Superman character on their elite peacekeeping force. The very concept of X-Men is an inherently science fiction one, yet the farthest you’ve gone with it is people who have powers.
So thank you for the time travel and giant robots. Now, like I said earlier, it’s time for a lost continent of dinosaurs, a floating city, or a race of aliens who rule half the galaxy.
For Solo Spin-Offs, Find Your Archetypes7 of 12The most common conversation in public from Fox representative seems to be one of solo movies for X-Men characters. And yes, there are a few great mutants that would fit well in a solo adventure. Characters like Cable and Deadpool, for instance, maybe Gambit, and even Mystique - if Jennifer Lawrence could be convinced to play her after X-Men: Apocalypse - could pull it off.
But the thing Marvel Studios does so well when it comes to solo films is make them all feel so different, and that’s going to be harder to do with the X-Men at first glance. But when you really look into them, they do have drastically different backstories and genres that they can hit. Make Gambit the international super thief. Make Mystique a spy, quite possibly for multiple agencies at once. Do a crazy time-hopping journey for Cable. Deadpool looks to be a great start. There are possibilities, but you have to get out there and find the niche for each one to exploit. If you just pump out a bunch of mutant movies that are produced in a cookie-cutter, people will notice - and more importantly, they’ll stop going to them. And speaking of solo movies…
But Don’t Force the Solo Stories8 of 12This is, frankly, an inherently team dynamic-driven franchise. The list of solo X-Men books that make it past a year or two is short, and that is likely true for solo X-Men movies. Heck, many would argue that a good solo X-Men film hasn’t been made yet (though I did enjoy The Wolverine for the most part despite a pretty rotten third act).
And that’s fine. Not every franchise is going to have a standout character, and more than any other comic book superhero world, the X-Men thrive on being together and having those soap opera moments. The reason that even the X-Men: The Animated Series in the 90s reached so many kids of multiple ages and genders is that it had it all. There was action and romance, mystery and science fiction, betrayal and undying loyalty.
So while yes, it would be nice to see some more X-Men related solo films in order to continue to expand the universe, don’t force it. No “Gambit” movie is better than a hackneyed “Gambit” movie, I promise.
Remember: There Are Other Villains Besides Magneto9 of 12We love Magneto, and we love Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen alike. But for the love of Mother Askani, come on, Fox, use some of those other villains in the X-Men lexicon!
Okay, so we know that X-Men: Apocalypse is coming, but the villain issue speaks to the larger issue of variety in these movies. While there may be slight alterations to the antagonist and to Magneto’s role in things, ultimately, he’s being used too much and they’re fighting similar threats a bit too often. Hopefully thinking in “phases” can help this one out a bit. If you have an overarching story that is building to a bigger bad, you can use their henchmen on the way. Besides Apocalypse, we’d love to see Mr. Sinister, D’Ken and the Shi’ar, Shadow King, Cassandra Nova, a proper Hellfire Club, the possibilities from the last 50 years are virtually endless.
Use The Other X-Teams!10 of 12Yes, I know the franchise is called “X-Men,” but in keeping with the “this is, frankly, an inherently team dynamic,” I’d like to remind you that there are other teams of mutants out there!
Okay, so you have an X-Force script either in the works or done, depending on who’s talking - that’s a wonderful start. X-Force of course fits with our Cable mention earlier, and is a much more radical concept, far enough away from the standard “X-Men” team but with familiar enough characters to make it clearly inside the same universe.
But don’t forget about X-Factor. Come on, a government-sponsored mutant team? There’s so much that can be done with that concept. Even just looking at how the rest of the world reacts when the U.S. suddenly has a team of superheroes literally on the payroll is cinematic gold. You even have a second whole X-Factor concept with mutant P.I.s, and now a third one with a corporate superteam. And yes, there’s even things you can do with groups like the New Mutants, or Excalibur or even Alpha Flight. Take the X-Corp concept to go worldwide and then introduce those international teams. Basically, there are a lot of ways you can take this that are unique to the X-Men.
And that segues us nicely to our final point.
Don’t Try to be the Avengers11 of 12Yes, this whole countdown is about how to make the X-Men movie franchise more like the Avengers movie franchise - but that shouldn’t be confused with treating the X-Men like they’re the Avengers. You can argue a point that a possible X-Factor movie might be more Avengers-style, but I digress.
Ultimately, these are two disparate franchises. Whether it’s the basic concept of “protecting a world that hates and fears them,” the minority rights allegory, the sheer variety and scope of superpowers, or even the closer family dynamic that comes from sharing an actual genetic anomaly, these are not the same concept rehashed.
Innovate, don't renovate.
So while there are things you can do on the business end of the films to make them more alike in some ways, never forget that being different is what the X-Men do best. Let them be different, embrace that, and you’ll have your first billion dollar film in no time.
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