Is The X-Men Franchise in Trouble?
Is The X-Men Franchise in Trouble?
The X-Men in some ways kicked off the modern-day superhero film industry by showing that superhero films could be taken seriously by fans and newcomers alike, attract talented actors and still remain faithful to the comics. Sure, looking back now on X-Men (2000) it seems very dated with the characters all donning black leather like an homage to The Matrix, but its easy to forget where all this started. Nowadays, fans of superhero flicks have a whole Marvel cinematic universe which crosses onto the small screen not to mention cool takes on the genre like Kick-Ass and Fox’s own Deadpool. However, with Hugh Jackman about to hang up Wolverine’s claws for good next year after an incredible 8-film run, (plus a cameo in Days of Future Past) is the veteran superhero ensemble running out of momentum?
The franchise’s biggest problem has always been consistency. After the generally good X-Men we got the even better X2 followed by the much maligned X-Men 3: The Last Stand which ruined what should have been a dramatic and emotional representation of the Dark Phoenix saga from the comics. Next up was X-Men Origins: Wolverine which instead of removing the bad taste The Last Stand left in everybody’s mouths gave fans another kick in the teeth by making the most popular character from the franchise mope around about his not-dead girlfriend and ruin another fan-favourite character, Deadpool. First Class was a successful reboot of a series that at that point desperately needed it with a fresh cast and a renewed focus on the philosophical divide between Xavier and Magneto. After a better solo outing for Jackman in The Wolverine (although it didn’t take much to beat the last one) Days of Future Past brought director Bryan Singer back into the fold and miraculously managed to at least make some sense of where the series stood.
Phew. That was exhausting to write.
This year’s X-Men Apocalypse should have left a good impression on its audience and emitted positivity about the future of the franchise but instead muddied the waters even more in terms of continuity and didn’t win over many naysayers with a bland villain and over-the-top CGI. The film felt less like the X-Men and more like Transformers at times which is a worrying trend as superhero films go out of their way to depict destruction and mayhem on a massive scale more and more to garner people’s attention. The standout was the newer cast members such as Quicksilver, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler but even they weren’t enough to save the film. X-Men Apocalypse took another significant character, this time a villain from the comics and made him generic and overstated. Noticing a pattern here? It’s not just critically that the film struggled either as it grossed around $200 million dollars less than Days of Future Past.
This isn’t to say there haven’t been some encouraging entries recently. Deadpool was a smash hit commercially and critically and is one of the most refreshing superhero films to date as it embraced its mature material and made the character just as zany and fourth wall-breaking as he is in the source material. In addition, next year’s Logan looks like it will finally do justice to a character that has been stuck in the lower age rated X-Men movies of the past and give one of the key relationships, that of Professor X and Logan, room to breathe. The rights to the X-Men‘s vast character roster isn’t anything to sniff at either with Fox looking to develop a New Mutants spinoff and introduce X-Force in a Deadpool sequel down the line.
Nevertheless, the future of the franchise is a little murky with the recent news that Deadpool director Tim Miller is not returning to direct a sequel due to ‘creative differences’ with actor Ryan Reynolds who has petitioned for the character to be done justice for many years. A director not returning for a sequel after a successful start sounds a little too familiar for the X-Men franchise. There are rumours that Bryan Singer is not returning to the franchise and that the series will be ‘reconfigured’ which sounds an awful lot like rebooted. This wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility with the contracts of Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence all at an end and a hefty fee required for new contracts. In addition, the spinoff film Gambit has been struggling to get off the ground for some time with Channing Tatum attached as the lead role.
Overall, it seems like the X-Men franchise is due for another course correction after what was initially a successful reboot of the series. After the disappointing numbers of X-Men Apocalypse it may be that audiences are growing wearisome, especially when it comes to the mainline X-Men films. Some fans may have the naive hope that Fox will sell the rights to the X-Men series back to Marvel Studios but Fox are highly unlikely to do that anytime soon when there’s money still on the table. Despite some positive sparks, the fire seems to be fading out on the X-Men franchise with its future currently in doubt.
What do you think about the current state of the X-Men franchise? Are you concerned?
Let me know by commenting below.