20th Century Fox has been releasing X-Men films since 2000. After nine films, it has become one of their biggest franchises. Disney has most of the Marvel library, and Warner Bros has the DC characters, in an age where superhero films are some of the biggest money makers Fox does not want to miss out. After the critical acclaim and box office successes of Logan and Deadpool, Fox has no plans on slowing down. On April 22ND, 2017 20TH Century Fox announced a line of future films with three X-Men properties slated for 2018. These include The New Mutants, Deadpool 2, and X-Men: the Dark Phoenix.
Fox now finds itself in an interesting position. Logan marked the final appearance for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who was the poster boy for the X-Men films for seventeen years. Fox knows they still want to continue making X-Men films (so the rights don’t go back to Marvel), yet they know they can’t just recast Wolverine because audience and fan reception would not be kind. They will have to wait a decent amount of time till it is safe to try to reuse Wolverine. Fox is in a similar place that Marvel Studios was in at the beginning of building their cinematic universe. They can’t use their most profitable character, so now need to take chances on other titles (a problem DC does not have since they have green-lighted four Batman related films).
Let’s look at the three X-Men films Fox announced for 2018. See how far along they are in development, what their release date means and speculate about the future of the X-Men universe.
Release Date: April 13th, 2018.
Based off a comic book series originally published in the 80’s. The basic premise was to get back to the original premise of the X-Men being teenage superheroes. They are teenaged students at the School for Gifted Youngsters, much like the original X-Men, who had since grown into adulthood. These students, however, resembled the 70’s X-Men lineup in terms of ethnic diversity. While these characters are too young to be X-Men but old enough to learn how to use their powers. The rumored line up includes:
Mirage-Danielle Moonstar is a Native American (specifically, Cheyenne) who has the ability to communicate with animals and create three-dimensional images of visual concepts from within the minds of herself and others. Her ability allows her to manifest people’s fears or desires as realistic illusions.
Magik- Illyana Rasputin is the younger sister of X-Men Colossus. Magik can teleport herself and others through dimensional portals through a Limbo Dimension. This dimension allows her to manipulate magic from that world. Magik wears a mystical armor. Lastly she wields a magical weapon known as the Soulsword. Split actress Ana Taylor Joy is rumored to be up for the part.
Wolfsbane-Rahne Sinclair is Scottish mutant. She can transform into a wolf or into a transitional state somewhere between human and wolf (similar to a werewolf). She has a close friendship with Mirage. Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams is currently rumored to play Wolfsbane
Cannonball-Samuel Guthrie is a mild-mannered Kentuckian who can rocket his body. They’ve wanted him in the films for a long time. He was in the original script for X-Men: First Class. He was also shown in concept art for the planned X-Force Movie.
Sunspot-Roberto da Costa, a Brazilian mutant who absorbs solar energy and body becomes similar to the surface of the sun. He can fly and shoot flames as well. Sunspot was previously seen in the future timeline in X-Men: Days of Future Past (timeline reset means he can appear again recast).
Fox has experimented with genre and tone to great success in the X-Men brand with Logan and Deadpool. Fox wants New Mutants to have a very Young Adult novel tone. This is a smart marketing move, as well as thematically appropriate since superhero comics (particularly the X-Men comics from the 80’s), were early precursors young adult fiction. Josh Boone, who directed the adaptation of the YA novel The Fault in Our Stars, will helm the project. Boone has won fans over with his knowledge of the New Mutants comics and showing off his collection of comics.
The spring release date is a smart move. In recent years March and April have become good months to release big major tent pole films as they have little competition. New Mutants will open while the target demographic of teenagers are in school. Subject matter will match season, hopefully leading to box office returns. With this coming before Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix it will raise some serious questions about placement in the X-Men timeline.
Release Date: June 1st, 2018.
Of all the films announced Deadpool 2 was the one most along in development. After a small shake-up with original director Tim Miller dropping out, the film picked up quickly. David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) will direct. Original writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese are returning and have been at work since March of 2016. Josh Brolin is cast in the role of Cable, and Atlanta star Zazie Beetz is set as Domino. They even included a special teaser for Deadpool 2 ahead of Logan.
Deadpool was a box office smash in February. It brought in $783 million against a $58 million budget to become the highest grossing film in the X-Men franchise. Fox is so confident in Deadpool 2 that they’ve given it a summer release date. The first Deadpool dominated February with little competition. Yet it now has more competition and may not stay number 1 at the box office for as long as the first film did. Deadpool 2 will open a week after the Han Solo spin-off film. The following week sees the release of Ocean’s 8 and the Transformers Bumblebee spin-off film. Then the highly anticipated the Incredibles 2 two weeks later. Jurassic World 2 will open three weeks after Deadpool 2. In February, he was a big fish in a small pond, but in June he is playing in a giant ocean.
X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX
Release Date: November 2nd, 2018.
The next film in the main X-Men film series, originally rumored to be subtitled Super Nova, is now be titled Dark Phoenix. An adaptation of the iconic and most beloved storyline from the comics, ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’. Fans were upset at the handling of the story in X-Men: the Last Stand, the new reset timeline allows the filmmakers a second chance.
This is the first X-Men film to be release in the winter movie season. All main X-Men films have previously been released in the summer months. May (X2, The Last Stand, Origins: Wolverine, Days of Future Past, Apocalypse), June (First Class), or July (X-Men, The Wolverine). This same first week of November worked out very well for Marvel Studios with Thor: The Dark World in 2013, Doctor Strange in 2016 and currently Thor: Ragnarok.
The only problem is X-Men: Dark Phoenix will open against the Disney live action remake of Mulan. X-Men went up against a live action Disney reimagining before and won. X-Men: Apocalypse easily beat Alice Through the Looking Glass on Memorial Day weekend in 2016. Yet those were different circumstances. Alice was the sequel to a movie that, while a hit, was panned by critics. Combine that with bad reviews and audience fatigue over Johnny Depp and X-Men coming off a critically acclaimed sequel the deck was stacked in X-Men’s favor. Yet in 2018 Mulan will have more audience goodwill.
With a crowded month that also includes a new animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the next installment in the Fantastic Beast franchise X-Men will have a lot to compete with.
No director is set and the film will be released in 18 months. A risky move but not impossible. Back in May of 2010 Fox made a bold announcement that X-Men: First Class would hit theaters on June 3rd, 2011. That meant it would arrive in theaters in 13 months with no director attached and an entire cast needed. Dark Phoenix has the benefit of having previous cast members returning. They are already in a better place than Fox was when First Class was announced. Simon Kinberg, the writer of the past three X-Men films, is rumored as the director yet he has downplayed his involvement.
This also may be the X-Men movie that finally introduces Mr. Sinister. The after credit moment of Apocalypse introduced the Essex Corporation, hinting at Mr. Sinister storyline in the works. At this point it is safe to assume this will be his introduction.
Another question hanging over the Dark Phoenix storyline is that could they be rushing into it. That’s an odd statement when the film series is now 17 years old but in this new timeline. Yet audiences have only meet Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey once in a supporting role in Apocalypse. In the previous X-Men trilogy, the audience had two previous movies to grow a connection to Jean. Can they do that so soon with a Jean audiences have just meet?
What is interesting about this announcement was it was X-Men films in one year. Yet Fox tried this before. Back in 2014 three X-Men films were announced. Deadpool for February. X-Men: Apocalypse for May. Gambit, starring Channing Tatum, was set for an October 2016 release date.
Yet Gambit kept getting postponed. Original director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) dropped out of directing in September 2015. It did not make its projected start date. Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) set to direct in November 2015. Yet on August 2016, Doug Liman left the project to helm Dark Universe for Warner Bros. and DC Comics. Other factors including pay negotiations with Tatum breaking down and the actor/producer almost left the film. The studio conflicted with the large budget (rumored to be around $200 million). Gambit at this point seems to be a passion project for Channing Tatum and will arrive when it is ready.
Logan marked an end for one chapter in the X-Men series, yet the story is far from over. Fox and Marvel now must make the franchise continue without its most iconic character or biggest actors. The X-Men films will go forward, backward, spin-off, and grow for years to come just like they did in the pages of Marvel comics.