Following the release of X-Men: Apocalypse, Bryan Singer stated that he’s looking to take a temporary break from the franchise but would like to continue being involved in the franchise going forward, likely in the role of producer. For some, the possibility of Singer’s break led for a cause of celebration, while others quickly noted what happened the last time Singer strayed from Marvel’s merry mutants. Regardless of his flaws, Singer with a tee-up from First Class-director Matthew Vaughn, has placed the X-Men exactly where they need to be for the franchise going forward. X-Men Apocalypse didn’t break any box office records and didn’t connect with many critics, but Singer brought the franchise closer to comics than ever before and opened plenty of new doors.
Blending elements our Fantasy Draft Casting, Director Wish List, and Pitch features, we’re going to take a comprehensive and six-clawed stab at what we’d like to see from Fox’s X-Men Franchise in the years to come.
**Spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse ahead**
Forget About Marvel Studios
While there’s no telling how much it affected X-Men: Apocalypse’s reception or box office, it shouldn’t go without notice that many critics and filmgoers got caught up in the fact that X-Men: Apocalypse was not Captain America: Civil War. From box offices grosses, to style and tone, we’ve reached an unfortunate point in superhero films where they must all be compared to the MCU, even when the films have no interest in fitting into that mold. The X-Men films have never been billion dollar movies, and the popularity of the characters in the ’90s never found the same success in the 21st century as that of Spider-Man, Batman, and the Avengers. In some ways this has been a blessing that has allowed the X-Men franchise to do its own thing and experiment (sometimes unsuccessfully) without the worry of massive expectations. The films have achieved what few superhero franchises manage successfully: evolve without a complete reboot. Despite this evolution, there are still a large number of X-fans who hope Fox’s films are just bidding time until the rights are secured by Marvel Studios. But Marvel Studios doesn’t need the X-Men (the rather heavy-handed integration of the Inhumans in recent years has made that perfectly clear), and more importantly the X-Men don’t need Marvel Studios.
There’s a certain level of expectation loaded into MCU films, where surprises are dulled by the blade of contract renewal announcements and film slates announced five years at a time. With the X-film there’s a level of mystery, a success in the fact that we have no idea where the characters will end up by the end of these films or where they will appear next. The X-Men comic books don’t attempt to gel with the films because these films have little effect on Marvel financially, and as a result the films feel free to do their own thing and take controversial routes that aren’t connected to the sale of comics or toys. The fact that we’ve gotten an X-Men trilogy set in the past, led by B-list female character Mystique, and one that has managed to succeed without the star power of Hugh Jackman in two of those films, are risky moves we’d likely never see in the hands of Disney. This is in no way an affront to the MCU, but if we want superhero films to survive we need films comprised of different voices, and even when flawed the X-Men’s films differences from anything else makes them worthy of celebration and separation. So if we’re really serious about seeing this franchise live up to its potential, we should allow it exist without the need to constantly compare it to the MCU.
The Deadpool Situation
It’s no secret that Deadpool was a massive success, and the highest grossing of the X-Men franchise. This success surprised many box office reporters, but those who visit their weekly comic shops knew very that Deadpool would be a hit. But while general audiences are just getting introduced to the Merc with the Mouth and are ready to see a lot more of him, many comic readers know that the over-saturation of the character in the past five years has become grating. With Hugh Jackman hanging up his claws after next year, it’s going to be incredibly easy for Fox to decide that Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool can be their new Wolverine and appear in all the X-Men films. But Deadpool is a character best used in doses as his personality and antics doesn’t warrant extended amounts of time spent with him. Outside of X-Force (which we’ll get to) it would be a mistake for Fox to start shoving Deadpool into all their mutant-related films. Not only would his appearance in these films be jarring to the more serious and civil rights minded X-films, we’ve also just reached a point where these films can freely explore the characterizations of other mutants without Wolverine being the leading perspective on this universe. We’re looking forward to see where the Deadpool franchise goes, but he’s an addendum, not the face of the X-Men property.
Outside of Magneto, and to a lesser degree, Stryker, the X-Men franchise has never had a long term villain. As great a character as Magneto is, he plays both sides and the ending of Apocalypse finds him closer on the side of the angels. What the franchise needs now, especially with Apocalypse dispatched of, is a villain who can play the long game and fuck the X-Men’s world up beyond anything we’ve seen before. Enter Mr. Sinister. Nathanial Essex, nodded to by way of a briefcase during Apocalypse’s post credits, is more than worthy of providing a lasting threat to the X-Men. While it’s been suggested that he may play some role in next year’s final Wolverine outing, we’re hoping that he sticks around across the main X-Men films and various spin-offs. A mutant geneticist and strategist with ties to Apocalypse, Cyclops, and Jean Grey, there are plenty of stories to set-up with Sinister in the shadows and eventually the foreground of the series. As for casting? We’d like to see someone around the same age of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in order to give Magneto and Charles Xavier a new contemporary who can provide a threat to both of their belief systems. We think Jonathan Rhys Meyers has the perfect seductive intensity and physical prowess to pull off the devilish cruelty and manipulation of Mr. Sinister.
The X-franchise has three films already loaded with filming schedules and tentative release dates. Wolverine 3, Deadpool 2, and Gambit (the last of which we’re still not convinced is happening any time soon) are already set up with the respective filmmakers. While X-Force, New Mutants, and the next X-Men film still have a lot of leeway in terms of where they’re going so those three will be the films we’ll focus on.
Based on the ’80s comic series which featured young mutants in training to become the next generation’s X-Men, New Mutants focused heavily on the personal relationship between the characters. Much of their superhero-dom consisted of odd adventures instead of cataclysmic battles against well-know supervillains. Josh Boone is currently attached to write and direct, but he’s also attached to direct adaptations of The Stand, Revival, Lisey’s Story, The Vampire Lestat, and his original film Pretenders. Boone’s got quite the plate for a guy who has only directed one studio film (The Fault in Our Stars). While it’s possible he could push all of these films in favor of New Mutants, we’re going to go ahead suggest a replacement director: Ana Lily Amirpour whose debut, A Girl Walks Alone at Night, provided a stylish look at the horror and loneliness of adolescence.
Recently Boone said that New Mutants would include the team’s classic line-up, Magik, Wolfsbane, Mirage, Cannonball, Sunspot, and Warlock with Professor X (McAvoy not Stewart presumably) and Storm (Alandra Shipp) also appearing. Even if Boone doesn’t direct we’d love to see that cast of characters and his script stick. A couple months back, Hitfix reported that Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Ana Taylor-Joy (The Witch) were being eyed for Wolfsbane and Magik respectively, which sounds like great casting to us. For the rest of the cast we’d pick Diego Boneta as Sunspot, Austin Butler as Cannonball, Robert Sheehan as Warlock, and Devery Jacobs as Mirage.
As far as storylines go, we’d pit the New Mutants against a revitalized Hellfire Club and their members in training, the Hellions. While Hellfire Club leaders Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost were used in First Class, their titles the Black King and White King are titles that can passed along to other characters. A disguised and tab-keeping Mr. Sinister is the perfect fit for the Black King. As for the White Queen, we think it’d be worth the greater time travel headache to see Emma Frost reappear and re-cast (Rosamund Pike, please). And speaking of time, we’d like to see the New Mutants stick to the ’80s so that we get a greater sense of the how the events of the central X-Men films affect this world and steadily build to the next event.
X-Men: Phoenix and X-Men: Dark Phoenix
If Bryan Singer does in fact, choose not to return to take the X-Men on a space-faring adventure then Justin Lin would prove a fitting replacement. Not only does it look like he has the space thing down with the upcoming Star Trek Beyond but he’s also proven to be a master of ensembles with his revitalization of the Fast and Furious series. Instead of introducing a handful of new mutants, we’d like to see Lin focus on the team established at the end of Apocalypse (and if Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t want to return as Mystique then the character could easily be given a rest and stay behind on this particular mission).
As the most celebrated X-Men story we’d like to see the film stick close to the source material while still fitting into the world established by the previous films. We don’t want to see the Phoenix Saga rushed as it was in X-Men: The Last Stand so we’d like to see the storyline split across two films. Producer Simon Kinberg has said the film will take place in the ’90s, so during the time gap from the last film Jean Grey will have fully harnessed control of her Phoenix powers and believes she’s in control. But when an intergalactic empire known as the Shi’Ar arrive, Jean learns that the Phoenix isn’t part of a mutation but a cosmic force drawn to her abilities. The Shi’Ar seek to rid Jean Grey of the Phoenix while other forces both on Earth and other galaxies want to utilize her powers to reshape their respective worlds. The decision about what to do with Jean divides the X-Men and turns her into the Dark Phoenix. Eventually she sacrifices herself to save the galaxy, but not before Mr. Sinister takes her DNA and begins creating a clone of her, setting up Madelyne Pryor and the origin of Cable for later films.
X-Force has gone several iterations in the comics but given the fact that Deadpool and likely Psylocke will be part of the movie, it seems the modern iteration of the team will be used. In recent years the X-Force is described as the Black Ops division of the X-Men, formed by Cyclops to lethally handle threats to mutants. Prior to the release of Kick-Ass 2, Jeff Wadlow was hired to write and potentially direct the film. Post Kick-Ass 2 there’s been no mention of that script or Wadlow, and X-film mainstay is currently working on the script. It’s hard to imagine a version of X-Force that isn’t Rated-R so we need a director who can deliver hard action, and gritty visuals (here’s one X-film that actually would benefit from black leather costumes). Joe Carnahan, who almost rebooted Daredevil for Fox before the rights returned to Marvel, is our pick to handle to absurd levels of violence and black humor at the heart of X-Force.
As for team members, we’re going with Deadpool, Psylocke, Archangel X-23, and Fantomex, and Domino. Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Munn, and Ben Hardy would all reprise their respective roles. For the multiple-brained, French super spy and Weapon XIII, Fantomex, we’d cast Jean Dujardin. For Wolverine’s female clone, X-23 we think Chloe Grace Moretz would be a great fit. And for probability manipulator and expert markswoman Domino, our sites are set on Constance Wu.
X-Force would be set in the present day, post Deadpool, or Deadpool 2 depending on how production schedules work out. Similar to the comics the film would see the team, sanctioned by Cyclops, to track down the reincarnated, infant Apocalypse who is under the protection of Mr. Sinister, who has long been thought dead following the events of the previous X-Men film, and an army of Horsemen.
There’s plenty of places for the X-Men to go after these films but we believe these will cover all the major bases in terms of making the most out of the property for the next decade. Where would you like to see the X-Men franchise go in the future? Send us your story ideas, directorial choices, and casting suggestions to @wetalkmovies and thanks for reading!
Featured Image: 20th Century Fox