When ‘X-Men’ entered our lives at the start of the century, no one could’ve predicted the impact it would have and the path it would pave for the superhero genre. While the MCU is the undisputed king of the genre and the DCEU is dividing fans, the X-Men franchise seems to have slowly been fading out. Now, I think I need to make it clear, I’m speaking of the “main” series. The spin offs such as ‘Logan’ and ‘Deadpool’ have giving the franchise some much needed life, but with ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ coming and going without much love and a lot of people not too excited about ‘…Dark Phoenix’, is it now time we say goodbye to the main series in an effort to allow more diverse films to carry the franchise?
By the final act, ‘…Apocalypse’ became just another film with city wide destruction and moments that set up future instalments.
When ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ came out, it seemed like the perfect way to get everybody back on board with the series. It retconned ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ out of existence and allowed the old cast to have an ending while allowing the new cast to continue. So far, so good. The problem is, with all that faith restored, it only took one moment of mediocrity to do away with it all. ‘…Apocalypse’ isn’t a bad film, it’s just very average. In a world where we get superhero films galore now, mediocre just doesn’t cut it anymore. By the final act, ‘…Apocalypse’ became just another film with city wide destruction and moments that set up future instalments. Earlier that year, ‘Deadpool’ became a monster hit and one of the key reasons for this is because it was something different. Non-comic book fans were especially becoming sick of the same three story act that seemingly came with every superhero movie, so this was a welcome change. Fast forward to 2017 and ‘Logan’ became not only one of the best superhero films ever, but also one of the best films of the year full stop. Near the end of the year, we received more information on the two newest ‘X-Men’ films that would be coming out. ‘The New Mutants’, with it’s amazing young cast, was sold as a genuine horror and that excited fans everywhere. ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ on the other hand, didn’t bring anywhere near as much excitement.
If you look at the MCU, there’s a clear reason it has become the behemoth it is today. The last five films in the franchise have all been insanely different, unique and gotten away from the “superhero formula”. Now look at last year’s ‘Justice League’. That was arguably the most formulaic superhero film in recent memory and, while not a bad film, really didn’t warrant a second viewing or any buzz from fans. The ‘X-Men’ series is at something of a crossroads. It’s having both the success and failures of its rivals. The problem is, the failure side of it is bringing in the bigger names like Fassbender and Lawrence and they won’t want to lose that kind of star power. But looking at the main roster now, it seems as if they’re gearing up to replace these heroes with younger, newer ones and, after seeing their introduction movie, can you actually say a film with just them excites you? If we look at ‘Logan’, ‘Deadpool 2’ and ‘The New Mutants’, these three spin off films consist of a horror, a meta comedy and a drama that riffs on a western. This is the kind of originality that keeps a franchise fresh and alive, and having a generic superhero film shoved in because it’s the “main” one puts a strain on it all.
Allowing the franchise to branch out into more individual standalone adventures is a brilliant way to reinvent the franchise, whilst making the same old heroes young isn’t.
Of course, there’s one recent development that may affect this all anyway; Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox. The deal looks set to go through around the time ‘…Dark Phoenix’ comes out which could cause huge issues going forward. Let’s assume that Kevin Fegie wishes to incorporate the mutants into the MCU in a few years time, his best bet would be to end the ‘X-Men’ franchise where it is now. If this does happen, ‘…Dark Phoenix’ deserves to have a satisfactory ending and not end abruptly like ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ did. If the current world was ended, in a few years time when the characters were recast for the MCU, it would feel less jarring and more people would be open to the idea, especially if the last batch had a definitive ending. While people embraced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, there are still those of us who wonder how Andrew Garfield’s interpretation of the character would’ve evolved over time. It’s a question we’ll never have answers to, and it’s a bit of bummer.
The ‘X-Men’ series is at something of a crossroads. It’s having both the success and failures of its rivals.
However, if Disney decide they do want to let the franchise continue on its own path, maybe they should consider allowing the riskier ventures to take the spotlight. It would differentiate it from other superhero universes, making it stand out and not constantly be compared to its rivals. It’s also evident these films gain more attention from fans. When the recent delay was announced, more people were concerned for ‘The New Mutants’ and what it may mean for the film compared to ‘…Dark Phoenix’. Allowing the franchise to branch out into more individual standalone adventures is a brilliant way to reinvent the franchise, whilst making the same old heroes young isn’t. If they wanted to be even more bold, perhaps making them all 15 (or rated R across the Atlantic) would be another great idea to help stand out. ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’ proved there is an audience for more adult orientated superhero films and they both showed they could still return a huge profit, both significantly higher than ‘… Apocalypse’ ($783.1 and $619 million compared to $543.9). Studios care about box office returns and on this basis alone, the interest for the ‘X-Men’ series has shifted. Perhaps younger audience members are now so enthralled by the MCU, it’s mainly the mid 20 year olds who grew up with ‘X-Men’ that are most interested, so it could be seen as growing up with its core audience.
There are countless ways the ‘X-Men’ franchise could go now, and in all honesty there probably already a plan in place. Before fans everywhere get too hyped up on the prospect of mutants joining the MCU, ask yourself if we really need them when Marvel literally have thousands of characters at their disposal? Why can’t the mutants carry on delivering films as unique as ‘Deadpool’ and as critically acclaimed as ‘Logan’ (the first superhero film to receive an Oscar nomination)? Yes, seeing Cyclops and co team up with the Avengers would be beyond awesome, but allowing them to continue on their own, much more unique path would be the best thing for the superhero genre.