FEATURE: Main ‘X-Men’ Films Risk Getting Stale and How To Fix This

May 30, 2016

While Fox will try to spin that X-Men: Apocalypse has been a success, the numbers and reviews say otherwise, as the film’s opening box office weekend was an estimated $65 million. A huge drop from Days of Future Past‘s $90 million haul last time. Yes, it might be closer to $80+ million after the four day weekend, but that’s still a big enough drop from the last installment.

It’s not a great trend, as decreased box office problem happened to Sony with their Spider-Man films, which led to the deal with Marvel Studios. Fox was plagued with an actual box office disaster via Fantastic Four and could have led to it’s sequel being completely pulled from their release lineup. Apocalypse won’t be a bomb, but neither was Amazing Spider-Man 2, it just doesn’t look like it will be making the same money as Days of Future Past. Even that film didn’t make a bundle compared to the other massive comic book event films, X-Men films have yet to cross that mark.

The sluggish box office numbers seems to suggest that there is something less attractive about a main X-Men film compared to something like Civil War or even Deadpool, others will suggest a busy release schedule, but I’m not entirely buying that excuse.

I think the creative edge has been lost. While in Apocalypse we get some interesting sequences, a film can’t rely on those alone it needs weight, stakes and real character development. Spectacle is great and all, but we’ve sort of moved past this over the years and we except a bit more these days.

Mutant and cameos along with setting-up future films hindered this film, just like it did with Batman v Superman and Iron Man 2. They need to just jump into action and give these kids a mission right off the bat next time.

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Threats always seem to be same, villain wants to kill all mutants or all humans. It’s tiresome that these are the only two plots that writers can give us, when they could actually come up with something original and strong, without having to beholden to the source material. I’d love to see them come-up with new threats and even villains, they don’t always have to be these figures from the comics.

Spider-Man sort of suffered from this repetitiveness in plot, and if Fox isn’t careful the main X-Men films could keep decreasing in box office with each installment.

They’re running out of comic book villains and they’ll have to eventually address this after they use-up Phoenix, Phalanx/Brood, Sinister, and Mojo. Obscure ones are fine and all, but creating new villains seems like such an easy way to write them to fit the story and conflict a bit better. There’s only so many times they can make Magneto the semi-villain again, we’re already tired of it.

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A shake-up concerning the writing team might be a good call, as Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg were responsible for breaking the story for Apocalypse. The announcement for the sequel also came days after the opening numbers came back for Days of Future Past, they didn’t let things settle a bit before jumping into the next one, so the plot and drive felted rushed to meet a set release date.

One thing Marvel gets right is that their scripts for the most part are on the money, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus are essentially now their studio writers for the big event films. It wouldn’t hurt for Fox to maybe get some notes or have Deadpool‘s Paul Wernick/Rhett Reese take a pass at the next script, to beef-up the action and maybe the character stuff as well. Or at the very least, have solid screenwriters take their creative spin with new angles.

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I’m actually glad Bryan is taking a break from X-Men and making 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea next, maybe it’ll give him time to figure things out a bit more, or have Fox decide if he should come back at all. He’s teased taking a step-back in more of a producing role in the future and letting someone new take the reins (Josh Boone?).

The next installment is already somewhat predicable, as we sort of know where the Phoenix Saga would be going. That’s already kind of an uphill battle for the writers, as how do they make it compelling to see a character we barely got to know in the last film become another overpowered villain.

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One of the more oddball moves with the timelines has been attempting to turn villains like Magneto and Mystique into these heroic figures, which has more to do with the actors themselves gaining their own popularity outside of the franchise. Fox understands they needed to keep these actors in large roles within the films as they have a following of sorts, but they couldn’t have them play outright villains, instead putting them in the grey-zone for a couple installments. They need to commit to one side or the other, having them switch back and fourth looks to be laziness of the part of the writers, define your characters and stick to it.

It’s still insane that that even though Fox has the rights to a majority of the female Marvel superheroes they haven’t put a solo film into development. Although, there had been chatter of a Mystique spin-off, but it’s unlikely Jennifer Lawrence would stick around, but they did it I’d like to see it having little to zero connection with the other X-Men.

A spin-off could easily focus on her time in the Marauders with Gambit and Sinister, the Gambit film is expected to be more of origin story with his time as a professional thief. It was interesting to see her interacting with the Morlocks in Apocalypse, when in the comics she’s apart of their genocide. I won’t hold my breath, but they if Raven is going take a mentor role they better stick to it and actually have her training the kids.

The main problem with Mystique is that it’s assumed she has done all these amazing solo missions, but we’ve never seen exciting ones on screen just borderline interesting jailbreaks, so it’s hard to be convinced of her stoic presence. This could be solved with a spin-off, but I won’t hold my breath Jennifer is coming back.

They once attempted a Kitty Pryde movie, but quickly abandoned it. I think a Storm film could be great, but without that connection to Black Panther it feels like it would be limited a bit, I’d also rather see Marvel Studios tackle something like that.

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Quicksilver is easily the standout here, and why they’re limiting both his status and scenes is bizarre to me, he’s know become the most interesting X-Men character they have in those main films, it’s too bad we won’t see him interacting with Deadpool.

He’s a prime candidate to land his own solo in my opinion, if Gambit get’s one Peter most certainly is deserving as well, so maybe that’ll eventually happen down the road, but he needs to be more of primary player. Give Quicksilver more to do in the sequel, fans dig this guy and his sequences are always worth the price of admission, it would be nice if it was more than just one though.

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I think they have a solid number of mutants in the ranks at the moment, and it did feel like the Horseman started overstuffing the screen with too many mutant characters, but that might change with the next installment if Jean is indeed the big-bad. It remains to be seen if aliens like the Shi’ar Empire and New Mutants will be apart of the film, which could contribute to the cluttering of the film.

Introductions do take a lot of time out of the film, and I’d like to see only one or two new mutants in the next main film.

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I’d honestly love to see Rogue introduced sooner rather than later, considering how badly they need adult women in this franchise rebooting Rogue as the powerful adult character we’ve known for ages might be a way to get people interested in another film beyond the fan-pandering with rebooting Phoenix.

They already gave us new versions of Angel, Pyslocke, Jean, Cyclops and Nightcrawler they might as well do the same for Rogue. Even Jubilee was retrofitted for the film, who was established as student in the first two films as being in the 80’s as well, so they could do the same for Rogue.

Rogue could great in Mystique’s mentor role, if Jennifer Lawrence does decide on exiting.

I think Rebecca Ferguson would make an excellent Rogue, mainly, because she was linked for Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers has connections to Rogue) and had been in the mix to play villainess Bella Donna in Gambit before passing on the role.

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Luckily, we have things like Wolverine 3, Deadpool 2, X-Force and Gambit on the horizon to break-up the familiarity with different/weird adventures, which we’d hope could be less focused on spectacle and rather on making worthwhile fun adventure films. That said, I’m less concerned when it comes to those projects it’s the main ones that have become paint-by-numbers. Even more so, if they indeed give us Laura Kinney aka X-23 as a replacement for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

New Mutants has the chance to be the next X-Men: First Class, seeing Josh Boone pump new blood into the franchise just like Matthew Vaughn did. Luckily, Singer has done a decent job with most of this new cast, which doesn’t mean they have to go the reboot route just yet with these period films. I do expect that New Mutants will be the buffer installment between Apocalypse and the Phoenix Saga. 

I do believe that it would be smart on Fox’s part to keep Deadpool as a back-up timeline to where they could reboot the franchise in a couple of films, since they haven’t really established other X-Men in his films, aside from Colossus. I think it would be a good idea to maybe reboot the X-Men characters after the Phoenix Saga, then start to place them within the new present day Deadpool world. This could be how they lead to a crossover with the MCU.

Do you think the main X-Men films are getting tired and need some new direction?

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