Along with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, the X-Men franchise is long credited with the recent revival of the superhero genre. Bryan Singer’s first foray into the mythos with 2000’s X-Men combined a light-hearted feel with complicated themes that showcased many mutants and their abilities, making for a fun, yet adult, superhero movie.
With the current saturation of the market, Fox and their X-Men franchise is being largely overshadowed by the powerhouse Marvel Cinematic Universe. Domestically and abroad, almost every Marvel Studios film has bested Fox, with the recent exceptions being Deadpool and Days of Future Past. Likewise, Warner Bros. is ramping up their DC Extended Universe, which looks to emulate Marvel’s, albeit with a darker tone. If Fox hopes to hold on to their properties (instead of “sharing” characters with Marvel, like Sony is doing with Spider-Man) they are going to have to match the Marvel model of film-making, and do it Quicksilver-fast.
The X-Men movies could make several steps to build their world and match the level of story-telling at which Marvel is currently operating. The following are some ideas that might improve the X-Men universe. This is not to imply that the movies are free of enjoyment, but improvements could be made that would get the franchise into shape for the current era of superhero movies.
10. Pull Focus From Wolverine
Hugh Jackman is undoubtedly talented and, despite audiences’ initial hesitation, he made a helluva Wolverine. The character is fun, has a unique backstory, and he was a great introduction to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and the teachers that work there. Yet with the upcoming third solo Wolverine movie, featuring Jackman’s last performance as Logan, it seems even he is ready to turn over the claws and give another mutant the limelight.
The audience is already familiar with the cast of characters; they no longer need the outsider character of Logan to get us acquainted to the gang. Wolverine’s backstory has been done to death, featured in both X-2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine. On that same note, both of Wolverine’s solo outings were critical disappointments (the first moreso than the second), so it makes sense from a business standpoint for Fox to make another character the face of the X-Men.
9. Replace Bryan Singer
When you look at Marvel Studios list of directors, you see a unique list ranging from the Shakespearean (Branagh) to horrific (Gunn) to the funny (Russo brothers). Fox, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to want to let Bryan Singer go. He has directed 4 of the 6 X-Men films, which, for comparison, is as many Harry Potter films David Yates directed. Though he is clearly passionate about the material, he doesn’t really bring a modern style to the films.
Singer still seems to be making the same kind of superhero movie in Days of Future Past that he was making in Superman Returns and X-Men. If Fox can find some directorial fresh-blood they might be able to craft a movie that really does justice to the unique characters of the X-Men.
8. Find a Kevin Feige
An evident part of Marvel’s success comes from having a distinct leader who pushes through the brand of the movies despite having unique directors and writers. Kevin Feige is the face, voice, and heart of Marvel Studios and although there have been hiccups (such as Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man) he has changed the game. Feige is the reason children know who Groot is, and Iron Man is as popular as Batman.
Fox owes it to themselves to find a passionate and knowledgeable person to plan out the universe of the X-Men for years to come. This includes spinoffs, solo-outings, and event films. Perhaps a Fox executive or another former studio head would make a stronger leader. Feige was actually an associate producer on 2000’s X-Men, so it’s too bad they didn’t snag him when they had the chance.
7. Offer More Variety in X-Men Movies
Every X-Men film has end-of-the-world stakes. Their latest film is about a mutant called Apocalypse. The film before that took place after the world was destroyed. In The Last Stand, almost every mutant character dies or loses their powers. The fate of their race/the planet is always at stake.
The X-Men of the comics and animated shows travel around in a jet and go on adventures. Taking a page out of their own book isn’t a bad idea. The overcrowding of the X-Men movies makes it so there is hardly time to get to know individual characters. Even a Brotherhood of Mutants or Hellfire Club movie a la Suicide Squad could put the ball in Fox’s court.
6. Expand to TV and other Mediums
Marvel Studios has 2 Netflix TV shows (with 2 more on the way), 2 ABC series and several more in the works. DC has 2 CW shows, 2 Fox shows, a former NBC show, and CBS show. Where are all the X-Men TV shows?
Given that Fox is a massive company with their own channel, it seems odd they haven’t expanded their market. DC and Marvel have practically cornered the market, but it isn’t too late for an X-Factor TV show or a Netflix series about Jubilee, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Magma.
Any combination of these ideas could work on television, and they could also steer the series away from feeling like it belongs to Bryan Singer. It looks like a few X-Men series are on their way, however, so maybe they’ve gotten the hint.
5. Emphasize the Female Characters
DC and Marvel have yet to have a standalone female-led movie, though Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are on the way. While Mystique has played a large supporting role in some of the movies, played by the phenomenal Jennifer Lawrence, she still plays second fiddle to Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto. Shifting the story focus towards Kitty Pryde, Storm, Jean, Psylocke, Rogue, Emma Frost or Mystique would be a spectacular move on Fox’s part.
The female mutants are some of the best characters in the Marvel universe, period: strong, capable, and complicated. Fox has done a great job with casting so far (see Sophie Turner and Jennifer Lawrence). Perhaps Maika Monroe (It Follows, The Guest) as Rogue and Jane Levy (Suburgatory, Evil Dead) as Kitty Pryde will make worthy X-Men as well in the newest movie.
4. Stronger Villains
In most of the recent superhero films, the villains have been sorely lacking. Even actors like Michael Shannon, Corey Stoll, Christopher Eccleston, Lee Pace, and Peter Dinklage have failed to make their respective roles memorable. The last great superhero villain was Loki in 2012’s The Avengers. Tom Hiddleston delivered a charismatic, gleeful, and incredibly quotable performance.
Fox should capitalize on the lack of strong villains by searching through the X-Men’s large rogues’ gallery. The X-Men comics have a slew of fun villains that have yet to be depicted in the movies, including The Shadow King, Deathbird, Cassandra Nova, and Mister Sinister. Oscar Isaac is a talented actor, but based on the trailer his performance as Apocalypse looks more like Thanos than anything original or interesting. However, only time will tell.
3. Take it Cosmic
Marvel continued to change the game when in 2013 they released a movie starring a raccoon, a tree, and the chubby guy from Parks and Recreation. That movie was, of course, Guardians of the Galaxy and it was a massive hit, critically and financially. Their huge risk paid off; Comic-Con is now filled with just as many Star Lords as it is Spider-Men.
The Guardians aren’t the only superheroes to go to space, however. The X-Men have long been explorers of alternate universes and the far reaches of our galaxy. It is by no means a guaranteed success, but Fox should consider a cosmically themed X-Men film. Perhaps a movie involving Cassandra Nova on the Astral Plane, or on Magneto’s base, Asteroid M; they could easily take their audience out of this world.
2. Back to School
This suggestion runs contrary to the last, but staying in school might teach Fox a thing or two. There are a lot of interesting dynamics between the teachers and students, combined with the fact that the School for Gifted Youngsters is practically always under attack.
The kids are always trying to sneak off on missions, officially join the X-Men, find someone to be sidekick to, or just throw a crazy party without their mind-reading headmaster finding out. The teachers listen to Professor X, but they all have their own agenda. Plus, most of them aren’t really qualified to be teachers. There is a lot of room for some coming-of-age comedy, with some tight action-packed sequences on a smaller scale.
1. Actually Kill Your Darlings
We saved the most important advice for last. The Marvel Studio films hate to kill characters. They killed off Phil Coulson only to bring him back for an entire TV show. If Fox is the first studio to make character deaths count and feel earned, it would be a huge deal.
The death of a major character like Mystique, Xavier, or Wolverine would raise the stakes without there needing to be some apocalyptic countdown timer. The characters would have something meaningful to fight for and the audience would actually see that superheroes can stay dead.
Granted, they can always come back via another reboot of the timeline (like Jean Grey in Apocalypse), but they can still feel earned, if done right.
Can you think of any other way to improve the franchise? Let us know in the comments!