Following the huge critical and commercial success of Fox’s Deadpool, this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse attracted both positive and negative fan opinion and performed decently – if not spectacularly – at the box office. As such, it’s perhaps not surprising that rumors continue to swirl that Fox may cut a Sony-type deal with Marvel Studios to hand at least part control of the X-Men characters back over to the company from which they originated.
Both studios continue to deny that any such talks have taken place however, and Fox is pressing ahead with its planned comic book releases. Deadpool 2 is now in development and Logan is due in theaters in March 2017. As for the primary X-Men film series, little is known about what the future may hold post-Apocalypse – but the next installment will apparently be set in the 1990s, continuing the practice of movies taking place in successive decades that started with the ’60s-set X-Men: First Class.
THR says Fox is pressing on with that plan and has series producer/writer Simon Kinberg working on a script with the return of the First Class trilogy’s main trio – Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and James McAvoy (Professor X) – in mind. With Apocalypse, those three and costar Nicholas Hoult (Beast) reached the end of their original three-movie contracts, so some renegotiations are in order. It also sounds as though the film is being imagined as a soft reboot for the franchise, with THR reporting that longtime X-Men director, Bryan Singer, isn’t expected to be involved with this new X-installment.
Certainly, the news that Fox would like Lawrence, Fassbender and McAvoy to return to the fold doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Each of the trio is undeniably talented and are the type of A-List figures movie studios spend cold nights dreaming about. It’s also understandable that Fox would want to perform some kind of reset on the X-Men series; with diminishing returns and franchise favorite Hugh Jackman making his final bow as Wolverine in Logan, the future of X-Men is certainly at a crossroads.
However it’s hard to a imagine a scenario where Fox can keep their core actors but also successfully reset the series’ narrative. X-Men: Days of Future Past merged the old and new X-Men casts in a time-bending plot that effectively retconned the events of the critically-derided X-Men: The Last Stand. After that, performing a similar trick in order to have Lawrence, Fassbender and McAvoy pop up in a brand new timeline seems out of the question. If Fox keep their actors, they’ll have to keep the already established narrative, which means any reconfiguration will have to be performed on other areas such as tone, visual style and character design.
With that said, if the three primary stars did return for a fourth X-Men outing, fans are unlikely to be too upset. McAvoy and Fassbender have both been well received in their respective roles as best friends/arch enemies Professor X and Magneto and Lawrence has more or less revolutionized the role of Mystique. Some may argue that the blue shape-shifter has had too prominent a role since Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to stardom but this is more a critique of the writing than the actress herself and generally speaking, criticism of the past three X-Men movies has not been aimed at the actors.