Despite Tim Story’s two Fantastic Four movies of the 2000s both featuring space-travel and/or aliens, Twentieth Century Fox has oddly neglected to take its X-Men franchise to the stars. Looking back now from 2016 it seems a lost opportunity for the long-running and successful superhero franchise, especially given the number of cosmic characters from Marvel Comics that Fox owns the rights to.
Many classic X-Men comic book stories and iconic characters hail from space – including and perhaps most infamously, the Phoenix – but the live-action movies haven’t dug into that lore. Not yet anyway, but’s likely going to change. Marvel Studios successfully expanded their shared universe into other worlds with the Thor movies and Guardians of the Galaxy, and Warner Bros./DC Entertainment are doing the same – with Man of Steel having kicked off a DC movie universe with an alien introduction that will ultimately lead to the Green Lantern Corps.
The still-running X-Men series though, having beaten both of those other studios to the shared universe front by many years, is behind the ball but we have a feeling director and producer Bryan Singer may help change that. Back when he was working on X-Men: Days of Future Past and teasing that its followup would be X-Men: Apocalypse, Singer said that he and the creative teams working on Fox’s Marvel properties see more value than ever in the properties they own – and will start to take advantage of that vast library of stories and characters available to them.
X-Men: Days of Future Past introduced time-travel into the X-Men movies lore, thus allowing the studio to (essentially) infinitely reboot the series while keeping it all within canon. And when our own Andrew Dyce visited the set of X-Men: Apocalypse in July, Bryan Singer said this next one introduces the “origins of the mutant state, or the origin of gods and religion.” But it may also help the X-Men take their first step into the “cosmic” – a word used by writer/producer Simon Kinberg last summer, several months after Singer shared this very alien looking concept art:
Singer dropped a major hint while we were on the Apocalypse set that, like in the X-Men comics, the powers of the film’s titular villain, En Sabah Nur a.k.a. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) may be linked to other-worldly sources – something that may explain the above imagery. Here’s how Singer described Apocalypse‘s depiction of the original mutant while we were on set:
“The way I describe him the most, the best is he to me is the God of the Old Testament and all that comes with that. If there isn’t the order and the worship then I’ll open up the Earth and swallow you whole, and that was the God of the Old Testament. I started from there and when Oscar and I met we began discussing, since he isn’t really God, he’s the first mutant perhaps, but he’s not god necessarily, he’s imbued with certain unique powers. Some of them may or may not be from this Earth, we don’t know.”
Not from this Earth? In the comics, in Apocalypse’s early days he discovered and acquired an alien starship from the species known as the Celestials. Its technology enhanced his many powers, effectively making him immortal.
Later in the interview, Singer discussed how the time-travel plot device in Days of Future Past allowed the X-Men franchise to reboot within its own continuity – taking a cue from the Marvel Comics source material, where time is just another commonly altered variable. It also shows that they can now take the X-Men anywhere, as Singer explained when talking about how he and his collaborators first decided on playing with time:
“Days of Future Past began with sushi. Me and Jason Taylor, who runs my company [Bad Hat Harry Productions], and Kinberg have sushi at this great place in LA, if you ever go it’s incredible. We sat there and he said ‘How do we get all these casts combined? and I said to Simon ‘Time Travel,’ and he’s like ‘What?’ and I said ‘Yeah, it’s in the comic book, you can do it! Time Travel! You guys go do it, but it’s time travel! I’ll produce,’ because I was already tied as a producer anyway so it didn’t matter.
So they went and started doing a draft, once it came back to me because Matthew [Vaughn] couldn’t do it, it evolved quite a bit. But yeah, it began with that conversation where I just threw out it’s a tenant, and you’re right, aliens are a tenant. I could take X-Men to space, which brings me right back to Guardians of the f*cking Galaxy. I could find myself on a giant space station. With the M’Kraan Crystal and the whole f*cking thing with mutants. By the way that sounds like something I’m going to circle back to in about six years.
The M’Kraan Crystal is a deep comic book reference and refers to not only one of the most powerful cosmic artifacts in all of Marvel Comics and the M’Kraan alien species, but also the Shi’ar empire who invaded them. It’s the Shi’ar empire who are inextricably linked to The Phoenix Saga again – an epic that can be re-told now that X-Men: Apocalypse is re-introducing Jean Grey (now played by Sophie Turner). So, will Singer do that?
“The full Phoenix story, I have no idea. I would have to re-explore that. If it’s already been explored, to re-explore and retell it. Plus the Phoenix story in the comic book has the Shi’ar Empire and the moon.”
…. And Celestials and space…
“With that you never know, but as far as the idea of that brewing within her, without giving anything away say absolutely that interests me and you may find a piece of that in this film.”
If space is on the table just like time-travel is, the group of journalists jokingly suggested why not Mojo too, another intensely weird X-Men character and universe? Singer answered, “Mojo… How about Sugar Man?” before addressing the topic of how he feels about other directors stepping in to handle spinoffs and future core X-Men team movies. As long as someone doesn’t “bury it into the fucking ground,” he continues, then he’s game for the idea.
Having a partial break from the series with X-Men: First Class – a film Singer was initially attached to direct – helped him immensely Singer explains, and he could see that happening again so he can eventually tell a cosmic X-Men tale:
“I could see myself coming back around and finding myself in space with a bunch of mutants on a mission, in that environment. Perhaps not the same tonal quality of James Gunn, but doing something outside of what I’ve done before that somebody else helped me lay the groundwork for. So I might be returning to X-Men but it might be a whole different thing, and that could be appealing.”
Anything and everything seems to be on the table for the future of the X-Men which explains how Fox was quick to commission a script for X-Force, attached a director in Josh Boone to New Mutants, and to greenlight Deadpool and Gambit movies, alongside Wolverine 3 and future X-Films. If the Phoenix will return – and that’s a must given the new Jean Grey – don’t be surprised if we get the original cosmic version of that storyline next time.
And since we’re going to see the Summers brothers, Cyclops and Havok, on the big screen together for the first time in X-Men: Apocalypse, bring on the Starjammers! Share your thoughts on what should come next in the X-Men series in the comments!
Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshiped as a god. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) with the help of Professor X (James McAvoy) must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.
Deadpool opens in theaters February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.