If you've been following the developments of the X-Men movie universe - and its most recent installment, X-Men: Days of Future Past - then you are probably already aware of the pivotal point the franchise now finds itself in. Days of Future Past has earned more money worldwide than any other X-Men movie, with some high praise from critics and fans, as well. We already know that the followup film, X-Men: Apocalypse is coming in 2016 - but who will direct the film, is quickly becoming a big question.
By now, both fanboys and casual onlookers alike are all too aware of the controversy hovering over the X-Men franchise: X-Men movie architect - and DoFp director - Bryan Singer has been plagued by allegations of sexual abuse, ever since Days of Future Past was about to hit theaters. Given that the controversy is only heating up, it remains unclear what move 20th Century Fox will make in regards to the director's chair of X-Men: Apocalypse, which Singer was all set to occupy.
Radar Online dropped the rumor that Fox and Singer are currently squaring off behind the scenes over what should be done about Apocalypse. The site alleges to have an "insider" who reports that the studio is worried that the scandal will impact production, while Singer's lawyers are maintaining both his innocence and the hard line of contract, as a deal for X-Men: Apocalypse was already signed between Singer and Fox. According to Radar:
“They don’t really care whether he’s innocent or guilty — they’re only concerned with the bottom line, which is giving him another $250 to $350 million to make Apocalypse. There have been talks about who else he’d let direct it, with him producing, but those led to heated arguments and walk outs,” the source revealed.
The report goes on to describe a situation in which the studio is basically walking on eggshells; if they give Singer the job and the case goes to trial, they run the risk of serious bad publicity - not to mention, production delays on a blockbuster movie that could reportedly cost anywhere between $200 - 300 million. If they don't go with Singer as the director, they will owe him a huge contractual payout, while having no guarantee that Singer (who first made this franchise a success and has by all accounts now revitalized it) will stick around to help them construct another successful installment.
It's truly a Catch 22 for both the studio and the fanbase. On the one hand, Bryan Singer achieved new levels of personal success and fan acclaim with his work on Days of Future Past, and fans want that good time train to continue on the right track, pulling us further away from the abysmal days of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. On the other hand, nobody wants the next X-Men movie to be marred (or worse: interrupted) by controversy - especially one as volatile and disturbing as this. In the end, it seems like a curse: for every right step forward the X-Men movie franchise takes, it seems to come at the price of having to eventually take two steps back.
Just look at the history: director Matthew Vaughn was set for X-Men 3, but handed off the job to Brett Ratner at the eleventh hour. Singer was set to return to direct X-Men: First Class, but had to hand the job off to Vaughn at the last minute, leaving Vaughn scrambling to get the film out the door in a ridiculously short turnaround time. With Days of Future Past, Vaughn was originally set to direct but then handed the reigns back to Singer; it's hard to miss the disturbing pattern with this franchise, as nothing ever seems to come together easily. (Heck, even the two Wolverine spinoffs went through massive directorial upsets - and we won't even talk about the long-stalled Deadpool film.)
In actuality, then, this is just par for the Fox/X-Men movie course. The controversy surrounding Singer is undeniably going to cause a problem, as some people inevitably form judgements based solely on accusations. In that sense, one can sympathize with the studio's desire to venture down an alternate route they've tested before - i.e., bringing in another director with Singer guiding things as a producer (like he did for Vaughn on First Class). However, Singer's first two X-Men films - and now DoFP - stand as testaments to the notion that the franchise is only at its best when firmly placed in his directorial control. That's not to say that another director couldn't come in create an even superior brand of X-Men movie - it just hasn't happened yet, and it's very uncertain what would happen if Singer walked away entirely. (Mattew Vaughn may be available after Kingsman: The Secret Service, but I, for one, vote for new blood... say, the Wachowskis?)
Used to be a time that most fanboys would, at this point, start chanting about how Marvel Studios could save the X-Men from all this drama; but with the Edgar Wright/Ant-Man situation adding yet another scorned director to Marvel's tab, it seems that comic book movie universes - in general - have become extremly rocky ships to try and keep steady. What should be a simple path (following one great X-Men movie with another) is now a winding road whose end we cannot yet see. Hopefully when all the controversy is said and done, it won't be the X-Men movie franchise that ultimately suffers as a result. Stay tuned.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is now in theaters. X-Men Apocalypse is slated for release on May 27th, 2016.