Ever since X-Men: Days of Future Pastestablished three different timelines (the Sentinel War alternate future, First Class continuity of the '70s and a rebooted near-future based on the Original Trilogy continuity), fans have been waiting to see how X-Men: Apocalypse will handle the continuing story of the First Class characters, in a potentially new revision of the OT timeline. How solo films like Deadpool, Gambitand Wolverine 3fit into that picture has been even more of a mystery.
Well today brings news that could add either some much-needed explanation to the discussion, or another layer of confusion (depending on who you are): the X-Men movies could soon be getting another reboot.
This RUMOR comes from Internet scoop man El Mayimbe, who posted the following:
Fox recasting characters like Gambit and Deadpool for big spinoff films clearly shows that the studio wants in on the shared universe franchise market.
Taking all those crumbs together with El Mayimbe's rumor, it would seem like the writing has been on the wall for a while. Anecdotal stories like how First Class and Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn wanted to re-cast Wolverine for DoFP only furthers the notion that there is indeed creative motivation to have a new crack at the X-Men movie universe.
Question is: How do fans feel about it?
Success Without Marvel?
We've already written extensively about why WE think crossovers with all Marvel superheroes (regardless of studio) are inevitable. Since that time, Sony has acquiesced and shared Spider-Man with Marvel, but X-Men and Fox have had no such deal (that we know of). In fact, Marvel has reportedly gone so far as to downplay comic books and merchandise based on Fox's X-Men and Fantastic Fourproperties, so as not to promote those films. That's spite, not cooperation.
But IF Fox does reboot the X-Men movie universe (as signs listed above indicate), then is there a point to reinventing itself as a larger shared universe, WITHOUT bridging the gap with Marvel Studios? In reality (and not to be indecisive), there is a "yes" AND "no" answer that both apply.
From a business standpoint, it's not crazy for Fox to believe that no, they don't need to partner with Marvel Studios. Unlike Spider-Man, Fox owns enough characters (between all the X-Men mutants and Fantastic Four main and supporting characters) to fill a two-movie-a-year slate for years to come - without ever running dry on material or overusing their actors/core characters. The X-Men corner of Marvel Comics was always big enough to sustain many teams (X-Men, X-Force, New Mutants, X-Factor), solo characters (Wolverine, Deadpool, Gambit, Cable) and crossover events ("Age of Apocalypse," "Onslaught," "Messiah Complex/War," "X-Tinction Agenda"); and the movies can do exactly the same thing. Each of those characters and teams could have sequels, and the event films could be two-part stories, so really there's a Marvel Cinematic Mutant Universe just waiting to be established.
However, from afan standpoint, the already established dominance of the Marvel Studios brand - plus the return of Spider-Man to Marvel's hands - makes it increasingly hard to argue for Fox holding onto its properties exclusively, separated from the larger Marvel Universe. Personally speaking, neither my 5-year-old nephew nor 30-something friend (a very casual fan) can understand why Wolverine and Captain America can't fight together (or the studios play together). In fact, the more casual the onlooker, the harder it is to rationalize the legal divisions which create absurd situations like not using code names or comic book origin stories for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in Avengers 2. For hardcore fans, they've wanted a complete MCU since day one, often calling for the X-Men rights to revert back to Marvel. With Fox holding a treasure trove of characters and franchises in their hand, that's definitely not going to happen; so another sharing situation is the most likely compromise on the table.
So for Fox, the stakes are clear: they need to put out bigger and better X-Men (and to lesser extent F4) movies - ones that can overcome any and all branding problems to reach that billion-dollar mark (or close to it). IF they can do that (big if), then they are sustainable as an independent cinematic universe, hands down. But if this new crack at an X-Men cinematic universe didn't do those big numbers, we'd be back to square one: hearing the loud cries for Marvel Studios to take charge. A jaded cynic might ask how much a company has to spend for they accept the inevitable.
Fantastic Four opens August 7th, 2015, Deadpool on February 12th, 2016, X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27th, 2016, Gambit on October 7th, 2016, Wolverine 3 (not the official title) on March 3rd, 2017, Fantastic Four 2 on June 9th, 2017, and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13th, 2018.