With Dark Phoenix now hitting theaters, here is everything we know about the X-Men's movie future. 20th Century Fox kicked off the long-running franchise based on Marvel characters in 2000 and helped shape what superhero movies would look like for the coming years (and decades). The grounded but slightly futuristic approach to the X-Men movies fit well with what audiences wanted to see at the turn of the millennia, although the franchise has changed and expanded in many ways since.
The Fox X-Men franchise began with two solid and successful entries, but then X-Men: The Last Stand gave the trilogy a less than stellar conclusion. The studio decided to continue with the franchise by giving Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, the unquestioned star of the initial wave of X-Men movies, a solo movie exploring his origins. When that didn't work, the studio quickly soft-rebooted the series by going back to the 1960s to show the beginning of the team's formation in X-Men: First Class. While they've done more Wolverine solo films, delivered two proper Deadpool films, and experimented with other ways to expand the franchise, the core of it has always been the main series.
Dark Phoenix is the fourth installment of the new series and the seventh overall but also marks the end of an era. Disney has bought 20th Century Fox, and with it the rights to the X-Men movies, meaning a lot of planned projects have been scrapped and a total reboot of the series is imminent. Here is everything we know about the future of the X-Men franchise on the big screen after Dark Phoenix, from retooling and delaying upcoming releases to a brand new future.
Dark Phoenix Is The Last Main Fox X-Men Movie
Nineteen years after the original X-Men movie hit theaters, Dark Phoenix officially closes the door on the main franchise for Fox. Dark Phoenix stars the First Class ensemble with the younger cast of Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler), and Alexandra Shipp (Storm) introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse stepping into more significant roles. It is directed by longtime franchise writer Simon Kinberg and adapts the Dark Phoenix Saga comic storyline for the second time in the entire series.
Unfortunately, the reviews for Dark Phoenix point to another disappointing adaptation and series capper. The results may be disappointing all on their own but will sting longtime fans of the franchise even more since this is the final X-Men film: Fox previously had hopes that Dark Phoenix would be the start of a brand new trilogy of films centered around the young cast, but these plans have been abandoned. Also scrapped as a result of the Disney deal are over a dozen in-development X-Men movies.
The New Mutants Releases In April 2020
While the main X-Men series from Fox is over and no more films entering production, they do still have one more mutant-related property coming: The New Mutants. The movie is a low-budget haunted house-style horror movie but with superpowers, and the first trailer (which was released over eighteen-months ago) showed that they executed this idea. However, reports then surfaced that reshoots were coming that would either add more horror or lessen it, depending on the source.
These reshoots have yet to happen thanks to the busy schedules of in-demand cast members like Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor Joy, leading to multiple delays. The Josh Boone directed film is currently slated to get a theatrical release in April 2020 with the reshoots now expected to take place later this year - unless the plans change again under Disney - and will officially mark an end of the Fox era of X-Men movies.
Marvel Studios Now Has The Rights To The X-Men
While the Fox era is over, the good news for the X-Men is that they will return to the big screen thanks to Marvel Studios. As part of Disney's acquisition of Fox, the X-Men movie rights are now under Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige's umbrella for the first time. Interestingly, even though Marvel Studios has never had access to mutants, Feige has worked with them before, serving in various roles on early X-Men movies before joining Marvel Studios. It isn't just the X-Men that he now gets to play with though, as the deal also means the Fantastic Four can be introduced into the MCU in the future.
Marvel has yet to announce what their plans are for the X-Men, but a full reboot is expected to take place. This will involve both the practical recasting key characters and figuring out how to bring them into the MCU narrative, with popular fan theories suggesting mutants are created by radiation from the snaps or emerge from the multiverse. These plans will likely not be discussed until well after The New Mutants hits theaters though, so Disney and Marvel can avoid any confusion over which upcoming X-Men films take place in the MCU.
The X-Men Won't Join The MCU Until After Phase 4
Whenever Marvel Studios does announce their plans for the X-Men, they are not expected to make a full introduction in the immediate future. Marvel Studios is currently finalizing plans for MCU Phase 4, which will begin with Black Widow and The Eternals next year. Beyond 2020, there are plans for Black Panther 2, Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and more to be released. These titles and a few other possible sequels will take up the bulk of the MCU Phase 4 schedule, which makes it extremely unlikely that the X-Men join the MCU properly until Phase 5.
The first X-Men movie in the MCU may not come in Phase 4, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Marvel won't begin introducing certain elements or characters before then. That said, Marvel may just as well decide that it is best to give the X-Men a break on the big screen after nineteen years of the Fox franchise. Following The New Mutants' arrival in early 2020, even a two-year pause on the X-Men would mean surpassing the MCU's Phase 4 slate.
But Deadpool Is Going to Continue
The main roster of X-Men may not assemble in Phase 4 of the MCU, but Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool is expected to be the lone carryover from the Fox-era of these characters. The first two Deadpool movies have primarily operated as standalone films outside of any X-Men continuity and combined have made $1.6 billion worldwide. With both Disney CEO Bob Iger and Kevin Feige stating in the past that they'll keep Reynolds around as Deadpool, the question then becomes in what state he'll continue.
Wade Wilson's R-rated comedy and violence do not mesh with the traditional MCU style, and even though Reynolds recently did a test run of a PG-13 Deadpool with Once Upon A Time In Deadpool, all signs point to him maintaining the more adult leaning. This puts Marvel Studios and Disney in the position of needing to decide whether or not he should remain part of his own universe or merge with the MCU. If he does stay outside of the MCU, then the Deadpool franchise will be given incredible freedom to do as it pleases moving forward. On the other hand, merging Deadpool with the MCU gives them the ability to crossover with other iconic heroes and have even more fun with Deadpool's fourth wall breaking tendencies, while not having to worry about splitting Marvel characters between various universes.
The X-Men movie future after Dark Phoenix's release is certainly a complicated one, with a lot of questions. There is an end in sight for what Fox did with the characters, but they also have a promising future as part of the MCU. Now we'll just be waiting to find out exactly what those plans entail.
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020