According to The Calgary Herald (via ScreenCrush.com), due to the extra cost from its scheduled re-shoots in Montreal next month X-Men: Days of Future Past has now become the second most expensive movie in the 78 year history of 20th Century Fox. It trails only Avatar, which has an official production budget of $237 million but a rumored one closer to $310 million. Of course, Avatar became the highest-grossing film of all time, domestic and worldwide, with a ridiculous-sounding $2.7 billion in worldwide gross. X-Men: Days of Future Past….is not going to do that. Should we be worried here?
The Calgary Herald does not provide an exact figure for Days of Future Past‘s budget, though we can assume it’s smaller than Avatar‘s $237 million but larger than X-Men: The Last Stand‘s $210 million. They also don’t cite any kind of source to support their contention about Days of Future Past‘s standing in the history of 20th Century Fox. From the context of their article, Quebec film commissioner Hans Fraikin appears to be their source, as he is keen to point out that Days of Future Past filmed in Montreal over the summer and he’s trying to get Fox to film Independence Day 2 there as well. Days of Future Past‘s large budget would seem to indicate a considerable boost to Montreal’s economy as well as position Montreal as a major player for location shooting for Hollywood studios. However, if Fraikin is the source of the information one imagines Fox didn’t really want this new spotlight on their budget.
What do we care if the budget is monstrous? If a budget keeps going up that means a potential trouble production thus a weak final film, and if the budgets gets too high a sequel is unlikely since the profitability bar was set so high. Ohterwise, we just want a good movie. Days of Future Past has long since been rumored to have a budget around $200 million. Now, we simply think it might be a little more than that. The re-shoots sound perfectly standard. Heck, Thor: The Dark World did the same thing closer to its release than Days of Future Past is. Days of Future Past could still turn out to be a good movie. However, this highlights just how big of a financial risk Fox is taking here.
By the time Days of Future Past comes out, it will have been 8 years since we last saw the cast of the original trilogy in X-Men: The Last Stand. In that time, the franchise has seen three new films (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The First Class, The Wolverine), each of which finished with a lower domestic gross than the X-Men film that preceded it. As such, The Wolverine’s domestic gross of $132 million is the lowest in X-Men film franchise history, and the numbers only look worse after you adjust for ticket price inflation. The silver lining is that The Wolverine was made on a relatively modest $120 million budget, and played so big overseas it became the second highest worldwide grossing film in franchise history. Neither Origins nor First Class received anything close to as big of a boost from the international market, coming in as two of the lowest worldwide-grossing X-Men films to date [you can see exact figures for each X-Men film at BoxOfficeMojo.com].
Simply put, this is a franchise in domestic box office decline. The Wolverine‘s strong international performance may well prove to be a mere fluke inflated by a plot which catered more to the increasingly lucrative Asian markets.
All the evidence at hand indicates Fox should be hedging their bets and minimizing costs. Instead, they hired Bryan Singer to direct. Yes, he’s the guy who gave us X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003). He’s also the guy who notoriously allowed the budget for Superman Returns to get out of control, spending $10 million on a lengthy opening Krypton sequence that never even made it into the film since they cut it out. While the film did well for itself with a worldwide gross of $391 million, it needed at least $400 million to actually turn a profit. That’s nothing compared to Singer’s most recent film, Jack The Giant Slayer, which also had a ballooning budget combined with reports of in-fighting between Singer and the studio (Warner Bros/New Line). The result was one of the biggest box office bombs in film history, losing as much as $140 million for the studio after marketing costs are factored in. So, Fox took Singer off of Warner Bros’ hands, and rewarded him with an even bigger budget for Days of Future Past.
Beyond that, rather than simply continue on with a new series of films based upon The First Class version of the characters they are attempting an Avengers-style team-up with a time-travelling twist where First Class characters will co-exist alongside their original trilogy counterparts. Plus, as anyone who has seen the trailer knows they are also introducing almost too many entirely new mutant characters to count. This means just that much more money for the make-up and arts departments, that much more money to pay out to the increasingly in-demand stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and Hugh Jackman, that much more money for costumes, props, and set dressing for a story set in two historical periods, one futuristic and one the 1970s. Plus, all of the cost for the likely “bigger and better” action scenes. It highly increases the likelihood that they will attempt to jam so much into the film that they will ultimately please no one, lacking enough screen time to pass around.
Here is what they have going for them, though: These actors are all amazing in these roles, particularly Stewart/McAvoy as Xavier, McKellan/Fassbender as Magneto, Lawrence as Mystique, and Jackman as Wolverine. Brian Singer was able to successfully juggle plenty of mutants X2, which is arguably still the strongest film in the franchise. Our most recent exposure to the franchise, The Wolverine, was a pretty good movie that did big business overseas. And the power of nostalgia was almost overwhelming for some audiences [read: me] when Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) showed up to set up Days of Future Past at the end of The Wolverine. Plus, that trailer looks really, really good. Like crazy good. Here it is:
What do you think? Does Days of Future Past look like a train wreck to you? Don’t think the trailer is that good? Love the trailer and can’t wait to see the movie? Only know the X-Men from First Class? Let us know in the comments.
Days of Future Past currently has a scheduled 5/23/14 domestic release date, with the only other new release coming out that week being being the Drew Berrymore/Adam Sandler comedy Blended. The competition from the week prior (Godzilla, 5/16) and after (Maleficent, 5/30) are no locks to do big business.
- A Wolverine Sequel is in the Works a.k.a. They Weren’t Already Doing That (weminoredinfilm.com)
- Rage in Translation: A Review of The Wolverine (weminoredinfilm.com)
- Let’s Talk ‘Days of Future Past’ New Mutants (livingthegreeklife.wordpress.com)