Near the end of Deadpool, Russian metal man Colossus interrupts the Merc with a Mouth’s final confrontation with the villainous Ajax to sue for peace, arguing “Over a lifetime there are only four or five moments that really matter, moments when you are offered the choice to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, make a friend, spare an enemy.” Deadpool, of course, interrupts Colossus’ mid-speech to shoot Ajax in the head because screw being a hero when you’re that close to getting your vengeance.
However, Colossus’ comically pompous words could very easily apply to the X-Men franchise right now. Over the past 17 years, there have been four or five moments – replacing Dougray Scott with Hugh Jackman, losing Bryan Singer and X2’s co-screenwriters to Superman Returns, casting Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence, leaking the Deadpool VFX test reel online – which changed the history of the franchise. Thanks to Logan, we are in the middle of another such hugely important pivot point.
Logan is obviously Hugh Jackman’s cinematic swan song as Wolverine. Cue tears now. But it’s also the second consecutive R-Rated X-Men-affiliated movie to be widely adored AND make a killing at the box office whereas last year’s PG-13 X-Men: Apocalypse disappointed both financially and creatively (it’s not Origins: Wolverine terrible; it’s just not Days of Future Past great). Meanwhile, in-between Apocalypse and Logan came Legion on FX, Noah Hawley’s trippy, largely original take on Charles Xavier’s schizophrenic son from the comics. Both Logan and Legion have been hailed as all-time greats (best superhero movie/best superhero TV show), suddenly placing 20th Century Fox at the vanguard of quality comic book storytelling.
What happens now? Is the future of the X-Men franchise in R-Rated movies and creatively adventurous, standalone TV shows? Or will they continue on with this dual track of mainland X-Men movies (ala Apocalypse) running concurrent to the R-Rated ones?
Logan producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker can’t really speak to the TV strategy, which in addition to Legion also includes a “ordinary parents on the run from the law with their mutant children” pilot at Fox (Amy Acker and Stephen Moyer will play the parents). However, they did sit down with SlashFilm to discuss the future of the movies.
What’s the Deal with the Next X-Men Movie?
Fox has stuck its flag in four future release dates for Marvel movies: 3/2/18, 6/29/18, 11/2/18 and 2/14/19. One of those release dates belongs to Deadpool 2. The other three are big question marks. We know Fox has New Mutants, X-Force and Gambit in development. Last we heard, New Mutants (a teen-centric, Next Generation-esque X-Men spin-off) might start filming in the Spring with Fault in Our Stars’ Josh Boone in the director’s chair. Gambit is on life support after having already lost two directors and missed its originally announced release date. X-Force (about a more militant, R-Rated offshoot of the X-Men) is being held back to be introduced in a potential Deadpool 3.
Bryan Singer, the man who started all of this and then came back to relaunch it, has mostly moved on. He’s kicking in as a producer on the Amy Acker/Stephen Moyer TV show, but he’s reportedly with directing the movies. Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult are off-contract at this point and thus free agents. Returning all (or even just one) them might not be possible not would it necessarily be advisable since their characters’ storylines are a played out by now.
Yet Fox still might do a direct-Apocalypse sequel focused on the younger versions of Jean, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Storm, etc. who were introduced in that movie. That appears to be the movie Kinberg was referencing when he said this:
What I can tell you is that we’re in early stages of prep on it, and that it’s something that Hutch and I specifically have been talking about, as the producers of it and me as the writer of it, since post-production on Apocalypse, what the story would be and how would do something bold and radical and expand the universe in the same way that Logan feels bold and radical and certainly Deadpool does as well. And that’s where we are with it.
I think a way to talk about it potentially, is to talk about X-Men: The Last Stand, and then that being a Dark Phoenix movie that we didn’t get quite right. I think of maybe a few mistakes we made in that movie — and every movie has mistakes — but the main mistake we made in that movie was taking the Dark Phoenix story, which is such a vast and profound saga, and making it the subplot of the movie as opposed to the main plot of the movie. I think if we were to make a Dark Phoenix movie in the future, it would be a Dark Phoenix movie about her struggle, and really should be the A plot and the primary of the movie.
Incidentally, Kinberg doesn’t deny the reports that he might direct this movie (which would be his directorial debut), but stresses that nothing is finalized yet.
Will They All Be R-Rated now?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: The studios still believe doing anything other than a PG-13 or PG comic book movie means leaving money on the table. And, to be fair, not every X-Men-related property really needs to be an R.
Kinberg: I think that each movie, we figure out what the story is, then we figure out the requirements of the story, and if the requirements of the story are R-rated, it’s R-rated. We don’t go into movies saying, this one’s gonna be R-rated, this one’s gonna be PG-13, we don’t make those decisions before we make the decisions of story. My instinct is that the Deadpool universe, which is Deadpool 2 and potentially X-Force, they require being R-rated, because that’s just Deadpool’s voice in the comic, and it’s Deadpool’s voice in the movie so far. I think audiences would be disappointed if they got a PG-13 Deadpool movie. So my easy bet would be Deadpool 2 is R-rated and most movies within that sort of shared but separate universe would be likewise.
What’s Next for Laura aka X-23?
Logan spoiler alert
So, Logan is dead, but his daughter Laura lives on, crossing the border into Canada with her own Muppet Babies version of the X-Men. Logan director-writer James Mangold has stated that his strategy was to make the best movie possible with a clear beginning, middle and end, and not to get sucked into merely making a movie which serves as a platform for a sequel. However, Mangold also isn’t closing the book on coming back to the X-Men universe, particularly if it is follow-up Logan with Laura’s continuing adventures in Canada (imagine, as WMIF alum Julianne recently joked to me, her frustration with the exceedingly polite people she must be surrounded by now).
Parker and Kingberg would be involved in any kind of X-23 movie, but there are no concrete plans for her future right now:
Parker: We love her. We think she does an amazing job, she’s an incredible character. Nothing specific. It’s just, she does seem like a character where there is, unlike Logan’s story, which we’ve really brought to a conclusion, Laura’s story feels like it’s just beginning. It feels like there is an opportunity for more and for rich stories to be told through her character.
When asked, though, how many movies they have X-23 actress Dafne Keen under contract for Parker declined to comment, which drew a laugh from Kinberg.
What do you think? Should Fox simply call it good and declare Apocalypse the end of the old way of doing things, and now move on to building everything around Deadpool and more mature, standalone adventures like Logan? Or can they keep juggling both? Let me know in the comments.