Fox has been hard at work for the last couple of years, working on ways to turn their X-MEN and FANTASTIC FOUR film rights into a full blown cinematic universe. The results have been very mixed. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST was an energizing hit for the then 14-year-old franchise, then FANTASTIC FOUR was a total disaster, then DEADPOOL was a surprise worldwide smash, and now the early buzz on X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is middling at best. Still, it's clear that they still have a lot of plans for their corner of the Marvel universe. There's DEADPOOL 2, X-MEN: THE NEW MUTANTS, THE WOLVERINE III, GAMBIT, and a 90s-set X-MEN movie on the way.
But what else does Fox have up its sleeves? According to the godfather of their X-MEN franchise, Bryan Singer, the oft-rumored X-FORCE movie is in the early scripting stage.
The film, which would likely be R-rated in much the same way as DEADPOOL and THE WOLVERINE III are, was getting kicked around a few years ago before the studio ultimately got cold feet. Now that DEADPOOL was a bonafide smash, the film about a team that character would be on (X-FORCE) is back on the table in a big way.
"Simon [Kinberg] is in the earliest script stage, so that’s kind of where that stands, and we’ll see how it evolves," Singer told Fandango. When asked if an X-FORCE movie would introduce us to the new actor playing Wolverine after Hugh Jackman retires from the role after his next solo movie, or if they'd bring in X-23- the female Wolverine from the comics- Singer dropped a nugget you may not have expected. "I actually initially pitched the X-Force and the female," said Singer.
So it seems Singer is definitely very much involved with the future of the X-MEN CINEMATIC UNIVERSE, despite not being attached to direct another one at the moment. The director told Fandango that his full focus is next going to go into directing a project he's been dying to do for years: 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. He did say, though, that he "absolutely" sees the studio heading towards its own, epic AVENGERS-style crossover event that would find every character from every film mentioned above (possibly even including the Fantastic Four) coming together to take on a massive threat.
"But it has to be done right," Singer cautions. "Anytime you throw all these characters together to hit a start date, it can make a lot of money, but it can also be a clusterf**k. To me, it has to be done with a lot of care. These things can get overwhelming, and if a character doesn’t belong in a movie, don’t use him. If the tone can still maintain itself, I’m all for it. What I’m not for is throwing a bunch of characters together and hoping it works."
This outlook should come as no surprise since Singer has always been somewhat conservative when it comes to including additional characters. He's fought off many studio notes from Fox during the almost two decades he's been involved with the X-MEN franchise that have asked for more mutants to be crammed into the stories. When he stepped away from X-MEN: THE LAST STAND and Fox rushed forward with Brett Ratner and threw in dozens of new mutants resulting in the first black eye for the franchise, the studio hopefully learned a lesson.
While Singer is probably looking forward to stepping away again for a bit to work on 20,000 LEAGUES, he says he remains committed to the XCU. "If I am the guy to produce or direct it, my input will grow. To where I'm either finding a director -- like Matthew Vaughn, who did a magnificent job directing X-Men: First Class -- or I'll be on set myself, back in the same universe just trying to make a difference," he concluded.
Personally, while I've loved (or really liked) the X-MEN films that he's been creatively part of (X-MEN, X2, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, and X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST), I've found myself wondering if it's time for Singer to move on. There comes a time as an artist when you start running out of things to say about a certain topic, and I just think Singer might have hit a wall. If the early word on X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is any indication, he may just want/need to take a step back and take more an advisory role for future X-films. His fingerprints were all over FIRST CLASS, but he didn't direct it, and the results were a reinvigorated franchise. I think that should probably be the model going forward.
As I said in this week's LOS FANBOYS Podcast, when Singer first brought the X-MEN to the big screen back in 2000 it was a different landscape. Audiences needed to be eased back into comic book movies, and it was okay to tweak the DNA of the books, keep certain key elements, and really loosely "adapt" them. But in the 16 years since, audiences have become more primed and okay with films that are far closer to the original comic book medium, so bringing in writers and directors that are more fully equipped to embrace that would be a wise move for Fox and their XCU.
Just my two cents.
What do you think? And are you excited about an X-FORCE movie? Or the possible inclusion of X-23? Sound off!