Over the course of 20 years and thirteen movies, Fox’s X-Men franchise reigned as one of the most popular and lucrative brands in the industry, although it was often marked by inconsistency. Of course, that’s to be expected when the merry band of mutants starred in sequels, reboots, sequels to reboots, spinoffs, sequels to spinoffs and sometimes even combinations of all three.
The comic book movie boom can be traced directly back to the success of Bryan Singer’s original in the year 2000, and the X-Men’s first big screen outing will always be known as one of the most important and influential blockbusters of the 21st century.
Fast forward two decades, and the franchise suffered from an ignominious conclusion after the final two instalments left a bad taste in the mouth of long-time fans. Extensive and highly-publicized reshoots could do nothing to save Dark Phoenix, which gained the unwanted reputation of being both the lowest-grossing and worst-reviewed movie the X-Men had ever been a part of.
Meanwhile, The New Mutants spent three years trying to escape from development hell after undergoing a tortured production of its own, and eventually limped into cinemas to little fanfare in the middle of a pandemic. So far, the horror-tinged spinoff has only managed to cobble together a little over $20 million at the box office.
That marks a far cry from just a couple of years earlier when Hugh Jackman’s Logan had deservedly earned a reputation as one of the finest superhero movies ever made, right around the same time Ryan Reynolds was tearing it up as Deadpool.
Now that the rights have finally landed in the hands of Marvel Studios following Disney’s acquisition of Fox, it’s only a matter of time before the X-Men are inevitably rebooted once again and absorbed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But do we really need it?
After all, we’ve already seen multiple iterations of the same cast of characters, and with the exception of the R-rated efforts, the movies had been on a downward spiral ever since 2014’s Days of Future Past.
Fans have always dreamed about what the MCU could do with the X-Men, but perhaps it should remain in the realm of wishful thinking. The brand has become massively overexposed at this point, and the best thing to reignite interest somewhere down the line would be to give the team an extended hiatus.
Besides the in-canon explanations that would be required for establishing mutants in a mythology that’s existed for well over a decade without them, there’s also the Wolverine problem.
The only other actor that can even be mentioned in the same breath as Hugh Jackman when it comes to the single most iconic run of performances in the history of the comic book genre is Robert Downey Jr.’s tenure as Tony Stark, making the role of the MCU’s Wolverine both a huge opportunity and a potentially poisoned chalice.
Anyone brave enough to follow in such daunting footsteps would find every single thing that they did analysed and scrutinized, leaving Marvel in a difficult position. Reboot Wolverine, and everything will be compared to what Jackman brought to the role. Leave him out, and face backlash for omitting the X-Men’s most famous and recognizable character.
Franchises get rebooted all the time, but rarely do they get rebooted following a thirteen-movie series that raked in over $6 billion at the box office and won a worldwide legion of fans. Marvel will be rebooting the X-Men expressly to make a lot of money because they know it delivers wish fulfilment to the fanbase on a massive scale, as opposed to a loftier creative purpose.
The MCU is already full of teams as it is, with the Eternals set to debut next February and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 also in the earliest stages of development, while everyone knows that Endgame didn’t mark the last time the Avengers would be assembled. The Fantastic Four are a much safer bet to tackle first, because they’ve only starred in four movies so far, and they’ve all been terrible.
Instead of a full-blown X-Men movie, the wisest thing Marvel could do is debut several characters across various standalone movies and start planting the seeds for the eventual team-up. That way, we don’t have to spend another two hours with faces we’ve already seen a dozen times before, avoiding comparisons to Fox’s output and allowing the mutants to embed themselves in the mythology instead of launching headlong into a reboot and just expecting everyone to roll with it, no questions asked.
There’s already been enough X-Men reboots to last a lifetime, but as the biggest and most popular franchise in the business, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will always get the benefit of the doubt. It just seems like there’s plenty of better ideas out there than returning to a well that’s never been drier.