It was recently announced that there would be a big shakeup with Fox’s current slate of X-Men spin-offs. Their horror inflected teen drama, New Mutants was shunted unceremoniously from April this year, to February of next. A delay of ten months, which has been announced for “scheduling reasons”, but surely does not bode well for the movie. In addition to this, we’re getting Deadpool a couple months earlier than expected, now sandwiched precariously between Avengers: Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is a bold movie which seemingly signals a great deal of confidence in The Merc with the Mouth! Unfortunately, poor Gambit has been nudged even further back into 2019 and lost yet another director. Channing Tatum is still attached but the lack of forward momentum on this project sees it lunging languidly in development hell.
There’s one more Fox-Men film arriving in 2018 as this November sees the launch of X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Fox’s second attempt at this iconic storyline after 2006’s maligned X-Men: The Last Stand. This time around we have the First Class/ Days of Future Past/ Apocalypse team clashing with Jessica Chastain’s big bad, with a 1990s setting. Expect a whole heap of Jennifer Lawrence, another Quicksilver scene, but this time set to a 90s classic, and what is probably the last hurrah for McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult and co.
Well, for those who spent the back end of last year living under a rock, Disney recently acquired Fox’s entertainment arm, in a landmark deal worth over $52billion. Disney have pretty much engulfed one of their major competitors, swallowing up film, television and streaming services, and intellectual properties including (you guessed it), Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four. Not to mention Avatar, Alien, Predator, Planet of the Apes, Ice Age, X-Files, Buffy, Simpsons and the full rights to Star Wars: A New Hope with distribution rights to both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This is a scary and unprecedented manoeuvre from the mouse house. It’s a purchase so enormous that it still must pass federal regulators and the legal entanglements of this may take up to two years to set straight.
Why is that timeframe significant?
Regarding the X-Men franchise, all the films currently in production will have been released by mid 2019, which is (coincidentally) when the Marvel Cinematic Universe concludes its 11 year and 22 movie narrative arc. Phase 3 of this behemoth franchise ends with the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4 in May next year. It is safe to assume that with many of the original players’ contracts coming to an end, alongside the current iteration of Fox’s Magneto, Beast, Professor X, Mystique etc. that Marvel Studios will be looking to fill this void with a renewed and rebooted Fantastic Four and X-Men.
Fox has spent 18 years experimenting with the X-Men to varying degrees of success. The franchise continuity alone is enough to send the audiences brains into meltdown but recent hits such as Deadpool and Logan have proved that there is loyalty for these characters if they’re handled with a degree of faithfulness and respect. These are lofty notions that have evaded Fox’s superhero franchises for nigh-on twenty years. Back in 2000, the very idea of a team of mutants wearing costumes like their comic counterparts was sniffed at. Come 2012 when Marvel Studios’ The Avengers launched, I’m sure some bright sparks at Fox were reconsidering their stance, although the poor Fantastic Four never stood a chance.
Comic franchises aside, Disney announcing a forthcoming streaming service back in November, a month before they bought a controlling share in Fox’s Hulu is reminiscent of Apple’s acquisition of Beats Music in 2014. Yet again we see a corporate juggernaut dining on another streaming platform. In a world in which digital entertainment has become more about accessibility than ownership, this is a gigantic move which has some surface level satisfaction for fans of big, blockbuster entertainment. However, there is no doubt that initially (at least) we will lose out on more intimate cinema. Honestly, I have no idea where a company like Fox Searchlight will fit into Disney’s new world order. Amazon Prime recently announced that they were focussing on blockbuster fayre at the expense of their indie hits. With Netflix currently working on their sequel(s) to Bright, it appears the future of streaming may be getting decidedly dumber.
With only three more X-Men films in the can (sorry Gambit) and no Fantastic Four sequel/ reboot to be found, there is a strong likelihood that the word down from the mountain is to hold tight and wait for Disney to issue their decree. There’s no denying FoX-Men’s place in comic book movie history. It’s a series of films best remembered for its Logan’s, Deadpool’s, First Classes and X2’s but the success of these movies has helped “normalise” superhero fandom in popular culture. Thespians, Academy Award winners, burly Aussies and Vinnie Jones helped pave the way for Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios’ MCU. While these characters are likely to receive a complete canonical spring clean in the next couple years, I’ll always have a soft spot for the bald geezer in the wheelchair, the numerous blue people and Hugh Jackman’s huge action!
Deadpool 2 launches May 18th
X-Men: Dark Phoenix opens November 2nd
New Mutants is released February 22nd 2019
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