Over the last fourteen years Fox has released seven X-Men films, with varying degrees of commercial and critical success. Currently Fox is attempting to re-establish the brand that has generated billions of dollars in revenue for the studio.
In 2000, Bryan Singer took a much beloved comic book franchise and adapted it to the screen, generating critical and commercial success and arguably launching the Superhero Genre into what it is today. Despite it’s faults X-Men captured the imaginations of people all over the globe. It catapulted virtual unknown Hugh Jackman into global superstar category, and it launched the comic book franchise.
2003’s X2 would cement the X-franchise as a bankable commodity and further cement the Superhero Genre as one that wasn’t to be disregarded. Many still consider X2 to be one of the greatest superhero films every produced. The film is lean, taught, and features a wide cast of merry mutants. X2 would prove to be an enduring piece of American iconography. X2’s most brilliant attribute is how respectful it is of the source material that it is adatping. The film is an impressive display of cinematic prowess, from returning director Bryan Singer, and genuine emotion for the star studded cast.
2006 would mark the release of the film that would almost kill the franchise. X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Due to Bryan Singer’s departure from the franchise, Fox was forced to rush the third installment of the franchise into theaters. What resulted was a terrible film that nearly permanently stalled the franchise. Most of the blame for this movie is laid at director Brett Ratner’s feet. However, the time constraints placed upon him by the studio were so extreme that it’s a miracle the film even has a coherent narrative at all. X3 would effectively kill any forward movement the franchise would attempt to make for the next seven years.
Due to the roadblocks, character deaths, and god awful decisions made in X3, Fox decided to produce a slate of prequels that would detail the origin stories of the various mutants that were heavily featured in the franchise. Initially there were two X-Men Origin movies planned. A Magneto and a Wolverine film. Only the Wolverine movie was produced. X-Men Origins: Magneto was trapped in development hell and then eventually abandoned.
X-men Origins: Wolverine is a cartoonishly bad film that suffers from many of the problems that X3 had. A lack of depth, character deaths, and poorly executed narrative devices are among a few of them. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was critically panned but still managed to rake in a hefty haul at the box office. Whenever discussing the X-franchise it’s always a neck and neck race as to which film is worse, X3 or Wolverine.
In 2011 Fox would attempt to create a soft reboot of their merry mutant franchise in order to re-invigorate and revitalize it. This prequel, X-Men: First Class, would chronicle the origins of the X-Men during the 60’s. Matthew Vaughn, who had been in the running to direct X3, was selected to co-write and direct the film. It proved to be a worthwhile endevor. The film is a spectacular entry into the X-franchise. It did prove to be fiscally successful but more importantly it opened doors for the franchise. It would allow Fox to tell stories about the X Team in the 1960’s. A massive accomplishment because the film is still in continuity with the old Singer lead franchise.
Since the release of X-men: First Class two more X-film have been put into production. The Wolverine, another Wolverine solo film, will be released later this year and X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singers return to the franchise, will be released next year.
Currently there are talks that an X-Force film is being put into development with Kick Ass 2’s director Jeff Wadlow currently assigned writing duties. It’s easy to assume that he’ll be a shoe-in to direct the feature as well.
Supposedly there’s also another mystery X-men film being developed. It would seem logical that Matthew Vaughn would be involved in some way for that film.
Going forward Fox needs to not rush the production of these films. They’re in a good spot right now, theoretically they could have three separate film franchises on their hands. One dealing with the X-Men in the 1960’s, one in the current day, and and X-force franchise.
There’s also the possibility of branching out to further X-Teams. It would be exceedingly interesting if Fox launched a franchise around the predominately Brittish eXcallibur team of mutants. Or if they produced more period films in the vein of First Class. I’d love to see an X-Men film set in the 80’s.