It’s time to cancel the X-Men’s trip to outer space, before it’s too late
With Logan mere weeks away from what is expected to be an impressive box office début all eyes are on the X-Men. The latest news from Fox’s band of merry mutants is that long time writer/producer Simon Kinberg is in talks to direct the follow-up to 2015’s X-Men: Apocalypse (tentatively titled X-Men: Supernova).
We know very little about X-Men: Supernova though rumours suggest that it will focus on Jean Grey and The Phonenix – a cosmic entity capable of immense destruction that inhabits the body of the young mutant. We already saw a glimpse of The Phoenix and what it is capable of in X-Men: The Last Stand (but the less said about that film the better). Many fans felt disappointed by the film’s portrayal of the Phoenix so it seems like a no brainer that Kinberg and co. would want to take another stab at it.
Another rumour suggests that X-Men: Supernova will live up to it’s name and take the X-Men where no mutant has ever gone before. That’s right – outer space! The X-Men are no strangers to space travel, having visited other planets more often than I visit my local corner shop, but this would be the first time we’ve seen their space faring escapades depicted on the big screen. This would make sense, if the rumour’s are too be believed and we are going to get a film focused on Jean Grey/The Phoenix, as The Phoenix first manifested itself to the X-Men during re-entry to Earth’s orbit after one of their first forays into outer space.
It seems Kinberg is gearing up for a more comic book accurate depiction of The Phoenix than we saw in X-Men: The Last Stand. One that involves outer space and the destructive power of The Phoenix, an entity that has the potential to destroy entire galaxies if not properly controlled.
Now I’m starting to get worried. It’s not that I don’t like comic book accurate depictions of my favourite characters, I love them. What I’m worried about is the prevailing trend in superhero films towards escalating stakes and end of the world scenarios. Every superhero film has them. X-Men: Apocalypse had them, more so than any X-Men film before it, so the obvious question is: After you’ve threatened the safety of the entire human race where do you go from here? Why the safety of the entire galaxy, of course!
This is a big problem. I’m worried that in a desperate attempt to outdo Apocalypse Kinberg is going to up the stakes yet again and in the process would have learned nothing from the mistakes of his predecessor.
I’ll start off by saying that I am not the biggest fan of the X-Men film franchise. I have always preferred the comics and animated series to the movies. With that said I enjoyed First Class and Days of Future Past whereas Apocalypse was easily the weakest of the franchise by a country mile (since X-Men: Origins at least). The thing I liked about First Class and Days of Future Past over Apocalypse was that they involved much smaller stakes.
Sure, First Class had the Cuban Missle Crisis and Days of Future Past was literally about preventing a dystopian future ruled by giant robots, but the focus of the story was on the characters and their personal conflicts. First Class was about the relationship between Professor X and Magneto whereas Days of Future Past was about Mystique’s relationship to both men. Apocalypse seemed to forgo all character development in favour of blockbuster spectacle.
At a time when there are already two studios with a near monopoly on big blockbuster superhero films (Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.) it seems like a bad idea to try compete with an inferior product. Fox should instead take a cue from their most recent success story: Deadpool. Deadpool was produced on a fraction of the budget of Apocalypse yet it outperformed it at the box office. Fans and critics have attributed various reasons to Deadpool‘s success: It’s R-rating, the fact that it sticks close to the source material or simply the fact that it provides something different to the sea of carbon copy origin stories being produced by other studios.
One thing that I think attributed to Deadpool‘s success was it’s story. While yes, technically Deadpool is an origin story, it shies away from the big end of the world scenarios that seems to plague other superhero films. Deadpool is, when you get down to the meat and bones of it, a story about a horribly disfigured cancer survivor trying to save the woman he loves.
Fox seems to already be learning lessons from Deadpool. Besides it’s R-rating Logan has also seemed to borrow it’s more grounded plot from Deadpool. This isn’t Wolverine trying to save the world. This is Wolverine trying to save himself, and the people he loves, from danger, both external and internal. Logan is already gearing up to be one of the most critically acclaimed X-Men films to date so Simon Kinberg would be wise to take this into consideration when crafting X-Men: Supernova.
It’s simple economics. If you’re producing a product but the market is already dominated by two very large competitors rather than trying to compete on their terms the easiest thing to do is to specialise. Find a niche and fill it. Fox could quite easily fill the niche for grounded, character driven superhero films and leave Marvel and DC to continue to turn out large blockbuster spectacles. If the box office for Deadpool is anything to go by they won’t be any worse off for it either.
Instead of taking off into the stars the X-Men should remained grounded, at least for the time being. There is no need for escalating stakes when the proof is in the pudding that well crafted character driven stories are just as capable of putting bums on seats as the next superhero spectacle. The X-Men have had their fare share of small scale stories worth sharing. As a metaphor for almost every persecuted group on the planet a story about prejudice and discrimination would be a timely and much needed break from the norm. The X-Men have the ability to deliver the sort of stories that other superheroes can’t, Kinberg and Fox need to take advantage of that fact.
It was Tony Stark who said “Whatever happens on Earth… that up there, that’s… that’s the endgame.” Let the Avengers deal with saving the universe, let the X-Men deal with saving themselves.