X-Men: Apocalypse will likely be yet another successful entry in the X-Men film franchise, but as a comic book adaptation, it’s pretty much a colossal disappointment. Fortunately, Apocalypse’s failure represents an opportunity for the entire X-Men film franchise going forward. Rather than continuing on the current path of diminishing returns and bloated filmmaking, the next X-Men film could reinvigorate the series and help it get back on track. The ending of Apocalypse, which sees a new X-Men team decked out in refreshingly colorful costumes in Professor X’s Danger Room, at least hints at the possiblity that things can be set right. Here are 10 ways to save the X-Men franchise.
10. Find A Way To Move On From Wolverine
With Hugh Jackman scheduled to make his final outing as Wolverine in next year’s third solo film (currently titled The Wolverine 3), one of the primary concerns for the next full-fledged X-Men film is how the series will carry on without him. Now, I’d make the argument that we’ve already seen that the X-Men are more than capable of holding together without Jackman’s presence, as he had little more than a cameo in X-Men: First Class and that film arguably remains the best in the series.
Still, Jackman is undoubtedly the face of the franchise and it’s hard not to like his gruff, charismatic take on Wolverine, even after he’s played the role in about a million different films at this point (slight exaggeration). Wolverine is too popular a character to leave on the sidelines for too long, so you just know Fox is going to recast the part at some point, but I’d say it would be better for everyone if the franchise took an extended break from the character. Let the other mutants shine for awhile and then surprise everyone five, ten years down the road with a dramatic Wolverine debut from a new actor.
9. Let Cyclops Actually Be A Leader
Bryan Singer clearly hates Cyclops. The X-Men leader has been in all four of Singer’s X-films and despite prominent billing and an actor change, Cyclops continues to feel like an afterthought. Even in X-Men: Apocalypse, where he’s played by new actor Tye Sheridan, he’s never given a real chance to lead the team. Even at the end of the film when the new X-Men team is fully assembled, Mystique is the one in charge. Cyclops may be a bit lamer than most of the other X-Men, but as Chris Evans has proven with his turn as Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being lame doesn’t mean you can’t also be a really interesting and dynamic character. Sheridan is presumably on board for the next X-Men film and if so, he should be given the opportunity to prove he can turn Cyclops into his team’s “Cap.”
8. Stop Jumping Forward A Decade With Each Movie
When it was announced that X-Men: First Class would turn back the clocks and be set in the 1960s, it felt like a bold and exciting move for the franchise. Only two films later, X-Men: Apocalypse has shown what happens when you get too much of a good thing. Skipping ahead a decade with each subsequent film may be a good way to increase the number of era-specific pop culture references you can make, but it’s become a distracting gimmick in the X-Men series. Not only have the characters’ ages and appearances not kept pace with the jumps in time, but skipping so many years in-between films is a missed opportunity for character growth.
Catching up with Professor X every ten years is not a good way to get a handle on where he’s at in life, especially when his experiences from the last decade are barely even addressed. Unfortunately, it looks like the next film will be jumping ahead to the 90s, so we’ll have to suffer through another disorienting and unnecessary time jump. Fortunately, by that point, the X-Men writers will have run out of decades to mine for nostalgia and can hopefully stay put in a specific era for more than one film going forward.
7. Bench Magneto
Along with James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender has easily been MVP of the First Class trilogy thanks to his wounded portrayal of X-Men frenemy Magneto. Ironically, Fassbender’s strong performance has had the negative effect of making everything else around him feel less interesting and although his presence is always welcome, it’s probably time that the franchise takes a break from Magneto for a bit. Magneto is an inherently interesting and complex villain, but the X-Men franchise has used him as a crutch far too often and at this point, he might as well just join the X-Men given that he seems to reluctantly side with them quite often. It would be refreshing if the next film benches Magneto entirely in favor of giving the X-Men a new villain to face off against because as of right now, their rogues gallery basically amounts to “Magneto and other less interesting villains.”
6. Soft Reboot The Franchise
Reboots are a device used far too often, especially in the comic book movie space, to try and reinvigorate a stale franchise, and we definitely do not need a rebooted X-Men franchise considering the last three films have all felt like reboots to some degree. Still, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to try and get away from the current X-Men film universe and try something new. Fox could get away with using most of the same cast, especially the younger actors introduced in Apocalypse, as it would be totally unnecessary to recast every character at this stage. Plus, unburdening itself from the twisted continuity and style of the other films could be a good way of adding some much-needed life into this franchise. The older X-Men films are not as beloved as Fox seems to think, so there’s no need to be beholden to the characters or concepts introduced in those early entries. Just give us a fun X-Men film free from the considerable baggage attached to this franchise already.
5. Scale It Back
X-Men: Apocalypse is a bloated mess of a film and part of the reason for that is that it tries too hard to be the most “epic” X-Men film ever. All of the more relatable stories about social anxieties and acceptance that we got from the earlier films is swept aside in a cavaclade of poor CGI and bombastic set pieces. The result is a film that is definitley more action-heavy than its predecessors, but much less interesting and nuanced in its storytelling. Fortunately, it’s kind of hard to top a villain like Apocalypse in terms of power and scope and the next X-Men film shouldn’t even bother trying. Instead, the sequel should tell a more grounded and intimate story, and avoid introducing yet another world-ending threat. X-Men is at its best when it’s tackling the complex relationship between ordinary humans and mutants and the next film should try and get back to those qualities.
4. Stop Introducing Throwaway Characters
Look, there’s no getting around the fact that there are a ton of X-Men characters, but just because you have a seemingly limitless number to pull from doesn’t mean you should stuff your X-Men movie full of them. Having too many characters around has been an ongoing problem for this franchise, and I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of this franchise’s habit of introducing familiar characters and then doing absolutely nothing with them.
Just look at the way X-Men: Apocalypse handled Jubilee, a popular character from the 90s TV show who was used exclusively as a background character with next-to-no dialogue (apparently all of her scenes were cut from the theatrical release, which is another common problem with this franchise). Heck, we’ve had Colossus show up in multiple films now and yet his most prominent role was in Deadpool! I’d rather have an X-Men film that focuses on half a dozen well-written characters than one with a cast of twenty where maybe only half of that group actually gets anything to do.
3. Put The Spotlight On New Characters
Whether or not current stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence return for a fourth film, the next X-Men should mainly focus on the younger team established in Apocalypse. So much of the series up until this point has been about the strained friendship between Professor X and Magneto, and it would be a welcome change of pace if this was put on the back burner for awhile in favor of giving some other characters a chance to make an impression. The romance between Cyclops and Jean Grey was limply established in Apocalypse, so that definitely will to be addressed in the next film, but I want to see more from the other X-Men too.
I’m totally open to getting another clever Quicksilver solo scene, but let’s also try and give him a bit more forward momentum (pun intended) when it comes to his actual arc, like say, having him move out of his mom’s basement. Professor X, Magneto (if he’s still around), and Mystique would be better served if they’re used as supporting characters going forward, so that the actual X-Men team can emerge as the new faces of the franchise.
2. Show Bryan Singer The Door
Bryan Singer’s early X-Men films helped usher in the popularity of modern comic book filmmaking and for that, he deserves recognition and respect. Unfortunately, the genre as a whole has seemingly passed Singer by and his latest films, X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, feel antiquated compared to what Marvel and to a lesser extent DC have accomplished with their more recent comic book films. Apocalypse in particular proves that Singer no longer has a firm grasp on the genre and, even worse, doesn’t seem to care about it anymore. T
he franchise as a whole would be better served if Singer steps back and assumes an advisory role going forward, or even just moves on altogether, and lets someone else sit in the director’s chair. Matthew Vaughn’s brief sojourn with the franchise on First Class helped spark some life into the series, but Singer has tarnished that goodwill somewhat with his last couple of films. At this point, we’ve pretty much seen all of Singer’s vision for the X-Men and it’s about time someone else was given a chance to show us their interpretation.
1. Let Marvel Take The Reigns
Although it’s so far fallen short of Days of Future Past’s box office numbers, Apocalypse will still be successful enough for Fox to continue running the franchise for the foreseeable future. Still, it’s hard not to think that the series would be better served if Marvel Studios was at the helm, and not just because it would allow the X-Men characters to become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The X-Men are pretty much their own separate universe as it is, so as exciting as it would be to see Wolverine bicker with Spider-Man, this isn’t the main reason why the X-Men should go back to Marvel.
While they’re by no means perfect, Marvel has proven that they currently make the best, most consistent comic book films, and that kind of expertise would only help lead to better X-Men films. It’s doubtful that Marvel will be able to reach a deal with Fox,but if they do, it would arguably be the best thing that could have happened to the X-Men franchise.