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What Next for the X-Men Movie Franchise?

The ninth movie in the X-Men series has just been released and sadly the reviews have been lukewarm. X-Men: Apocalypse has gained a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and our own Stanyo Zhelev only gave the movie a 3.0 out of 10. The X-Men is still one of the more popular and best received movie franchises around – the best movies are praised for their characterization, plotting, action and most importantly their themes and social commentary. Even the worst movie in the series X-Men Origins: Wolverine has something of merit, i.e. Liev Schreiber performance as Sabretooth and the title sequence. So as a fan of the series let us look at what the future might hold for the X-Men.

The best place to start is to see what X-Men: Apocalypse left us with – and there is going to be a big SPOILER WARNING ahead. X-Men: Apocalypse did leave us with two big plot threats: the first being Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey embracing her powers and becoming The Phoenix – being vital in defeating Apocalypse. An attempt of theme in X-Men: Apocalypse is that absolute power corrupts – which led to Apocalypse being a megalomaniac and that Jean Grey goes down a dark route as The Phoenix. The Dark Phoenix was approached in X-Men: The Last Stand with Jean Grey surviving the events of X2: X-Men United and goes mad with power – she killed her lover, her mentor and countless soldiers and mutants before Wolverine stopped her. This portrayal of The Dark Phoenix Saga was criticized by fans and Bryan Singer planned for the third X-Men before leaving to take the Superman Returns gig. X-Men: Days of Future Past acted as a big reset button for the franchise as a whole erasing the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Now that The Phoenix has been set up in the rebooted series she could be corrupted and go on a power trip in future movies. X-Men writer Simon Kinberg has stated he would like to revisit the Dark Phoenix Saga.
mister sinister
The other major setup in “Apocalypse” was the post credit scene where some shady men in suits come into Alkali Lake to clean up the carnage Wolverine left behind; placing blood samples into a briefcase saying ‘Essex Corp.’ Fans of the comics and cartoons will recognize this as a reference to Nathaniel Essex, or better known as Mister Sinister.  Mister Sinister is a mutant scientist from Victorian London who performs genetic experiments on mutants. This can lead to a number of avenues for future X-Men movies – from performing experiments to making super soldiers for the military or himself – working with Magneto in a quest to achieve their goal of mutant supremacy or Magneto going against Mister Sinister because of his willingness to torture and alter Mutants for his own gain. Some fans are already theorizing that Mister Sinister will create X-23, a female clone of Wolverine. Bryan Singer has said X-23 could be a way to continue Wolverine storyline without Hugh Jackman.

As well as what is directly shown in X-Men: Apocalypse, there are two more other possible plot treads. The first is the possibility of aliens existing in the in X-Men universe. X-Men: Apocalypse started with a prologue in ancient Egypt during a ceremony where Apocalypse is about to transfer bodies. Within the pyramid – where the ceremony took place – they seem to advance technology to achieve this. In the comics Apocalypse did find alien technology in the desert and he fused it with his own body – hence why he has those silver cables attached to his body. Singer has stated he would like to make space-set X-Men and to anyone who watched the 90s cartoon series knows “The Phoenix Saga” was one of the biggest storylines in the stories where the X-Men and the Sh’iar have to team up to save the universe. But it will annoy fans and undermine the series if the filmmakers make out the origins of mutants is alien.

The other possible storyline that could come in a sequel is the creation of Onslaught. Onslaught is a being that is a combination of the darkest parts of Charles Xavier’s and Magneto psyches and is one of the most dangerous threats the X-Men can face. He is even more difficult to face because X-Men would have to hold back to prevent hurting their mentor. In the movie Xavier forms a psychic link after Apocalypse tried to transfer his consciousness into Xavier. In a sequel, Apocalypse’s presence could still be in Xavier and leads to creation of Onslaught. Or this could be a backdoor way for Apocalypse’s return to the series.
onslaught - x-men
The franchise does have four movies in the middle of production. The first is Wolverine 3 which is believed to be an adaptation of the “Old Man Logan” storyline and will be Hugh Jackman’s last X-Men movie. It will also be the first Wolverine movie to be rated R and it is set to be released in early March next year. Deadpool’s solo-movie got very positive reviews and it is the highest grossing X-Men movie so far. A sequel is now in production with the character of Cable promised to appear. Channing Tatum is attached to star in a Gambit spin-off, with Doug Liman in talks to direct. The final X-Men movie in production is “The New Mutants” with The Fault in Our Stars Josh Boone set to write and direct. It is believed to follow on from X-Men: Apocalypse and it is rumored to have Alexandra Shipp reprising her role as Storm and Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams possibly playing Wolfsbane – a mutant who has the ability to turn into a humanoid wolf. Finally there have been attempts to make an X-Force: Kick-Ass 2‘s Jeff Wadlow was hired to write a screenplay and both Ryan Reynolds and Simon Kinberg have talked about the idea. It has been speculated that it would feature X-23

Although audiences loved X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past at some point the X-Men movies are going to have to set themselves in either the present or near-future. One of the strengths of the X-Men as franchises is its themes of prejudice and discrimination – and the comics have been able to change with the times. The comics were a metaphor for the Civil Rights Movement, with Charles Xavier representing the Martin Luther King of the Mutants and Humans argument, while Magneto took the Malcolm X stance. The comics were able to incorporate themes about LGBT rights and the Red Scare. Bryan Singer and Ian McKellen used their experiences as gay men when making the X-Men movies. When Bobby Drake reveals his powers to his parents, Singer said it was meant to be a coming out scene with Bobby’s mother reacting by saying ‘have you tried… not being a mutant?’ McKellen coached Shawn Ashmore for this moment, using his own coming out experience. The Legacy Virus storyline in the comics was written as a commentary on the AIDS epidemic.
x-men friends of humanity
There are still plenty of modern events that filmmakers could use as influences on future films. Race is still a prominent issue in America, from the riots in Ferguson, Missouri to the Black Lives Matter Campaign. Islamophobia is also a prominent issue in Western countries; right wing groups are becoming popular in Europe, riding a wave of anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim sentiment. In Austria a far-right candidate made it to the final round for the Presidential Election and right-wing protest groups have been marching in Germany because of the influx of refugees. In America the Republican presidential candidate that has publically stated he would ban Muslims from entering the nation, called Mexicans murderers and rapists and demands Mexico pay for a wall along the border. In America the word Muslim is pretty much used as a byword for terrorist: just look at how organizations like the Tea Party campaigned against Barack Obama. We could also look at Russia bringing in homophobic laws. The X-Men could still offer a lot of social commentary and bring the series back to its roots. There are many storylines still available to filmmakers, from using Grayson Creed and his hate group Friends of Humanity, Senator Robert Kelly running for the Presidency or Mutants forming their own nation of Genosha – acting as a parallel to the foundation of Israel.

If the X-Men does return to the modern era there is one issue that needs to be addressed: one day Magneto is going to be too old to be a Holocaust survivor. He has seen humanity at its worst – seeing people being killed just because of their race and demanded to never let that happen again. A writer would need to be inventive to update the Magneto while keeping his spirit intact.
rogue in the savage lands
If the series wants to become more outlandish, then the filmmakers have the option to use the Savage Lands, a hidden valley in the Antarctica that is stuck in a prehistoric period. Just imagine the X-Men battling dinosaurs. There is also the possibility to use Mojo, an alien from another dimension that forces beings from other worlds to fight in televised gladiatorial contests. However Mojo is a parody of television executives and he would be more fitting for a Deadpool movie.

Finally there are fans who are calling Fox to return the rights to the X-Men franchise to Marvel . This clip from X-Men: First Class sums up how Fox reacts to that suggestion. However let’s humor this idea – if Mutants are introduced into the MCU the number would have to be small – no more than a few hundred thousand worldwide otherwise there would be a huge plothole if millions of people with superpowers suddenly appeared. The introduction of mutants into the MCU would also raise the question of why are mutants discriminated against while characters in like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor hero-worshipped. The X-Men are best in their own separate universe.

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