It can be easy to lose sight of this, given the sheer amount of content that makes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the ‘X-Men’ movies are the longest running series of superhero movies to have maintained a (more or less) single cohesive continuity. (Though ‘Days of Future Past‘ presented a soft reboot of sorts, it didn’t represent the sort of clean break with prior entries that characterized earlier reboots like ‘Batman Begins’.) But despite (or perhaps because of) that longevity, change is in the air. Has been for a while, really, and I’m not just talking about the all-but-inevitable return of the film rights to Marvel. Something new is coming, the only question is what form it’ll take.
When they were originally brought to the big screen by director Bryan Singer, the X-Men took the sort of self-serious, self-consciously “not too comic booky” approach that a lot of pre-‘Iron Man’ comic movies tended to take. Now, the fact that we’re still talking about these movies nearly two decades later means that it (obviously) worked, but this is still a franchise built on a stylistic approach to superhero movies that were in vogue twenty years ago. That being the case, it’s not unreasonable to change things up a bit. As far as what sort of change we can expect, long-time franchise producer and ‘Dark Phoenix’ director Simon Kinberg sees it as a tonal shift. Or maybe it would be better described as greater tonal variety. As Kinberg explained to CinePOP:
“I see it as a new chapter. I see it as taking the franchise in a different direction tonally. And that doesn’t mean that the next one will have the same tone, it just means that they next one can have a different tone. I think for many years, the X-Men, Bryan [Singer] really transformed the superhero genre in 2000 or 2001 when the first one came out. That’s almost twenty years ago. It is a long time ago. And at that time, superhero movies were not wildly popular, actually. There had been a few failures in the mid-nineties, and there hadn’t been a lot of superhero movies, if any, around that time and ‘X-Men’ sort of was revolutionary in its moment.”
“But that was twenty years ago and I think, I really felt like it’s time to really change the look, the feel, the tone, the vibe of these movies. And that doesn’t mean this is the one going forward, it just means that if it’s me or whoever directs the next one, you can make it different, and you have to make it different.”
The sort of stylistic diversification Kinberg references is reflected in what the ‘X-Men’ franchise has been doing over the last few years. Ever since the release of ‘The Wolverine’ in 2013, there has been an increasing emphasis on spinoffs, but it was the one-two punch of ‘Deadpool’ in 2016 and ‘Logan‘ the following year that really started to blow the doors open in terms of moving these installments away from being variations on the default vibe of and ‘X-Men’ movie.
It’s still too early to say what implications Disney’s purchase of Fox (and the elephant in the room that is Marvel Studios) will have on these aspirations, let alone when that might become a factor, but if Kinberg has his way, our sense of what an ‘X-Men’ movie can be will only get broader. In addition to ‘Dark Phoenix’ (which Kinberg describes as more of a drama), 2019 will also see the release of ‘New Mutants‘, director Josh Boone’s superhero-movie-as-horror-film adaptation of the classic ‘X-Men’ spinoff comic.
For more on ‘Dark Phoenix’, ‘New Mutants’, and other upcoming ‘X-Men’ projects as it becomes available, be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com!