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Fox has made their move in the great superhero movie arms race: last week they announced 2017 release dates not only for a third Wolverine and a second (also fourth!) Fantastic Four, but a 2018 berth for a "mystery" Marvel movie. Unlike Marvel Studios, who own a plethora of original characters and thus a bevy of potential franchises, Fox only owns X-Men and Fantastic Four properties.
Of course, within those properties are dozens of potential spinoffs. Sony is really pushing it by turning the Spider-Man villains into potential tentpole stars. But the X-Men series holds infinite mutant possibilities for a number of strong characters. And while The Fantastic Four are just re-starting their mythos, the core group have several satellite affiliations that could make the transition from the page to the silver screen. The question remains: who will we see in 2018? Here are six strong possibilities.
X-ForceWhat Is It? The X-Force were a paramilitary group of mutants who did the dirty work black ops missions required to keep the peace between mutants and humans. The roster has fluctuated wildly over the years, with some current and former X-Men among the group. Their frequent leader has been the time-traveling mutant Cable, who in some timelines is the militant son of Cyclops.
Why This Might Be It? Earlier last year, Kick-Ass 2 director Jeff Wadlow was hired to pen this action spinoff of the X-series, and since then there’s been speculation about the group’s roster. While we know nothing about the project, comments made by Wadlow suggest that this would take place in a contemporary setting, which means it would be happening at roughly the same time, or a little after, the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.
Why This Might Not? The implication also seemed to be that Wadlow would direct the film: after Kick-Ass 2 was trashed by audiences and critics, that seems in doubt. The question is, how closely would the events of X-Force be related to The Last Stand? Would X-Force be an offshoot of the currently leader-less Xavier’s School For Gifted Mutants? If not, how do you keep people from wondering what’s going on over there while this splinter group undergoes missions?
X-Men/Fantastic FourWhat Is It? The F4 and the X-Men have crossed paths several times in the comics, usually coming to blows briefly before settling their differences. One of those storylines could be revisited, though it’s likely a new one would be invented this time around.
Why This Might Be It? These are two of Fox’s biggest properties, and crossovers are all the rage now. So why not? At this point, the Fantastic Four would have been featured in two films, and very familiar to audiences. They could even interact with the First Class gang: Mr. Fantastic and company have experimented with time travel plenty of times.
Why This Might Not? The public was lukewarm on the two Fantastic Four movies already released. What makes them think the public wants three movies within a span of four years? The new Fantastic Four reboot is already a risk of sorts, and while Fox is showing confidence in the property with a plum summer 2015 release date, reboots often underperform when compared to predecessors. And which X-Men would they be meeting anyway? The Last Stand left the group in tatters, and you’d have to reintroduce the modern day mutants more than ten years after that film. Nevermind the fact that, amongst crossover characters, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men never shared too much DNA: their film counterparts are probably even more different.
DeadpoolWhat Is It? The Merc With A Mouth is a beloved cult character in the Marvel mythos, a constantly-regenerating mutant with obscure delusions and an eye for killing. Tim Miller was long ago hired to direct a script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland), but the project’s extravagant cost, the proposed R-rating, and the diminishing star of the attached Ryan Reynolds (who briefly played the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) slowly killed any enthusiasm for the project.
Why This Might Be It? Well, they’ve got a script, a director and a star, right? Deadpool remains hugely popular to a small contingent of fans, and the character would translate well to film if captured properly (i.e. not like he was shown in X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Using his character could be a gateway into an eventual X-Force film, since he was frequently a member of that team in the comics.
Why This Might Not? The time has come and gone for a Deadpool movie. Reynolds remains box office poison, especially in the world of comic book movies: he helped kill the Blade franchise with Blade: Trinity and he torpedoed the DC universe with Green Lantern. That’s not even mentioning R.I.P.D. which was also based on a comic, and also probably lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Fox wants that sweet synergy between characters, but Deadpool himself is a character that merits a vulgar R-rated film, negating crossover potential with the mass-appeal X-films. This is a no-win situation for Fox, so expect them to select the option that saves them more cash and lets them forget anyone ever mentioned a Deadpool movie.
Doctor DoomWhat Is It? Born to a family of gypsies, inventor Victor Von Doom ended up building a massive fortune, surrendering to megalomania as the world’s most ambitious, and insane, scientist. It appears as if former colleague Reed Richards and his superhero team are his greatest nemeses, but in fact it may be the very laws of nature itself.
Why This Might Be It? Loki is one of the most popular characters in the Marvel movies canon and Sony is moving forward with Venom and The Sinister Six films. Both studios clearly understand the value and iconography of the company’s most beloved villains. But other than the aborted X-Men Origins: Magneto, which was refashioned into X-Men: First Class, Fox has sat on their Marvel baddies. And in Doctor Doom, they have maybe the richest: the earlier Fantastic Four films squandered the legendary adversary, who originally inspired a legion of pop culture madmen like Darth Vader and has a rich comic history spanning over fifty years. Given that we haven’t heard that Doom is even in this new Fantastic Four, perhaps they’re saving the reveal of the Four’s greatest antagonist for a second or third film a la The Dark Knight (with the Joker) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (with the Green Goblin). He’s a fighter and a genius, a lover and a dictator. He’s beyond just one movie.
Why This Might Not? Well, frankly, we haven’t heard a peep about this from anyone else, so we’re pulling this out of thin air. Again, it’s the issue of three Fantastic Four films in four years, an irrational exuberance built out of confidence in Josh Trank’s ability to build an exciting and profitable mythology.
New MutantsWhat Is It? In the wake of Charles Xavier’s death and/or departure from Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, a new class has risen, learning powerful skills underneath a bold new administration in the aftermath of great tragedy and numerous losses.
Why This Might Be It? Before First Class materialized at Fox, they commissioned Josh Schwartz (The O.C.) to write a film that would follow the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. The idea was shelved, but series producer Lauren Schuler-Donner has been angling to get a contemporary X-film going for years now, and it’s certainly possible that could be revisited in the near future. It’s no secret that Fox wants to team the Fantastic Four and the X-Men in their own movie, but given the likelihood that next year’s The Fantastic Four will take place in modern day, you’ll need mutants for them to meet. And that could mean Storm, Iceman, Colossus and a whole batch of other mutants still alive after The Last Stand, as well as some of the names we have yet to see. Maybe Jubilee, Quentin Quire and Siryn, to name a few, can take center stage. Given that the X-films have overdosed on Magneto, there’s certainly no shortage of leftover X-villains to face.
Why This Might Not? We haven’t heard any rumors about this idea either. It makes sense that a contemporary X-Men movie is on the table at Fox, but with the overall continuity so screwy and confused, it would be highly unusual to follow up the 80’s set X-Men: Apocalypse with a direct sequel to the then-twelve year old (geez) The Last Stand. This shift in the mythology also potentially loses Fox the services of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as Magneto and Professor X, unless Fox wants to have three concurrent X-franchises, one set in the 80’s and/or nineties and two (including Wolverine) set in modern day. Even for comic fans who grew up raised on a steady diet of time travel, paradoxes, and constant character resurrections, it seems like a bit of a headache.
The Silver SurferWhat Is It? Norrin Radd, noble citizen of Zenn-La, sacrifices himself to the mighty Galactus to save his home, transforming into his herald, the invincible Silver Surfer.
Why This Might Be It? Before the release of Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, plans were afoot to expand the character into his own film, with a script written by J. Michael Stracynzki. However, a solo Surfer movie has been in development as early as the nineties, when Constantin Films drafted several versions of the story of Galactus’ herald as he ventured to Earth and learned to love the new planet. Names like Hype Williams and Johnny Depp circled the project, which ultimately never came to fruition. And the hot rumor awhile back was that Marvel sought to extend Fox’s rights to Daredevil as long as they could receive the Surfer and Galactus in return. While it’s not clear if those rumors were true, Daredevil is now at Marvel, and Fox has retained both interstellar properties.
Why This Might Not? There’s a reason none of the proposed Silver Surfer movies ever materialized: the Surfer himself is a dry, abstract character. Witness the 90’s animated series, which wedded Jack Kirby’s original comic visuals to astral storytelling light years beyond the comprehension of the core demographic, and paced far too glacially for adults. Clearly there’s a problem there. The character could exist independent of the Fantastic Four, but there’s a question as to how many space-faring friends and enemies that Fox currently owns that could be viable supporting characters in a film. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the character pop up again, but it will probably be as a supporting character.