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While the X-Men series has mostly been two straightforward arcs combining Professor Xavier and various popular mutants from the Marvel Comics franchise, there has always been a flavor of experimentation when it comes to individual spin-offs. It’s what gave us Hugh Jackman’s standalone Wolverine movies, which represented both the good and the bad of the X-Men franchise.
But there’s also a history of separate X-Men adventures that were proposed, but never got off the ground. And the latest one to join the museum of unused ideas is an adventure that would have focused on Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy, better known as the mutant Beast.
During a recent interview, longtime X-Men series editor and composer John Ottman revealed that his former assistant, Byron Burton, had pitched that, in two weeks, he could write a script for Beast’s solo adventure. Hard at work finalizing X-Men: Apocalypse, Ottman was curious enough to tell his assistant to go ahead and work his script out.
What John Ottman hadn’t counted on, though, was Byron Burton’s script actually intriguing him enough to want to pursue its production. Set in the same ‘80s period as X-Men: Apocalypse, this film would have pitted Hank McCoy against the science of his mutation, and another mutant with a similar affliction, who just happened to be terrorizing an Inuit village. Alas, even a polish pass by Ottman, and a connection to previously theorized big bad Mr. Sinister, couldn’t save the film from its ultimate demise.
As The Hollywood Reporter’s discussion with John Ottman laid out, Dark Phoenix writer/director Simon Kinberg would have had to approve this film for the final go-ahead, as he was the current mastermind in charge of the X-Men property. And ultimately, he respectfully declined to even read the script because of one character’s inclusion: Wolverine. Kinberg was thinking of his own version of reviving Wolverine in the X-Men universe, and a conflicting vision set to the tune of $90 million wouldn’t have helped things along at all.
It’s not the first time a promising X-Men spin-off has seen its fortunes scuppered by the misadventures of Wolverine, as Magneto was originally set to get the full "Origins" treatment around the same time X-Men Origins: Wolverine was in production. But, of course, as that film’s failure was a pretty big sting to the X-Men saga, that film was cancelled and later repurposed for part of the storyline to X-Men: First Class.
Both cases of cancelled spin-off stories could have shown some promise, as they would have taken two of the most morally and personally complex characters in the X-Men series, and turned them into dramatic leads. More importantly, the film franchise would have had further avenues of development that could have kept the series alive, even if this month’s Dark Phoenix still ended the series proper as it did in the current state of affairs.
History doesn’t work like that, though, and just as we missed out on a full movie of Magneto hunting Nazis in the name of revenge, we’ve also missed out on a film where Hank McCoy’s Beast solved a murder mystery that just happened to have him fighting alongside Wolverine in the finale. But hey, at least we’ve got Logan to fall back on whenever the need for serious X-Men action comes calling.
Perhaps there will be more room for X-Men spinoffs once the Marvel Cinematic Universe reboots Professor X and his school of gifted youngsters. At the moment though, Dark Phoenix is currently in theaters, marking the end of the mutant adventures as we know them.