This year marked the 20th anniversary of the first X-Men movie hitting theater,s and the franchise’s era with Fox is expected to conclude this year with the long-awaited release of The New Mutants. Disney has its claws on the property now and we expect great things from the X-Men once the studio decides to reintroduce the expansive comic book title into the MCU. But before we can move forward with anticipation over the reboot Marvel chief Kevin Feige hinted at last year, it makes sense to air out some grievances from the past installments.
First, in defense of Fox’s X-Men franchise, we must remember that those movies had the burden of being among the first comic book film series to kick off today’s current craze for all things Marvel. 2000’s X-Men played a huge role in the studio's early success. It's fair to say the MCU would not exist without it. With that in mind, kudos to Fox for sticking with it for twenty years despite a number of issues the series faced along the way. And disclaimer: I really enjoyed the X-Men series. But there’s power in realizing we deserve better now. It's time to get into what the MCU’s X-Men can learn from the Fox franchise:
Comic Book Accuracy Is Important
When the first X-Men movie was being developed, mainstream audiences were not used to seeing superheroes on the regular. And after the flop of Batman & Robin, which really leaned into the bright colors and cheese of comic books, Marvel must have been looking for a more 'grounded in reality' take on the mutants. For example, as producer Ralph Winter recently reflected, leather suits were chosen over yellow and blue spandex in order to reach an audience aside from the comic book enthusiasts.
In order to keep the vision going throughout, this more “gritty” take on the X-Men not only defined the series, but allowed the filmmakers to implement a ton of character designs much different from the characters from the pages of the comics. Going forward, we’d like to see the MCU lean into some of the classic looks for the characters and generally use them more for their storyline development. We’re not too worried here, as that’s what the MCU does best. It's all an improvement over Bryan Singer’s apparent ban of comic books from the set of the first film.
Skip Introducing Cool Characters Without Any Payoff
There’s an obscene number of X-Men characters from the comic books, and the Fox franchise struggled with focusing on everyone’s favorite characters. For the most part, just a handful of characters had the spotlight and the rest were given supporting roles, some likened to that of an extra. Another problem with the X-Men franchise is how much it would hype up the introduction of these awesome characters we love, such as Olivia Munn’s Psylocke, and then only give the character a few minutes of screen time.
The actress also did some major sword training and was super prepared knowing all the mutant backstory in the comics, but found herself “surprised” to find out the filmmakers didn’t know half as much as she did about the source material. That’s frustrating, and looking forward, it's a good bet that X-Men will be in much better hands in the MCU in terms of character development. Marvel rarely introduces a character solely for marketing purposes. I can’t wait to see more mutants get their due in the future franchise.
Keeping Up With Continuity Matters To Fans
One big issue many fans have increasingly taken with the X-Men movies as it unfolded into the later years was how it handled its continuity… poorly. The franchise began in the present day, but as the prequels came into play, starting with the ‘60s and ending in the early ‘90s, things just stopped making sense anymore. We just couldn’t take things seriously anymore. Sure, James McAvoy’s hair changed things up with each new decade, but otherwise they all looked the same!
And don’t even get me started on the whole X-Men: The Last Stand rewrite in Days of Future’s Past. Sure, the 2014 movie is a major high for the series, but it caused some major continuity confusion going forward. As the prequels continued, it tackled a decade per movie, and all this felt like a decades costume contest rather than developing its story in a relevant way. One thing the MCU has done beautifully is keeping a careful eye on its timeline, so how about we keep it that way when X-Men jump in. Cool, thanks.
‘Period Piece’ The X-Men Sparingly
Coming off that previous point, the X-Men series went too hard on the “period piece” aspect of the franchise toward the back half, leading the franchise into some pretty ridiculous places. Don’t get me wrong, the series also did some really cool things with it too. Connecting mutant conflicts with the Cuban Missile Crisis in First Class was genius. The X-Men comic book series also has deep ties to history itself, since it was originally written as an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s.
The Fox X-Men movies did some clever things with connecting political and social commentary with the time it was associated with, and I’m not opposed to future movies still doing that if they finda a fresh way to tackle that. But coming off the Fox franchise, fans must be feeling the period piece whiplash too. It might be best to stick to the present day.
There's No Need To Pass Those Wolverine Claws Just Yet
The last note about X-Men and the MCU is all about Wolverine. Hugh Jackman’s performance as Logan is the most iconic and celebrated aspect of the series that will leave the most lasting legacy. He was the access point into the franchise back in 2000 and continued to be a through line as it continued into its later years.
Although there’s already whispers of who could be the next Wolverine (and maybe they'll be a more comic accurate version?), I recommend the MCU not touch Wolverine, at least for a while. There are lot of other awesome mutants who have yet to have a proper introduction or arc on the big screen. In order for the MCU to start fresh with the X-Men, don’t lead with Logan. Hugh Jackman is unmatched and it will take a little longer before audiences can accept anyone else in the role.
What do you think? Are you excited for the MCU to make X-Men movies in the future? Vote in our poll below and check out the current Marvel slate here.