What’s Going on with the Fox X-Men Universe?

Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants have been delayed. The Disney deal is looming. Should we be worried about Fox’s X-Men universe?

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Gone are the days when Fox would make one X-Men movie every couple of years. Currently, there are three Fox-produced, Marvel-inspired films in production at the same time: the foul-mouthed and edgy Deadpool 2, the intriguing Young Adult horror flick The New Mutants, and the next mainline movie in the central franchise, X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

The card-flinging Channing Tatum movie, Gambit, also seems to have come close to starting production on numerous occasions. And that’s not to mention all of the “in-development” movies that have been announced publically, but without firm production schedules or release dates nailed down.

There’s a lot of information to process from Fox’s X-Men camp, and lots of news stories and rumors have been flying around. We’ve trawled through it all to bring you up to speed…

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Deadpool 2

Status: Fine!

The only real whiff of trouble from the Deadpool 2 production was when Tim Miller, the director of Deadpool, was announced not to be returning.

At the time, a report from The Wrap claimed that Miller departed Team Deadpool because he wanted a more stylised sequel featuring lots of visual effects work (Miller’s owns a VFX company), whereas Ryan Reynolds wanted to double down on the raunchy comedy instead of upping the spectacle.

Miller later came out and shot down that rumor, telling Collider: “I didn’t want to make some stylized movie that was 3 times the budget. If you read the internet — who cares, really? But for those of you who do, I wanted to make the same kind of movie that we made before because I think that’s the right movie to make for the character. So don’t believe what you read on the internet.”

The exact reasons for Miller’s departure remain unclear, then. But Fox seem to have landed on their feet without him: John Wick co-director David Leitch stepped in, cast Josh Brolin as Cable, and put together a movie that is apparently earning “near perfect” reviews at early test screenings. Also, the movie will introduce plentiful new characters – including the X-Force team – that could well spin out into their own adventures.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Status: Delays and Reshoots

In a recent piece of news, X-Men: Dark Phoenix was pushed back from its November 2018 release date to a new one in February 2019. The internet went into overdrive, with reports popping up all over the shop attempting to explain the delay.

THR said that the film came in under budget, but the need for reshoots spawned from a third act that needs some tweaking. Writer/director Simon Kinberg, who is making his directorial debut here after penning numerous X-movies, is said to be writing new material. THR reports that the reshoots should cost under $10 million, which won’t be a massive cause for concern for a studio the size of Fox.

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ComicBook reported that Sophie Turner’s Game Of Thrones season 8 shooting schedule has made it tough to nail down dates for these reshoots, which could explain why the length of the delay. Turner is apparently locked in with GoT until September. They also suggest that the decision to rewrite and reshoot material was made after some test screenings.

Collider didn’t point the finger quite so squarely at Turner, saying that “getting all the necessary cast members assembled for reshoots is no easy task.” It’s worth remembering that James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jessica Chastain are all in this movie – it’s doubtful that any of them have an abundance of free time. Collider also says that test screenings lead to the reshoots.

It’s hard to tell if we should be worried for this movie or not. Reshoots are common practice, after all. But when they’re such a public deal, sometimes you end up with a good movie (as with Star Wars: Rogue One) and sometimes you really don’t (as with Fox’s own Fantastic Four reboot).

The New Mutants

Status: second round of delays and reshoots

Josh Boone’s The New Mutants – a sort of haunted hospital movie, stuffed with talented youngsters playing troubled mutants – has been delayed twice now. It was originally set for April 2018, which explains why we’ve already seen a trailer for it. It was then pushed back significantly to February 2019. And now, it’s been pushed back even further, all the way to August 2019.

According to Collider, the first delay happened so that Boone could helm reshoots to make the film scarier and add a new character. The new cut, after those reshoots, apparently tested well. However, it’s still been judged not scary enough. And with all of the marketing and hype touting this is the first X-Men horror movie, it sounds like the powers that be want to avoid letting audiences down with regards to the scare factor. Collider’s report also suggests that the relationship between Boone and Fox is starting to fray. There have apparently been some “creative differences” over the latest wave of “proposed changes”.

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Summarizing what needs to be changed with this next batch of The New Mutants reshoots, Collider claimed:

“The reshoots that the studio wants are now even more significant. We’re hearing that at least 50% of the movie may be reshot, and they’re adding one or two new characters who will be present throughout the entirety of the film—this isn’t simply adding a cameo.” 

Interestingly, The Tracking Board has released its own take on events, suggesting that the vast success of IT is what led Fox to demand more scares. Annoyingly for Boone, he has wanted a straight horror flick from the start, but, according to The Tracking Board, Fox had tried to lead him down a different path until it saw the success of IT.

The Tracking Board’s report also suggests that Boone has already filmed material that would lead to the reveal of John Hamm as Mister Sinister in a post-credits scene. However, according to this report, the latest wave of reshoot plans will see Hamm’s role cut and Antonio Banderas introduced as a different villain.

Both Collider and The Tracking Board suggest that a fairly major overhaul is in the works, and Boone will be trying to make all those changes within little more than a year. We hope this works out.

Gambit

Status: Needs yet another director.

Gambit is another movie that seems to be going through the ringer. Lauren Shuler Donner, and omnipresent producer on Fox’s Marvel movies, first announced that Channing Tatum was signed on for the role of Gambit/Remy LeBeau way back in 2014. At that point, it was suggest that Tatum could show up in X-Men: Apocalypse before spinning out in his own movie.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ Rupert Wyatt was initially announced as director, before departing due to scheduling conflicts. Then Edge Of Tomorrow’s Doug Liman was set as director, but he departed as well. Most recently, Pirates Of The Caribbean’s Gore Verbinski was attached to direct, but he left the project in January 2018. No replacement for him has been announced as of yet.

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According to IMDB, the script is currently credited to both RoboCop reboot writer Joshua Zetumer and Magic Mike’s Reid Carolin. However, it was also stated that Liman did rewrites when he was at the helm. Last we heard, this was set to be an origin story movie. It’s unclear if a Tatum cameo in another film is still planned as a launching pad (obviously they missed the boat with Apocalypse).

The original intended release month was October 2016, but the latest estimate is June 2019 (via Omega Underground). It’s tough to tell whether we should be worried about this one, or whether Fox is just taking its time to ensure the right team of people is involved. That’s how Kinberg spun the drawn out pre-production process, back in 2016, in an interview with SlashFilm:

“I think the truth is when you have these movies that need a very special and unique tone, it takes a little while to find that tone […] Deadpool feels like it exploded out of nowhere, but it was a 10-year development process on that movie. I think it was honed over those 10 years. I hope that Gambit doesn’t take 10 years, but it takes a little honing to get that tone and that voice exactly right.”

Here’s hoping that we do eventually get to sit down and enjoy a good movie as a result of all this. As Kinberg states, getting Deadpool made wasn’t an easy process, but it paid off in the end.

Whether or not the June 2019 release date is still on the table, remains a mystery.

X-Force, untitled X-Movies and more…

Status: Who knows?

Fox, like quite a few Hollywood studios, seems to love announcing superhero movies at a really early stage. Because of this, we know that development work has taken place on various other X-films. We don’t really know how far along any of them are, but let’s run through them quickly.

There’s an X-Force movie in the works, which originally had Kick-Ass 2’s Jeff Wadlow attached as writer/director. Wadlow left the project, with The Grey’s Joe Carnahan stepping into the director’s chair. Then Carnahan left, and Cloverfield’s Drew Goddard – who also created the Daredevil Netflix series – took over at the helm. Goddard is still attached and filming is set to start later this year. Deadpool 2 seems to be introducing a lot of potential characters for the central X-Force team.

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Logan’s James Mangold is working with Marvel Comics regular Craig Kyle to pen a script about X-23. We assume that Dafne Keen would reprise the role from Logan, although some corners of the web have speculated on the possibility of a time jump into Laura’s adult years, and a recasting to go with it.

After ducking out of Deadpool 2, Tim Miller will return to the Fox fold to direct a Kitty Pryde film. Comics legend Brian Michael Bendis is writing it, with rumors pointing towards a story where Kitty (Ellen Page’s character from the original movie timeline) fights a demon alone in X-Mansion.

Also, late last year, we heard that James Franco is attached to star in a film about Multiple Man. Wonder Woman writer Allan Heinberg is on script duties. Franco said that “they are going to go hard R. And we’re going to take this superhero thing and really just push it into a new genre.” 

Further to all of that, X-regular Simon Kinberg teased to ComicBook that talks have begun about brining Alpha Flight (a Canadian mutant team) and the Exiles (a team of heroes from different dimensions) onto the big screen.

With most of these projects, all we know is that script work has begun. It’s hard to tell which ones will actually make into cinemas, or in which order they might turn up. It’s too early to tell if we should worried about any of these.

Could the Disney Deal Change Everything?

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Although there have been some issues with the current slate of productions, Fox clearly wishes to make a lot more mutant movies. But could the fact that Disney is trying to buy Fox throw a spanner in the works for all of these plans? Speaking about what Disney plans to do with Fox’s X-Men licence if the deal is approved and finalised, Disney CEO Bob Iger said this (via Deadline):

“We have the opportunity to expand iconic franchises for new generations of fans just as we have done with Marvel and Star Wars… We’re also looking forward to expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool.”

Iger intends to fold the world of mutants into the MCU. But as we’ve covered in this article, Fox has a lot of projects in the works. It would strain the MCU’s continuity to say that all of previous X-Men films and all of the upcoming Fox projects take place in the existing MCU.

Perhaps Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige could devise a plan in which the X-Men universe is established as a parallel dimension, tangentially connected to – and occasionally reachable from – the main MCU. This would allow the existing X-Men films to remain canon and for the upcoming X-films to still happen, without comprising the continuity of the MCU’s carefully calibrated timeline of interlinked movies.

However, Disney is unlikely to follow this path. After agreeing to share the Spider-Man rights with Sony, for example: instead of keeping Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and saying that his prior movies took place in the MCU, Feige and friends recast with Tom Holland, introducing an MCU-exclusive Spidey in Captain America: Civil War. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm and Star Wars, they dropped George Lucas’ outline for the sequel trilogy and kicked decades of Expanded Universe content out of the continuity. Rather than sticking with what has come before, Disney seems more interested in re-launching the brands it buys in its own unique way.

What does this mean, then, for Fox’s extensive X-Men plans? It’s impossible to say with any certainty. It does seem, from an outside perspective, that Fox has struggled somewhat on several fronts: to keep its X-Men timeline cohesive; to maintain a similar level of quality across all its X-projects; to hold onto directors; and, indeed, to stick to a release date. Would Disney want to carry that baggage into the MCU, or would they rather start fresh? I know which option I’d put money on.

Maybe there is a middle ground, though, where Disney keeps the good stuff (Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, for example, who could easily wake up in the MCU and make a joke about it rather than explaining the move) but erases the rest. We’ll just have to wait and see to find out, of course.

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As it stands, Fox’s X-Men universe seems to be going through something of a troubled patch. Despite the recent successes of Logan and Deadpool, delaying Dark Phoenix and New Mutants (again) doesn’t send a strong message. And it’s hard to get excited about all those untitled projects, or even believe they will happen, when there are so many of them on the slate. Perhaps Marvel Studios is just what Fox’s X-Men universe needs.