Let’s get one thing straight. Mystique is a villain. She’s a complex villain who became an X-man for a while in the comics but remained a villain to the core. It’s only because they cast Jennifer Lawrence/Katniss Everdeen to become the blue female shapeshifter that Fox is obligated to make her an anti-hero, but in no way did she ever lead the X-Men. I sound like a butt-hurt comic fan, but after investing time to watch the original X-Men trilogy, it’s difficult to make make sense of the possibility that Professor X never even made mention of Mystique being an X-Man even part-time. In short, the franchise is a terrible mess. Now, after seeing the Logan trailer, how can things, after being given a happy ending after Days of Future Past, become so messed up that all mutants except a handful end up dead in the future? It’s like the franchise is giving us a bunch of DC Elseworlds graphic novels instead of sequential events. Why go with Old Man Logan when there’s a load of storylines to choose from?
While everyone who’s ever been a comics fan will tell you that they would want nothing more than the X-Men rights to revert back to Marvel, myself included. I genuinely believe that in the right hands, while remaining with Fox, the X-Men can be a great standalone franchise without getting integrated into the MCU. In itself, the X-Men and its spinoffs is a very rich franchise which is almost as big as the MCU itself. Someone get Singer out of the helm since he doesn’t love what the X-Men really are. What he loves is the twisted world he built for himself and his ego. Marvel should license The Watcher to Fox so everything the franchise has been since day one would make sense.
Even if the rights don’t revert back to Marvel, there’s a lot of potential for the X-Men to be great. They should pull Chris Claremont into their creative team and start over. The source material is still very important, that’s what made the comics great, and with some adaptive direction and creativity, the X-Men can be great again.
Speaking of Chris Claremont he expressed his disappointment on Fox and the X-Men films for the franchise’s decline.
“That has nothing to do with comic sales; that has everything to do with the fact that the film rights are controlled by a rival corporation… I guarantee you that if 10 years ago when Marvel was approached by Disney, if the X-Men film rights were owned by Marvel Studios and not Fox the X-Men would probably still be the paramount book in the canon. The reason for the emphasis on the other titles is because Marvel / Disney control the ancillary film rights whereas all the film rights for the FF- the Fantastic Four – and the X-Men are controlled by Fox who has no interest in the comic books… So I think the corporate publishing attitude is: “why would we go out of our way to promote a title that will benefit a rival corporation’s films when we could take that same energy and enthusiasm and focus and do it for our own properties?”… Hence the rise of the Inhumans as the new equivalent of the mutants. I could wish for something else but it ain’t my 5 billion dollars.”
— Chris Claremont, interview with Collider
He implies that Marvel’s move to minimize the mutants’ relevance in the main Marvel Universe was logical for the company. He also stated that even if Fox does cut a deal, a deal that might be too expensive for Marvel, the latter won’t budge and Fox will be left with a stagnant property that Marvel will take back anyway.
Logan shows promise, but if it doesn’t work out, Fox needs to do a full reboot. Scratch the Gambit project, New Mutants and X-Force and since Deadpool is their current top biller, they could start out from that universe but forget about Negasonic. But before the reboot, a few hurdles need to be taken care of.
Aside from Deadpool, the other major X-property is Wolverine, but right now, it’s very difficult to find an actor that could replace Hugh Jackman for the iconic role. There is a high possibility that the franchise will be re-booted if they do find Jackman’s replacement and it can’t come soon enough. Another hurdle is how long before they need to release a new film. After Logan, they’ll need to release another X-film in a couple of years as per license with Marvel which seems too soon for people to completely forget about the existing X-Men franchise. The effect will be like the Amazing Spider-Man movies. Although not many liked Spider-Man 3, it was still okay. The sudden reboot was not what fans wanted. They didn’t want a retelling of the origin story. They wanted Toby McGuire. The general audience, endeared to Mary Jane Watson was suddenly shifted to Gwen Stacy and doing an Iron Man by giving away Spidey’s secret identity was just… What were they thinking?
But to reboot the X-Men at a much later date, Fox needs to strike some deal with Marvel to keep the rights for two or three more years or hire a good marketing team. One way for Fox to strike that deal is to completely return Fantastic Four to Marvel in order to keep the X-Men. This way, Fox can develop the X-Men without having to rush into things to keep a stranglehold on the property which they’re slowly killing. Marvel doesn’t have to do it on the comics side as they’re doing some damage on their own and it might end up as unredeemable road kill. Like a cute squirrel run over to become Donald Trump’s toupee.
So, what approach can we have with the new X-Men franchise? As mentioned, Fox can begin within the Deadpool universe which is very much like Earth without any knowledge whatsoever of mutants except for a few incidents. Because Earth just doesn’t seem to be the Earth after Apocalypse. It’s DOFP all over again, except earlier with no hint of Logan’s happy ending. I just keep saying that, don’t I? It’s just that Fox could have started from there with Apocalypse but screwed it just to keep Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. They could have been kept in flashbacks instead in relation to something about Apocalypse prior to X1. Anyway, Fox could pay homage to the original X-Men or X-Men 92 by starting off with either team roster. They could start with Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Colossus, Kitty Pryde or Jubillee, Rogue and Gambit, Iceman, Banshee, Angel and finally Wolverine. If they’re cast as teenagers or young adults, there’s a lot that can be explored between the characters in terms of love and interactions. And for the love of all that’s holy, Wolverine and Jean aren’t the only characters that matter.
As for the other side of the equation, let’s forget about Magneto for a while and start off with Freedom Force as the government’s anti-mutant squad which will consist of Mystique, Destiny, Sabretooth, Blob, Pyro, Avalanche and Multiple Man. Story-wise, they could emulate Agents of SHIELD as they’re doing a good job painting the Inhumans in the X-Men’s old shoes. Mister Sinister would be behind the scenes of the mutant persecution while Magneto would be leading his own radical team sometimes helping the X-Men but won’t be important until later on. Magneto’s team would consist of Havok, Psylocke, Syrin, Wolfsbane and Emma Frost.
Some rivalries can be hinted between Rogue and Mystique, Iceman and Pyro, Banshee and Syrin as well as Cyclops and Havok and fleshed out in later installments. In fact, with this many mutants, Wolverine doesn’t even have to appear until the second film until they find the right HJ replacement. In fact, a good idea for Wolverine’s appearance would be to present him as America’s answer to Russia’s Omega Red where they need to stop a Soviet faction from exploiting mutants as weapons to take over Russia. There are plenty of stories that can be done without resorting to time travel especially with writers given enough time to think.
Other big bads for this new franchise can include the Morlocks led by Callisto, Gene Nation led by Marrow, the Phalanx which instead of being techno-organic aliens are bred from a homegrown anti-mutant techno-organic virus and lastly the classic Krakoa. Yes. Tons of possibilities bred from decades of source material that some people choose to ignore due to ego and other reasons. So the best way to save the X-Men franchise is to return it to Marvel or start over and put someone like Kevin Feige with genuine love for the franchise in charge.