Samuel Brace on the future of the X-Men universe…
Logan was the Wolverine film we have all been waiting for. It highlighted everything that was great about Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of the character while adding new depth to the man and a whole lot of bloodshed. This film is grisly, in every sense of the word. There is no flash and extravagance here, no traditional camp superhero fun. This is just a story, a story about a man at the end of his path having to protect a girl that needs to get from point A to point B. Oh, and some of the characters have supernatural abilities. It’s incredibly simple stuff and its success is a direct correlation to that.
But now that it is all over, where do we go from here? Hugh Jackman is done, so with this semi-game changing movie, in what direction does the X-Men universe travel? Here are some thoughts.
A reboot you ask? Yeah, I know, I’m not thrilled about it either. But perhaps, for once, on this particular occasion, it might actually be necessary. I think we can be in agreement that the traditional team up X-Men extravaganza film is done. It’s tired, it’s dull and so incredibly formulaic that it borders on being asinine. They are supposed to be fun but these types of films are now just anything but. They can pull off something decent now and then – Days of Future Past was fine – but there can be no doubt that it is time for a change and maybe that change needs to be Fox pushing the reset button.
It doesn’t have to be a reboot of the traditional X-Men team, that’s been done in a quasi sense very recently, but a new X-Men universe populated by lesser known characters that mainstream fans of the movies will never have heard of. Attach Deadpool in some kind of way, where he is an occasional meta passerby – but with his solo films as your flagship product – and bob’s your uncle; maybe we can get something going that’s not quite so stale. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s a darn sight more attractive proposal than continuing on with the current continuity – if you can call it that. Logan gave us an ending to the adventure that started back in 2000, an ending that we all wanted, needed, and frankly deserved, so perhaps it should officially serve as that very curtain call.
Replace Wolverine with Deadpool
Wolverine has long been the leader of the X-Men; in spirit if not in actuality. He is the X-Men for mainstream movie goers and his exit will be sorely missed. Thankfully audiences have found another likeable murderous healer to latch onto, with the very recent addition to the universe of Wade Wilson aka Deadpool. His film was a big success, financially and critically, so the obvious move now is to simply allow Wolverine to disappear and to sub in Deadpool.
You can still have his profanity and violence ridden solo movies; films that allow the character to be entirely unfiltered, and still have him lead the team up X-Men films with Jean, Cyclops, Charles and the gang by simply censoring his vulgarity in funny, self aware type ways. When Wilson is about to commit an obscene act of violence, have him pause and turn the camera away; when he is about to scream expletives, have one of the X-Men remind him that this is a family film and that swearing isn’t cool here. It’s a fun, silly and entirely Deadpool appropriate solution to the problem, providing fans with the best of both worlds.
Solo Movies for the Win
As mentioned at the top, the simplicity utilised by Logan was a huge contributor to its success. Wolverine’s last dance was incredibly basic in terms of plot, its superhero elements had very little to do with the movie’s actual success. And this is what this particular writer has long been calling for. Make a good film and put a superhero in it. This formula has proven itself before and it has just proven itself again with Logan. You don’t need to have world ending stakes and mountains of super powered adversaries to make a good superhero film. In fact, the aim shouldn’t even be to do so; it should be purely to make a good film period. The Dark Knight was a great crime thriller that had Batman in it. Logan is a great modern western that has Wolverine in it.
If Fox are clever they will look at the success of Deadpool and Logan and say, “Yeah, let’s do more of that”. Instead of making every other film a teaser for something else, instead of cramming every Easter egg and hero one can into your CGI infested monstrosity, how about just make a film? Make a film that starts and finishes, set it in your X-Men universe, build it around the character (singular) of your choice and execute it as best you can. Self contained, one off, simple. Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour and then go again. This overbearing, obsessive planning that has taken place in modern day comic movie franchise building doesn’t have to be the only way, and history has taught us the results are better when it isn’t so.
Logan worked because it was a film that stood on its own two feet. Was it enhanced by knowing what came before? Sure. Was it vital to understanding the trials and tortured soul of its main character? No, absolutely not. And it certainly didn’t act as one big tease to ten other movies. It stood alone as a movie about a man and his daughter. Deadpool acted in much the same way. The very nature of its protagonist helped separate it from everything else but at its heart it was just a movie about a man trying to find his girlfriend. He achieves his goal and then the film ends. Great stuff. Done and dusted.
This is the formula, gang. This is the direction that Fox needs to travel in. Say goodbye to the archaic and outdated superhero team up, done to death and perfected by someone else. Start something new. Chart your own course. Take advantage of your vast library of characters, recruit the best talent you can find, and task them with making films. They can exist in the same world if you like – but perhaps that is not even necessary – just don’t be tied down by some grand orchestration, don’t be crushed by the central planning of a cinematic universe. Just allow the director to make a film, with a good story and solid characters using the properties that you have available.
This is what success looks like. This is what needs to happen. Fox have the chance to lead a revolution. They started it all back in 2000 so why not start an entirely new trend today. Look at what works and then be bold, and be bold by going back to basics. “People like our characters, and people like superheroes, let’s make a film about this particular super powered character and once we’re done with that, let’s make a different one”.
Logan (and Deadpool before it) could be the beginnings of something special for Fox, and indeed for the industry itself. DC has learnt that you can’t beat Marvel at its own game – the lesson all should learn is that you don’t even need to. Start your own game. Every film Fox makes from now on can be better than whatever Disney manages with their MCU, simply because of the very limiting nature of cinematic universes, and the byzantine style of superhero team ups. Those days are coming to an end. Give us something new by giving us something old. Logan rocked. For the love of God, don’t ignore the reasons why.
Where would you like to see the X-Men universe going next? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…