X-Men Universe On More Stable Ground Than DCEU
Between the failure of X-Men: Apocalypse and the end of Hugh Jackman's reign as Wolverine, the extended X-Men cinematic universe is in an unstable place. Then again, this is a time where the Marvel Cinematic Universe looks like the only stable superhero universe in theaters right now.
When it comes to the X-Men world and the DCEU, they are both scrambling to regain stability and trust with audiences again. But at this current point and time, the X-Men universe is on somewhat steadier ground and has a better chance to get back on its feet faster, although DC can still change that with Wonder Woman and Justice League later this year.
While DC could end the year on a strong note, the X-Men world is in position to start it with a bang. Part of it is with a project that has nothing to do with the X-Men movies or movies in general, although it is still technically under the X-Men banner.
Regardless of how FX's Legion ultimately fits in or doesn't with X-Men canon, the mindbending series and its hype as a very different kind of superhero story qualifies as a win for the X-Men universe brand, at a time where it most needed such a win.
After X-Men: Apocalypse became the least profitable and memorable superhero film of 2016, after Bryan Singer left the franchise again, after Jackman officially said goodbye to it and after questions kept being unanswered on whether James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence will do the same, it is clear the X-Men are at yet another crossroads. As such, it may seem a bit ominous that they are still piling on with multiple TV series and at least two planned movies ahead, but that is just one way to look at it.
With Singer gone, the core X-Men series can now be run by new blood, which is how it roared back to life in the first place when Matthew Vaughn helmed X-Men: First Class. Hopefully they will find a better replacement for Singer than Brett Ratner was in X-Men: The Last Stand, but if Sophie Turner was right in saying a new film will shoot later this year, a replacement of some kind may be found soon enough.
Reinvigorating the universe with new blood may also be the upside in Jackman's departure as well. After 17 years and almost no X-Men related films without Jackman in some shape or form, it might be long past time to revolve the X-Men around somebody else. Then again, if Ryan Reynolds pesters Jackman into a Deadpool/Wolverine crossover or if Fox recasts Wolverine, they may not cut the Wolverine cord for too long.
In that context, Logan might not be a truly definitive farewell to Wolverine, whether or not Jackman winds up coming back. Still, it is going forward as if it really is his grand finale, and all signs are currently pointing to it being just that. But promising trailers don't always suggest a competent final product, as Suicide Squad just taught the DCEU, although Suicide Squad didn't screen its first 40 minutes to rave reviews like Logan did.
The first concrete signs on whether the complete movie is better will come from Logan's world premiere in Berlin on Feb. 17. If expectations are met or exceeded from that premiere and others in the next two weeks, then everything should be in line for the X-Men universe's second acclaimed R-rated smash hit in consecutive springs, with this one actually starring a long time X-Men movie character.
One big reason the X-Men world has more to brag about right now than the DCEU is Deadpool, leaving aside how it is barely an X-Men film. But thanks to using Colossus, debuting Negasonic Teenage Warhead and having countless jabs at Wolverine and Jackman, it does belong under the X-Men flag. What's more, not only was it more well liked than X-Men: Apocalypse, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, it outgrossed all of them domestically.
Logan is R-rated in a more violent and dark manner than Deadpool, but it also has more freedom to go outside the boundaries of the central X-Men series. In its case, Logan is doing so by jumping ahead to a near-mutant free future, introducing a new Wolverine esq-mutant in little girl X-23, and making fans wonder if Jackman's Wolverine and Patrick Stewart's Professor X will both have truly final goodbyes.
As shaky as the X-Men world might be, it has endured long enough to take these leaps into something different and new. It paid off with Deadpool in breaking the stranglehold of PG-13 superhero films, and now it may well pay off with Logan in holding nothing back for Jackman's swan song.
Between that, Legion, the upcoming New Mutants film and Deadpool 2, it appears Fox and Marvel are more willing to experiment with X-Men properties and how to use their characters, even if it took them over 15 years to figure it out. In contrast, since the DCEU is still bumbling through all its origin stories, it can't branch out like that quite yet.
What's more, its idea of doing things different from the norm of superhero movies is drowning itself in misery, brooding and a disregard for genuine heroism in general. Even Suicide Squad couldn't escape that, and it was supposed to be a Deadpool like shock to the superhero system as well, at least until DC shot itself and the Squad in the foot.
Presumably, 2017 is where the DCEU learns from its mistakes, as it gives an actual female hero like Wonder Woman her own movie, and lets the Justice League come together under a brighter banner. Yet even if those films pay off, or are even a mild improvement from Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, there’s still a lot of question marks on DC’s future schedule.
Although X-Men anchor Jackman is leaving that universe on his own terms, and with one giant and bloody victory lap, speculation is building on whether DCEU anchor Ben Affleck is trying to bail completely, and not just as The Batman director. If one of the only generally well liked elements of the DCEU is trying to back himself out of it, it would surely speak volumes, and would be an even greater setback than The Flash losing multiple directors or Zack Snyder delaying a Justice League sequel.
With The Flash and The Batman looking doubtful for a 2018 release, with perhaps two open spots on DC’s 2018 schedule before Aquaman’s release next fall, and with the likes of Gotham City Sirens and the long rumored Man of Steel sequel still looking to find their place, there are quite a few holes to patch up for DC beyond 2017. At least some of them will likely be patched up by the time Wonder Woman and Justice League opens, but if they turn out to be Batman v Superman/Suicide Squad like disappointments, it may not matter much.
The X-Men brain trust is currently trying to patch up its movie future as well, as it works out a sequel without Singer and tries to launch the New Mutants. But at the least, it does have the success of Deadpool and the potential big success of Logan to fall back on right now, which shows that there are still branches of the Fox/Marvel universe with real vision. However, it is still 50/50 at best whether any DCEU branches can say the same, depending on how Wonder Woman and Justice League turn out.
There may well still be a future for the X-Men without Wolverine or Jackman, or even without the younger Charles, Magneto or Mystique. Ideally, the curtain call of Logan and the disappointment of X-Men: Apocalypse should push Fox and Marvel at the crossroads to start over and push the X-Men brand into new territory. Technically, they already proved they could do this with X-Men: First Class and Deadpool, so there is a track record for them to pick themselves up into a new and better direction.
The DCEU is too young to have such a track record, and hasn’t inspired confidence that it has the right people in charge to forge one. It didn’t start out with its best foot forward like the X-Men did over 15 years ago, and may not have the stability to keep its biggest star for too much longer. Then again, it did still overcome terrible reviews to have Batman, Superman and the untested Suicide Squad each gross over $300 million domestic last year, unlike the X-Men.
Both major superhero cinematic universes besides the MCU have a lot of problems, and no guarantees that they will be fixed. Nevertheless, Deadpool, Logan, Legion and the prospect of an actual fresh start for X-Men movies gives the X-Men universe more to work with than the DCEU can currently muster. Yet if the same can be said in early 2018, then the DCEU would be in really big trouble.