Looks like someone was logging some overtime this weekend. 20th Century Fox has been busy this morning announcing future dates for their 2018 roster. First it was FOUR (yes, four) “Avatar” films starting in 2020 (about five years or so behind schedule), now the studio has revealed the near future of its “X-Men” universe. While all dates were previously just “Untitled Fox / Marvel Film” placeholders, each one has been revealed.
And given there were no “X-Men” titles released in 2017, Fox is getting aggressive ala Marvel studios and releasing three super hero movies in one year. The first will be “New Mutants,” from director Josh Boone (“The Fault In Our Stars”), featuring a new generation of X-Men students. In the comics, “New Mutants” are the teenage mutants to the 20/30-something regular “X-Men” team and its been said, this new movie will have a YA-feel which stands to reason given Boone’s last film.
Next up is the new crown jewel of the X-Men serious, “Deadpool 2” with Ryan Reynolds. The left field hit that is now the highest grossing “X-Men” film of all time, you’re going to see Fox and “X-Men” producer Simon Kinberg lean hard into this new series which should set up “Deadpool 3” and then “X-Force” spin off movies. Members of “X-Force” are already set for their introductions in the “Deadpool” sequel including Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz from “Atlanta”) so far. Obviously “Deadpool” has been moved from its February date into the heart of the summer evincing Fox’s confidence in this new “X-Men” spin off franchise.
The last title announced is “Dark Phoenix,” which is presumably more “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” and the third film in the new rebooted series that will feature Jean Grey’s (Sophie Turner) Dark Phoenix storyline (in short: Jean Grey becomes consumed by her powers and turns bad). This third film is set for the fall of 2018. Here’s the release date.
New Mutants— April 13, 2018
Deadpool 2— June 1, 2018
Dark Phoenix— November 2, 2018
OK, let’s look at who’s going up against who. For “New Mutants” there’s a lot of competition, but unclear if it’s clearly not enough to scare a new super hero movie under the “X-Men” brand. “New Mutants” will go head to head with Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” and an Untitled Universal Monsters Franchise Film. Considering nothing’s been announced yet, Uni better hope they have a film ready to fill that slot otherwise, it’s one of those empty placeholders that eventually gets pulled.
“Deadpool 2” will be hitting in an enormously busy weekend facing off against Paramount’s “Transformers 6” and Warner Bros.’ all-female spy movie “Ocean 8.” The surface bet would be “Ocean 8” will move its date, however, “Transformers 6” has no director or script and would need to lock that down soon in order to be ready for next summer. I would assume WB will play a wait and see game, but obviously “Deadpool” isn’t movie.
November 2 will be a weird date for “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” but one can understand why they took the slot. Currently it’s competition is a Disney live-action remake of “Mulan” and a “Untitled Paramount Event Film” whatever that may be. Considering how poor Paramount is performing right now and given that a “Ghost In The Shell” sequel is off the table, I wouldn’t be too worried if I were Fox.
What’s most interesting about these announcements, aside from the sure-fire winner of “Deadpool 2” is how precarious the regular “X-Men” universe is. Clearly James McAvoy will stay on as Professor X (his contract will be up, but they’ll throw money at him to stay because recasting would be far too tricky), but Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are leaving the series, which is going to hurt the brand a lot. Even with those actors, “X-Men: Apocalypse” only grossed $155 million domestically — not strong numbers at all for what’s supposed to be a big tentpole. Reliant, too over reliant on overseas grosses, ‘Apocalypse’ hit a strong $543 million worldwide, but that was down a whopping $200 million from the previous ‘X-Men’ film ‘Days Of Future Past.’ Hugh Jackman has hung up the claws too so he won’t be of future help to the series either.
With McAvoy and a still largely unknown teen cast — Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Evan Peters — none of whom are particularly big draws domestically or otherwise, Kinberg and Fox are making a big gamble to focus their next “X-Men” film on a “Game Of Thrones” star who’s barely appeared in any major movies outside of the HBO show which she co-stars. Even if Fox hires some big name actors as villains, without Lawrence, Fassbender and Jackman, this series is going to have its work cut out for itself.