The X-Men mutant-verse has been around twice as long the Marvel Cinematic Universe but only now has the the studio 20th Century Fox successfully expanded it by launching new franchises. Deadpool opens the floodgates for various eclectic spinoffs and X-Men: Apocalypse, hitting theaters this week, reintroduces classic elements and young characters with enough variance to keep it interesting for the next few years. Continuity has never been this franchise’s strong suit but hopefully, post-Days of Future Past, the filmmakers and producers learned to craft a coherent timeline we fans can enjoy a la the very successful MCU.
It speaks to the strength of the property that it can sustain itself beside packs of DC superheroes and the other Marvel supergroup, the Avengers. A fan-made trailer of an Avengers vs. X-Men film racked up a ton of views and showed not only the potential for future crossovers but to never underestimate the X-Men or their popularity.
So what can we look forward to in the explosive next few years of the mutant-verse? Well, a goodbye to a franchise mainstay for starters. Warning: Minor spoilers from X-Men: Apocalypse follow. Click Next to begin the list!
Wolverine 3 (March 3, 2017)
- Dir. James Mangold
- Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez, (rumor) Liev Schrieber
This threequel – Hugh Jackman’s ninth and final turn as the regenerative renegade mutant after 17 years – has come together rather quietly with a cast of, quiet honestly, low-budget people. That’s not to diminish their acting abilities, but it is pretty far from a star-studded car. Perhaps it’s a conscious decision that will allow the light to shine solely on Jackman. What differentiates this entry is the filmmakers are specifically making it R-rated. The plot is under-wraps but is said to be “Western in tone,” set in the future and based very loosely on the comic series Old Man Logan.
Also returning is Patrick Stewart, playing Professor X for the sixth time. Boyd Holbrook is the main villain, described as “head of security for a global enterprise” which is boringly vague. British actors Richard E. Grant and Stephen Merchant play a “mad scientist” and the comic relief respectively, with the latter rumored for Kevin Sydney aka Morph. Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal and Elizabeth Rodriguez also have undisclosed roles. Liev Schrieber, who played Logan’s half-brother/nemesis Sabretooth in Origins, and Laura Kinney aka X23, – a female Wolverine clone – are both rumored to appear as well.
James Mangold previously delivered the competently-made and intermittently-stylish sequel The Wolverine. Compared to the first film, the infamously terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it was a major step up by being, you know, good but yet it still feels like we’re waiting for a definitive Wolverine film. With Wolverine’s Weapon X origin properly retold in the new continuity via his cameo in this week’s X-Men: Apocalypse (set in 1983), the slate is clean to give Jackman the finale he deserves. Production is currently underway in New Orleans.
Gambit (rumor: October 6, 2017)
- Dir. Doug Liman
- Cast: Channing Tatum
The Gambit movie has always felt like a producer’s project. They injected a guy who looked like and called himself Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, played by then-rising star Taylor Kitsch. Gold, right? Wrong. But somehow the Gambit movie survived the wreckage of that movie and resurfaced again when a fresher rising star emerged to play the Cajun thief who converts potential energy to kinetic – Channing Tatum. To be fair, Tatum is a far bigger star than Kitsch ever was and the film’s being made mostly because he wants it. That’s a great sign – passion means even if it’s not good, it will probably be enjoyable, as long the production doesn’t nosedive.
That already threatened to happen once, when Rupert Wyatt walked off the project last fall after pre-production and even casting the female lead Lea Seydoux (she’s no longer attached). This pushed production back six months, during which they hired Doug Liman, who pushed the film back another six months to shoot the sniper drama The Wall starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Amazon (he also has the Tom Cruise-led drug thriller Mena in the can, giving the director a whopping three films due in 2017).
The film itself was rumored to be a heist or crime caper by way of the superhero, which can work (see: Ant-Man). But it’s been undergoing page-one rewrites since Liman took over so who knows what they’ll make when filming begins this fall.
Deadpool 2 (rumor: January 19, 2018)
- Dir. Tim Miller
- Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Cable himself
In lieu of ripping the spacetime continuum apart to cast a living, breathing Cable from an alternate universe, returning star and director Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller have elected for the far safer method of scouring the globe (or at least LA) for a notoriously hard-to-find demographic: older white guy actors. Everyone from Stephen Lang to Ron Perlman to Dolph Lundgren have expressed interest and fan-art has ranged from Liam Neeson to Jon Hamm to Mel Gibson. I love the idea of Lang, Perlman or Neeson but if I had to choose, I’d go Neeson (it’d make the Taken joke in Deadpool incredibly prescient).
We reported exclusively that this twosome would be joined by Domino, a prominent X-Force member. It’s unknown who among the Deadpool supporting cast will return, but Morena Baccarin (Vanessa) and T.J. Miller (Weasel) are most likely, followed by Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead) and Colossus (whatever Mac they use to animate him). Oh and who can forget Blind Al (Leslie Uggams)? Original scribes Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick return to write the script and production will start in either late 2016 or early 2017.
The New Mutants (rumor: July 13, 2018)
- Dir. Josh Boone
- Cast: (rumor) Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Alexandria Shipp, James McAvoy
It’s about time someone made this film, a YA take on the X-Men. It’s a long time coming for a series ostensibly focused on a school, institutions usually populated by creatures known as children and teenagers. Williams and Taylor-Joy are perfect to play Wolfsbane and Magik respectively while Shipp and McAvoy would reprise their roles as Storm and Professor X. The team is rounded out by Cannonball, Sunspot and Mirage. We got a glimpse of a New Mutant costume via Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool.
That film was set in the present day, which could mean the same for this one although Shipp’s rumored involvement brings that into question (could it be another 90s film a la the next X-Men film? More on that next). For her part, Shipp enthusiastically told IGN she is willing to be in film as well as literally any other film they want her new Storm to be a part of.
Scripting and casting for this new iteration of the franchise has continued abreast while Boone in the meantime delayed one Stephen King adaptation, The Stand, for another, Revival starring Samuel L. Jackson. It seems likely The New Mutants will follow, with production occurring in 2017. My guess is it will occupy the July 2018 release date currently held by a Untitled Fox/Marvel placeholder.
X-Men 7 (rumor: Summer 2019)
- Dir. (rumor) Bryan Singer
- Cast: Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Alexandria Shipp (rumor) James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult
We exclusively broke last month that the next X-Men film, the seventh in the series proper, would be a retelling of the Dark Phoenix Saga, the storyline previously adapted (poorly) in X2 and The Last Stand. Our new Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm are contractually-obligated to return and while it seems likely at least McAvoy and Fassbender will return, Lawrence recently told EW their contracts are renegotiated together so either they all come back or none do. Given the three year break between films instead of two, perhaps time will make the heart grow fonder and smooth over any contractual disputes.
Singer is very likely to return as director after he wraps 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and spoke about following the Marvel and D.C. universes into space. Kinberg said the next film would be set in the 90s, continuing the decade-hopping of the First Class prequel trilogy. Also, given the Apocalypse stinger, it appears a new villain is waiting in the wings – Nathaniel Essex aka Mr. Sinister.
X-Force (TBA 2019/2020)
- Dir. TBA
- Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Cable himself
An X-Force film has been in development even prior to production on Deadpool with Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) signing on to write and direct way back in 2013. That version died on the vine once the latter become a priority. It picked up steam again post-Deadpool when Reynolds listed the film as a personal priority.Now, that film has begun the journey that, I think, will lead to X-Force. It’s just taking a bit longer because they have to make Deadpool 2 as the lead-in with its introduction of Cable.
I envision an X-Force film as a kind of like The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, with an irreverent band of misfits and antiheroes venturing into time travel and alternate dimensions for trippy sci-fi adventures. But in my opinion the best example of what this adaptation could be is Rick and Morty. Marry that brilliant show’s talent for faithful honoring and good-natured skewering of sci-fi tropes with the badass, R-rated world of Deadpool + cool ensemble cast and you have a recipe for replicating the innate meta-weirdness that propelled the Merc with a Mouth’s debut feature.
Speaking of meta, arguably more interesting than some of the rote storytelling in the films is the roundabout path the series has taken. It’ll have taken three films to get Wolverine right, eight years and two actors to get a Gambit movie made, almost a decade to make Deadpool and the next X-Men film is boldly going . . . back to where we started, to finally give the Dark Phoenix her due. The series has always been sluggish, turning with the times like an old creaky ship. But despite being trapped in the past for the longest time, the X-Men seem ready for the next step in superhero evolution.