by Brett White
Fox is both attempting to get their Wolverine franchise back on track and trying to create a cohesive universe with the time-spanning "X-Men: Days of Future Past." It's obvious that they're trying to capture the movie magic (and profitability) of Marvel's cinematic universe. It's still possible that the events of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" will reset the original trilogy, giving those fan-favorite actors and characters a chance to live on, Phoenix-free and mutant-cure-free.
If Fox is attempting to create a universe to rival that of the Avengers one, there's no better set of characters to make that happen than the X-Men. With stories and spin-off series now numbering in the thousands, the possibilities for expansion are endless. Here are a few corners of the X-Men universe that Fox should bring to the big screen next:
Teenagers have been dictating popular culture for decades now, if Hunger Games-mania hasn't made that abundantly clear. The X-Men are lucky that their puberty-means-powers theme forever ties them to that taste-making demographic. The Generation X cast, popularized in the 1994 comic series of the same name by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo, is the most ready for the big screen, notably so because of their diversity. "X-Men: First Class" really struggled with this, and here is where Fox can make up for lost ground. The cast could include Skin (Hispanic), M (Muslim), Jubilee (Chinese American), Synch (African American), Mondo (Samoan) as well as the Southern Husk and the English Chamber. The X-Men are all about acceptance, and this cast would finally be one that delivers on that. It could even spin out of "X-Men: First Class," with appropriately aged (and recast to reflect it) Banshee and Emma Frost acting as their headmasters. Give this to Jason Katims, the genius head writer of "Friday Night Lights," and watch it shine.
The X-Men franchise has, for the most part, skewed more towards philosophical debates and heavy metaphors. This has resulted in classic moments in both "X2" and "X-Men: First Class," but here is where the franchise could prove it has legs in the action genre. The classic iteration of the team, with characters like Cable, Domino, Shatterstar, Boom Boom, Cannonball, Warpath, Siryn and Feral, pushed the idea of fighting for mutant freedom to its limits. In the hands of gonzo action directors like Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (the guys behind "Crank"), this movie could make the final action-packed forty minutes of Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" look like a school play. Or the film could play up the espionage aspect of the team in the more-than-capable hands of Brad Bird, whose "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol" contains the tension and thrills that the X-franchise has been lacking.
If an X-Force film pushes the franchise in one direction, then an X-Factor film, based on the satirical team comic book from 1991 by Peter David and Larry Stroman, would push it equally far in the other direction. Starring C-list X-Men like Havok, Polaris, Strong Guy, Multiple Man, Wolfsbane and Quicksilver, this would indeed be a hard sell. But this film wouldn't go for blockbuster status so much as it would critical acclaim and cult success. This would be the film that proves that superhero flicks don't have to have the world at stake to feel important, a feat that could easily be accomplished by filmmakers like Alexander Payne ("Sideways," "The Descendants") or the Coen Brothers ("No Country For Old Men," "Burn After Reading"). Plus, after you establish the polar opposite X-Force and X-Factor, a big-screen adaptation of the classic storyline "X-Cutioner's Song" can't be far behind.
If Marvel has a leading lady, it's Storm. She is Marvel's Wonder Woman, and so far she's been relegated to a supporting role of varying success in three films (still more than Wonder Woman can claim, sadly). Storm is ready for the spotlight. She's a fascinating character, an independent woman with a legendarily strong will who was orphaned as a child and worshipped as a goddess during her teenage years. She has a power set that needs a whole budget devoted to it, not one that's reigned in to make room for Cyclops' eye blasts and Jean Grey's telekinesis. And she'd fill the growing void of female-led action films. With the right script and director, Halle Berry could shine in this (as long as they keep her "Catwoman" acting coach banned from the set). If not Berry, then give the role to Beyonce, who exudes Storm-level strength and confidence with every performance (hopefully that translates into acting).
If "Guardians of the Galaxy" gets butts in the seats, Fox should have no fear. They have their own cosmos-hopping group of weirdos tucked away in the X-Men Universe, and they're ready to make their debut. Whether they go with the classic lineup and the swashbuckling Corsair as the lead, or the more modern take with the aforementioned Havok and Polaris on the crew, either version will include a giant, hulking reptilian behemoth named Ch'od. And that would be insanely awesome. And if Quicksilver (part of the above X-Factor pitch) falls into an ownership gray area due to his lengthy stints in both the Avengers and X-Men comics, the same may be applicable for Carol Danvers. The hero, now called Captain Marvel, is an Avengers mainstay, but in the '80s she hung out with the X-Men and Starjammers exclusively under the codename Binary. If Marvel doesn't get to Carol in Phase Two, she could be Fox's to steal and a big bonus for the Starjammers.
How would you expand the X-Men film universe? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below or hit us up on Twitter!