Now that Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have taken their last bows as Wolverine and Professor Xavier, Fox’s X-Men films have officially entered a new era. The mutant superheroes were a hit franchise a decade before we even thought about The Avengers on film. Now, those heroes have to carry on without their two most prominent stars.
So how will Fox kick off that new era? Big. Three films in one year big.
The studio laid out several new release dates for 2018, including three films from the X-Universe, over the weekend. That trio will kick off with New Mutants, from The Fault In Our Stars director Josh Boone, on April 13, 2018. Then Fox will drop Deadpool 2 on June 1. Finally, there’s the X-Men: Apocalypse sequel, now officially titled X-Men: Dark Phoenix, on Nov. 2.
Let’s break this down a little, starting with New Mutants, the new addition to the superhero tentpole crowd. In the 1980s, when Uncanny X-Men was the most popular thing on comic book shelves, Marvel decided they need a spinff book to make more of that sweet mutant money. Enter the New Mutants, a group of teen superheroes under the tutelage of Professor Xavier. The book restored the teacher/student dynamic to the X-Men universe (the other X-Men had long since become adults) and allowed X-Men writer Chris Claremont to turn his eye for intricate melodrama on teen superheroes. Like almost everything else the X-Men did in the ‘80s, it was an immediate hit. Now, the films hope to capitalize on that same dynamic. Boone will keep the teen angst alive with a flick that calls to mind everything from Stranger Things to the teen masterpieces of John Hughes.
Deadpool 2 is pretty self explanatory. The film will continue the adventure of Ryan Reynolds’ Merc with a Mouth as his superhero antics go beyond just trying to get his girlfriend back. Things will get a little more complicated than just a second outing, though. The film will also introduce the mutants Domino (Zazie Beetz) and Cable, who might just be the key to the future (in more ways than one) of the X-Men on film. Josh Brolin has signed on to play Cable – who is the ultra-powerful, huge gun-wielding, time-traveling future son of Cyclops and Jean Grey (it’s complicated) – in at least four films, one of which will be the likely R-rated team feature X-Force. Fox is on track to make that film an ultraviolent action blowout featuring Deadpool, Cable, Domino and more. That’s the R-rated future of superhero blockbussters. But Cable can do more. Because of his parentage, he has ties to the original X-Men. His first appearance ever was in the pages of New Mutants. Basically, you can tie him to every corner of the X-Men movie universe. Plus, his time travel abilities allow the writers to place him anywhen as well as anywhere. With Wolverine gone, Cable might be the new nexus of this movie universe.
Then there’s Dark Phoenix, which is also pretty self explanatory if you’re familiar with X-Men comics or watched the X-Men cartoon in the early '90s. If you saw X-Men: Apocalypse, you may remember this happening (Spoilers):
That’s Jean Grey (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner) really letting loose and destroying Apocalypse with her fiery Phoenix powers, setting up that concept for the new timeline of the films. You may recall that something similar happened at the end of X2: X-Men United to an older version of Jean (Famke Janssen). Both times, X-Men fans got excited and very, very nervous. Both of these moments are set-ups for one of the most famous and beloved X-Men stories of all time.
Basically, Jean is possessed by a cosmic being of immense power known as Phoenix. When she can control it, it unlocks her full potential as a mutant, essentialy making her a god among superhumans. The thing is, she can’t control it. So she becomes the ridiculoulsy powerful villain known as Dark Phoenix. This is a problem. In the comics, she commits interstellar genocide and is deemed a bigger threat than even Galactus, who is a giant purple dude who eats planets.
Dark Phoenix is as epic as X-Men gets, so fans are nervous. X-Men: The Last Stand basically glossed over the story, making it a glorified subplot. Now Fox is giving it a second chance, with a different Jean Grey in the spotlight. Maybe they can stick the landing this time.
So, thats a year of X-Movies sorted. What’s still not clear is how all of these films fit together chronologically. The current X-Men series is set in the past, while Deadpool is firmly in the present. We still have no idea when Boone plans to set New Mutants. All of that, with the added fan demand for the clawed post-apocalyptic mutant Laura (Dafne Keen) from Logan, makes things murky. Remember, though: Cable can time travel. Over the last three years, Fox has dne just fine keeping its X-flicks separate, basically ignoring each other. Now may be the time to unify them, and if that happens, get ready for Cable to basically be the new Wolverine: The badass mutant who seems to turn up everywhere.