The announcement of the next “X-Men” movie, subtitled “Apocalypse,” wasn’t the only big news in that corner of the Marvel universe. Simon Kinberg, the writer-producer behind “Days of Future Past” and an upcoming “Star Wars” spin-off, has signed a deal with 20th Century Fox to expand the superhero properties that the studio controls, X-Men and the Fantastic Four, into a series of interconnected films, like what Marvel Studios achieved with “The Avengers.”
If the X-Men and Fantastic Four movies want to, in Kinberg’s own words, “be like Marvel,” they need to adopt the model of standalone movies connected by crossover events. The enormity of both franchises gives Kinberg a lot of options, but if he wants to beat Marvel at their own game, these are the titles he should be looking to.
’The Wolverine 2′
What It Is: It’s too early to say where Wolvie’s next adventure will take him, but a recent quote from Hugh Jackman suggests that he might not do it at all.
Why It Works: The proposed sequel to James Mangold’s surprisingly satisfying spin-off proved Jackman’s claw mutant is the strong central figure, like RDJ’s Iron Man, that the X-Men series deserves. Despite Jackman’s reservations, Fox really needs this.
What It Is: The ever-popular Deadpool is a mentally unstable mercenary known for his wit and tendency to break the fourth wall.
Why It Works: Even though the script for the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” R-rated spin-off with Ryan Reynolds has been online for years, there hasn’t been any recent movement on the project. A Deadpool movie, however, would bring some much-needed humor to the overly serious franchise.
What It Is: An assassin thriller with a shapeshifter in the lead role is essentially a no-brainer. If that mutant is played by Jennifer Lawrence, you’re stupid for not making it.
Why It Works: With “Catching Fire” an enormous box-office smash and Warner Bros. including Wonder Woman in their “Batman Vs. Superman” punch-fest, it’s time for Fox to establish a female protagonist. A standalone Mystique movie would also be a smart way to lock down Lawrence, who is becoming too big of a star to stick around in a supporting role.
What It Is: The herald for the planet-eating Galactus made a lackluster appearance in the “Fantastic Four” sequel, but the cosmic character has been a fan-favorite for decades.
Why It Works: If Marvel Studios can go cosmic, so can Fox, especially if it’s with one of their more coveted characters. A Silver Surfer movie would be the logical response to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which will launch into space next August.
What It Is: If there were to be a spin-off from the “Fantastic Four,” the tragic story of Ben Grimm and his rocky transformation is the way to go.
Why It Works: Marvel Studios movies have always worked because of their heart, and few characters rival The Thing — whose back story was partially based on the life of his creator, Jack Kirby — when it comes to emotional punch.
’Fall Of The Mutants’
What It Is: More a loose confederation of stories that could be titled, “Worst Day Ever,” major characters are killed including the entire main cast of The X-Men.
Why It Works: It’s a provocative title, right? The most translatable storyline is probably the one were the X-Men “die” battling a demonic Adversary in Dallas. It actually set up a new status quo where the team was based out of Australia, and able to more proactively attack bad guys who thought they were dead, something that could rejuvenate the film series as well.
What It Is: The X-Men are kidnapped and taken to Genosha, a government that enslaves mutants as a metaphor for Apartheid. Things get very, very bad before the heroes ultimately free the nation.
Why It Works: Strong metaphor, an epic storyline, and a terrifying villain: Cameron Hodge, a vicious mutant hater whose head is on a giant spider body, and can phase through walls, making him virtually unstoppable. That would look great on film.
What It Is: Cyclops and Wolverine hit a philosophical divide over whether kids should be trained to fight, with Cyclops taking the side of “yes” and Wolverine eventually becoming headmaster of a rebuilt Xavier school. Before that, though, they kick the sh– out of each other.
Why It Works: There’s enough X-Men in the movie series now that it might be helpful not to introduce new characters as villains, and instead have the X-Men turn against each other.
What It Is: Onslaught is an unstoppable, all-powerful enemy who can rewrite reality, and is essentially the mind-baby of Magneto and Professor X. Really. It took every hero in the Marvel Universe to stop him, and most of them “die” in the process… While actually getting shunted to a parallel universe where they relive their greatest adventures in a more modern context.
Why It Works: The major players in this storyline are The X-Men and The Fantastic Four, one of the only times we see the two FOX properties cross over in comics. Plus it’s a perfect opp to reboot both movie series yet again, basically like a built-in escape valve.
What It Is: Because every X-Men team, in their own title, makes a small mistake, Hell invades the Earth and takes over Manhattan.
Why It Works: Probably the best comic-book crossover of all time (really) mainly due to the intense coordination between the comic book writing teams… It would be a stretch to mix the pseudo-science of the film X-Men with a pretty much biblical apocalypse, but it would also be unlike any other superhero movie ever made.