Dark Phoenix has landed, and so ends the 20th Century Fox X-Men franchise. The next time we see our favorite mutant heroes on screen, they will be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But haven’t we been doing this for 19 years? Aren’t we sick of X-Men movies?
Here are five ways for Marvel to make the X-Men totally fresh but still true to the comics.
1. More Colorful, More Cosmic
In 2000, director Bryan Singer fought to make audiences take X-Men seriously. The world was barely ready for the X-Men (let alone talking space raccoons and purple titans). That’s why Singer started the original film in Auschwitz. And every new installment has followed this basic program of muted visuals and don’t-do-anything-too-bizarre storytelling.
But the comics burst with colors and creatures and cosmic capers. The X-Men throw on their blue-and-gold tights and journey through time and space, from Limbo to the Shi’ar empire.
Fox’s X-Men had no room for these shenanigans. But the MCU?
2. Less Magneto, More Literally Anyone Else
In every single X-Men film, the heroes fight Magneto.
Of course, we’ve had a few other baddies: Dark Phoenix (twice), Apocalypse, Kevin Bacon, and the Obligatory Bigoted Government®. But the movies haven’t even touched major X-Men villains like Mr. Sinister, the Brood, Mastermind, Sauron, or Cassandra Nova. And don’t forget all the minor-league weirdos like Erik the Red and Count Nefaria and Belasco.
Take these villains, polish them up a bit where needed, and put them on screen.
That’s what the MCU does best. Just look at the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home. If I can walk into a grocery store and see Mysterio on a bag of Doritos in all his fishbowl-helmet glory, then the world is ready to see the X-Men fight the Ani-Men.
So give Magneto a break. Anybody who ages from Michael Fassbender to Ian McKellen in a single decade deserves a break.
3. Laura Kinney
How do you replace an iconic Wolverine like Hugh Jackman?
Easy. You don’t.
Laura Kinney (also known as X-23 or the All-New Wolverine) already stole the show in Logan. So avoid negative comparisons to Jackman by doing something all-new. Give this fan-favorite version of Wolverine her time to shine.
(Oh, and if the whole New Mutants thing doesn’t work out, cast Anya Taylor-Joy as Laura).
If the MCU can break our hearts over a space raccoon, we’re ready for this weird floating green potato.
5. Play The Long Game
According to producer Kevin Feige, the MCU’s five-year plan doesn’t include the X-Men.
And that’s great.
Make us excited about X-Men again. Drop hints and cameos. Recapture the magic of Phase 1, when just a glimpse of Captain America’s shield got us cheering.
And once the X-Men actually show up, keep going slow. Leave room for a Second Genesis. Let relationships develop across multiple generations of X-Men.
The beauty of the X-Men story unfolds over its entire ridiculous history. That’s exactly what Ed Piskor shows us in his gorgeous X-Men: Grand Design books. And that’s exactly what Fox failed to do by ignoring continuity.
So play the long game. And maybe, years down the road, give us a version of the Dark Phoenix Saga we actually care about, because we’ve followed these characters literally to hell and back.
That’s the Dark Phoenix I’m waiting to see.