In Marvel Comics, which is owned by Disney, the Avengers defeated the X-Men in a recent crossover known simply as “Avengers vs X-Men.” In the box-office battle between Disney’s recently dominant Avengers franchise and 20th Century Fox’s X-Men, however, the mutants may be making a comeback.
“X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” which opened on Friday, is on track to earn the fifth-highest Memorial Day weekend gross at $110 million in the U.S. Although those numbers are not exceptional
, it’s a decent start, and very strong reviews should help generate a long run. Its timing seems good, too, stealing the spotlight from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and not facing another comic book movie until “Guardians of the Galaxy” in August. And it’s got star power, with Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence, plus Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing and more.
Most importantly, the new X-Men movie appears to be an effective step in launching a new and marketable superhero universe. That is, after all, what every studio has been trying to do since Marvel Studios, which was bought by Mouse House in 2009, launched its popular and prolific Avengers franchise — including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk, and their super team — which has grossed over $US6.3 billion since 2008 and is expanding rapidly in spinoffs and sequels. “Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012) alone is the third-highest grossing movie ever at $US1.5 billion.
Catching Disney has seemed nearly impossible in recent years.
Sony, which licensed Spider-Man from Marvel in the ’90s, has released a string of hit movies but gotten mixed critical reception and struggled to launch an expanded universe. “Spider-Man 3” (2007) was widely panned; “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) was better; “The Amazing-Spider-Man 2” (2014) was also panned, with critics assailing its lame attempts to set up spinoffs that no one cares about like “The Sinister Six” and “Venom” as part of a plan to release Spider-Man-related movies every year.
Warner Bros., which owns DC Comics characters like Batman, Superman, plus less popular superheroes, has a lot to prove as it relaunches or introduces for the first time all characters but Superman in a sequel to the mediocre “Man of Steel” (2013) called “Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice” (2016).
Fox, which licensed X-Men and Fantastic Four characters from Marvel in the ’90s, lost momentum in its X-Men franchise after the high selling but poorly reviewed sequel “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) and spinoff “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009). But it quietly started a comeback with retro relaunch “X-Men: First Class” (2011) and an improved sequel for Jackman in “The Wolverine,” which were well reviewed and successful at $US350 million and $US415 million gross but still small by Avengers standards.
Enter “X-Men: Days Of Future Past.” Possibly Fox’s most expensive movie ever at an estimated $250 million, the movie is an ambitious attempt to take the X-Men back to the big leagues in not just this movie but also the spinoffs and sequels the studio is already planning or hoping for.
“It really needs to be one of the top five films of the summer, in terms of grosses. And that’s just the bottom line,” Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co., told CNBC. “It has to succeed on a major level.”
Will it succeed? It’s got a long way to go on ticket sales, but again, good word of mouth should help.
Directed by Bryan Singer in his first X-Men movie since the popular “X2,” “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” has an engaging plot that is surprisingly comprehensible for a time travel story, complex and believable characters, smart dialogue and acting, sharp direction, well-crafted settings from the desolate future to the fantastic 1970s, and great action including the jaw-dropping Quicksilver sequence everyone’s talking about. It really is better than Disney’s latest offering, the disappointingly dumb though popular “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” in every nearly every facet.
What’s more, Singer and writer-producer Simon Kinberg adeptly bring together stars from the old and new X-Men franchises, making Jackman’s Wolverine part of the new franchise; close off the old franchise in a satisfying loop that reverses some of the problems of “X-Men: The Last Stand”; and clear the way for the new franchise to advance into exciting and uncharted territory.
Now Singer has urged restraint with Avengers comparisons, telling SciFiNow: “[Disney’s Marvel movies] are huge, colossal franchises that are peppered with all these other characters that are, again, extremely famous and so yes, Fox will at some point synergise [the X-Men] characters and that process is slowly beginning, but it’s very different than taking movies that gross close to a billion dollars and then pushing them together into these giant broad movies.”
But the comparison may not be too far-fetched. Fox, under Kinberg’s lead, plans to follow this movie with a relaunched “Fantastic Four” in 2015, “X-Men: Apocalypse” in 2016, with talk of a Wolverine sequel, an X-Force spinoff, Deadpool and Gambit movies, a crossover between Fantastic Four and X-Men, and more. Notably, Jackman, after previously saying the next Wolverine movie would be his last, now says he will reconsider since “the whole thing feels fresher to me than ever.”
Speaking as one of the all-important 18 — 35 male demographic, I will say that I am at least as excited for the next X-Men movies as for any superhero franchise.
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