Saturday, June 4, 2011
How many X-Men movies do they think we want?
I don't know about you, but the X-Men were not considered to be first-tier superheroes when I was growing up.
There were a lot of superheroes I heard about, from Superman to Batman to Spider-Man to Wonder Woman to Aquaman to Captain America to Green Lantern to the Incredible Hulk, but it wasn't until much later that I heard about the X-Men. This is just my own personal experience, but I'm sure some of you had the same one.
Yet as a movie franchise, X-Men seems determined to outpace all of these. I mean, classics like Aquaman and Wonder Woman are permanently mired in development hell, with an Aquaman movie likely being set back by the existence of a parody version on Entourage, and Wonder Woman receiving its latest blow when NBC refused to pick up the pilot for its fall TV schedule -- even though the blogosphere had been alive with chatter about the woman picked to play the lead (Adrianne Palicki) and what her costume would look like. Movies of Green Lantern and Captain America are only just now coming out this summer. (Notice I'm conveniently ignoring the crappy Captain America movie that came out in 1990).
But with today's release of X-Men: First Class, the X-Men will trail only Batman in terms of modern-day movie incarnations. That's right, this is the fifth X-Men movie, meaning it's tied with Superman (four with Christopher Reeve, one with Brandon Routh, with another due out next year), two ahead of Spider-Man (with another due out next year) and three ahead of the Hulk (one with Eric Bana, one with Edward Norton, and none more on the horizon, I hope). (Notice I'm conveniently ignoring all the incarnations of Superman that came before my own lifetime.)
So it makes me wonder: How many X-Men movies do they think we want?
I have to pause here to acknowledge the reality that nothing gets made in Hollywood unless there is a perceived demand for it. Obviously, if we keep watching X-Men movies, they'll keep making them. Even the last X-Men movie, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was critically panned, grossed $180 million in the U.S. That translates to the studios as "Yes, we want more X-Men movies." And after the predicted big opening weekend for X-Men: First Class, the verdict will seem even louder.
But where does it end? There have been five movies, and I see no reason why there won't be five more. If a hot young cast featuring Michael Fassbender, James MacAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence is a hit, as expected, they should be good for at least another two or three films. And don't forget that they're still working on a sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, called The Wolverine, even though Darren Aronofsky is no longer associated with the project. Other films that may or may not be in the works, according to wikipedia, include a Magneto origins story, a Deadpool origins story (who the heck is Deadpool? I can't even remember) and a fourth installment of the original X-Men timeline, which last left off with 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand.
I mean in one sense, the reasons for this are obvious. With most of the other comic book heroes mentioned above, there's just one protagonist, or in the case of Batman, 1 and 1A (don't forget Robin, though Christopher Nolan obviously has). With the X-Men, there are a huge number of characters that you can keep developing and spinning off. They may not all be interesting enough to support their own origins stories, but some of them are, and the rest can be lumped together in a variety of sequels and prequels. There's no shortage of ways for the X-Men to continue breeding like a virus, as long as the box office dollars keep coming in.
But at what point do we have to be saved from ourselves? At what point does simple decorum suggest that the X-Men need to be packed away for a decade and rebooted sometime in the 2020s?
As with many commerce vs. art discussions, it all comes down to box office. I mean, the only reason they stopped making Saw movies (for now) was that those movies began making demonstrably less money. If X-Men: First Class clears $200 million in the U.S., which it seems certain to do, there's not going to be any financially demonstrable decrease in our desires -- not anytime soon, at least.
So, we do want this, apparently.
I just hope this movie is good. We'll worry about the others later.