What merry mutant movies went unmade due to this media merge?
In March 2019, Disney closed its purchase of 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight from News Corp. The ripple effects of this transaction are so enormous that it’s doubtful we’ll fully understand them for years to come. However, one key aftereffect of this event was that Disney and Marvel Studios inherited the film rights to the X-Men. This property had long been held by Fox, which had proceeded to run a series of X-Men films for twenty years starting in 2000. This franchise had become so expansive in scope that it eventually branched off into spin-off movies for Deadpool, Logan, and The New Mutants.
This long-running series ground to a halt with the Disney/Fox merger, as Disney now plans to deliver its own movies based on these mutant characters. This development was pleasing news to anyone who had dreamed about a Hulk/Wolverine duel happening in their lifetime but was distressing for those over at Fox that had been toiling away at a variety of X-Men projects. The rise of Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnations of the various X-Men members meant the downfall of a slew of X-Men movies in development when this merger occurred.
These assorted projects encompass everything from spin-off solo titles for established characters to features focusing on fan-favorite mutants from the comics that had never gotten their time in the spotlight on the big screen. Now that the dust has begun to settle from the Disney/Fox merger, it’s time to look at all the unmade X-Men movies that vanished once the Mouse House regained the film rights to these characters.
After the release of Logan, it was clear there would be no more solo movies starring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. But this 2017 installment of the X-Men film series had also introduced X-23 (Dafne Keen), a young girl with the same powers as Wolverine who was perfect fodder to headline a comic book movie of her own. The project seemed prime to become a reality once Logan writer/director James Mangold signed on to pen an X-23 spin-off film in October 2017.
Unfortunately, Mangold signed onto the project just a month before Disney announced its intention to acquire 20th Century Fox. Despite Logan becoming a box office hit and X-23 emerging as a scene-stealing character in the film, a solo outing for X-23 vanished without a trace.
The entertainment world was rocked by the news that Tim Miller wouldn’t be returning to helm a sequel to his 2016 hit Deadpool. However, that didn’t mean the X-Men franchise was finished with Miller. At the start of 2018, Miller was revealed to be working with comics writer Brian Michael Bendis on creating a solo Kitty Pryde movie. This would’ve presumably been a new incarnation of the character than the one seen in prior X-Men films portrayed by Elliot Page in two prior installments in the franchise.
Despite Kitty Pryde having a minimal presence in the X-Men movies to date, she’s a richly detailed and important character in the comics. It’s easy to see why the producers of the X-Men movies would be eyeballing this figure as one that could headline her own movie. However, no further news of the production emerged throughout the rest of 2018, particularly in regards to what kind of story this Kitty Pryde film would explore and performers eyeballed for the lead role. With the Disney/Fox merger killing this production off, Kitty Pryde fans will have to look towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation of the X-Men for any hopes of seeing a substantive take on this character.
While Marvel Studios is toiling away at a new adventure for Ryan Reynolds’ take on Deadpool, there was a point in time where 20th Century Fox hired writers to work on figuring out what the plot of a potential sequel to Deadpool 2 would look like. Though details were initially scarce on what this follow-up would look like, Ryan Reynolds finally revealed some story aspects in 2021.
Interestingly, this production would’ve focused on Deadpool and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine going on a road trip. This would’ve followed up on a moment from Deadpool 2’s credits where Deadpool told Wolverine (depicted through archival footage from X-Men Origins: Wolverine) that, though he'd retire after Logan, "one day, your old pal Wade is gonna ask you to get back into the saddle again…and when he does…say yes." It’s unclear if Jackman was ever signed on or even approached for this iteration of the sequel. Initially planned to debut after X-Force hit theaters, Deadpool 3 eventually fell to the wayside once the Disney/Fox merger occurred. Whatever form the next Deadpool movie takes, it’s doubtful it’ll take any cues from this incarnation of the project.
Some X-Men films that got canceled thanks to the Disney/Fox merger were only in development for a few years before that media merger occurred. Gambit was a significant exception, as it was kicking around in various forms for years, always with Channing Tatum in the lead role. It was once set for release in October 2016, until the sudden departure of initial director Rupert Wyatt, as well as Fox drastically reducing its budget after the 2015 Fantastic Four movie flopped, caused it to get delayed.
Gambit stuck around in development for so long that the project even shifted genres. Initially planned to be a heist movie, it was later revealed that Gambit had morphed into a romantic comedy. Various actresses were also considered for the female lead of the project, particularly Lea Seydoux and Lizzy Caplan, while directors Doug Liman and Gore Verbinski briefly got attached to helm Gambit before departing. Tatum’s commitment to Gambit remained so strong that reports emerged of him eyeballing the chance to direct it himself in January 2019. Two months later, though, the Disney/Fox merger closed and effectively shut the door for this long-gestating project to leap onto the big screen.
Today, The New Mutants is best known for its constant delays and controversies surrounding racist dialogue delivered towards its indigenous protagonist. However, there was once enough confidence in the project for New Mutants director Josh Boone to map out elaborate plans for a pair of sequels. Each film would’ve explored new horror genres, with the first follow-up adhering to the template of a sci-fi horror film while the second sequel would’ve been made in the mold of an apocalyptic horror film. There were even hopes of having Antonio Banderas and Sacha Baron Cohen show up in the sequels as the characters Emmanuel da Costa and Warlock, respectively.
However, the Disney/Fox merger threw the entire release plan of the first New Mutants movie into chaos. Thus, it’s no surprise that the proposed sequels were also adversely affected. Around the time New Mutants finally debuted in movie theaters, Boone confirmed that Disney had no plans to further explore these versions of the oddball mutants. There were massive hopes for New Mutants as a standalone franchise, but Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox was just one of several elements that derailed those aspirations.
The wild success of Deadpool inspired 20th Century Fox to fully commit to a project that had been lingering on the margins at the studio for years; X-Force. A team-up vehicle for gritter mutants, an iteration of X-Force almost went forward a few years before Deadpool was unleashed under the direction of Jeff Wadlow. Though Wadlow’s vision sputtered out, Fox was much more committed to a new version of X-Force, one that would be helmed by Drew Goddard, a filmmaker who was in Fox’s good graces after penning the Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Martian.
Planned as the next appearance for Deadpool after Deadpool 2, the project was even teased in a comedic sequence in that blockbuster sequel and was envisioned as being in the extremely adult vein of the lucrative Deadpool titles. At one point, the project was moving at a good enough speed that it was planning to begin filming in October 2018. Had this original plan gone forward, X-Force would’ve kicked off principal photography just months before the Disney/Fox deal was completed. However, no other developments ever appeared for X-Force and it’s unknown if a version of this team will factor into any of Disney’s plans for the Merc With a Mouth.
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Douglas Laman is a life-long movie fan, writer and Rotten Tomatoes approved critic whose writing has been published in outlets like The Mary Sue, Fangoria, The Spool, and ScarleTeen. Residing both on the Autism spectrum and in Texas, Doug adores pugs, showtunes, the Wes Anderson movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, and any music by Carly Rae Jepsen.
What merry mutant movies went unmade due to this media merge?