When 20th Century Fox bought the rights to the X-Men franchise in the mid 1990s, they did so along with the rights to several individual superheroes. With X-Men being a success at the box office Fox decided to greenlight projects based on their other characters, starting with Daredevil and Elektra. Part of the initial deal, they ended up being bought by Regency Studios in the early 2000s and were only distributed by Fox. This meant that the first official venture outside of X-Men would end up being released in 2005, between the second and third X-Men films.
Fantastic Four featured a group of scientists who gain powers during a space storm. While Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm use their powers for good, Victor Von Doom does not. Having gone through several re-writes and directors during its lengthy development the response for Fantastic Four was mainly positive but with several criticisms. Many felt that though the character development was good there were too many plot elements making the film feel ill-paced. Nevertheless it made money and an extended cut of the film was released in 2007 to coincide with the release of its sequel.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer focuses on our heroes as the battle the Silver Surfer and his master Galactus: Destroyer of Worlds. It also features a gimmick in which our heroes can switch powers as well as the return of Doctor Doom. Although the opening weekend brought in more money than its predecessor, in the following weeks there was a drop in box office takings. Mixed reviews cited poor acting and directing as well as poor characterisation as the reason for this drop but the special effects garnered praise. All 4 main actors had signed a 3-film deal but after Rise of the Silver Surfer‘s poor performance Fox got cold feet and cancelled any further sequels.
In 2009 it was announced that the Fantastic Four would be returning and after 6 years a reboot of the franchise hit our screens. Fan4stic, as it was stylised, was a different origin story, drawing from the Ultimate run of comic books. This time the team gained their powers from an alternate universe and find themselves assets to the US Military. Reviews were bad. The film was slated for being boring and slow with no joy or character development. It had been hoped by Fox Executives that Fan4stic would eventually lead to a crossover with X-Men but this films failure meant that this project and any sequels would never come to fruition.
Before speaking about our last two films I would like to provide some context. The character of Deadpool belongs to the X-Men universe, however I do not count his solo films as part of the X-Franchise. They have no correlation to those films in character or from a perspective of the (admittedly broken) X-Men timeline. Many people choose to see his solo films as part of the X-Franchise and that’s fine, but that is my personal take.
After spending 14 years in development hell and 7 years after his critiqued cameo in Origins:Wolverine, Deadpool finally got his own film in 2016. Although it is far from the first superhero film to be rated R(15) (an honour that goes to 1991s The Punisher) it was a first for Fox who were praised by fans for the decision. Deadpool centres around how our titular anti-hero came to have his powers and his horrific scars in a search for the man responsible. Deadpool 2 would be released 2 years later and features the character saving a young mutant from the time travelling soldier known as Cable. Both films were praised by audiences who loved its accuracy to the source material as well as its humour. Deadpool 2 is notable for featuring the first openly gay superheroes in the form of Teenage Negasonic Warhead and her girlfriend Yukio. There have been many queer heroes in comic books but this would be the first time that this diversity was shown on film. Each film made around $784 million for a grand total of $1568 million between them and would be some of the final films released by 20th Century Fox before their acquisition by Walt Disney Studios in 2017. Rumour has it that Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool will be the only character to make the leap into the MCU but that remains to be seen.
The Story Continues…