There was once a time when superhero movies weren’t scheduled a decade in advance. That time is gone forever. Now, you wanna make a movie where a guy in a cape punches another guy who’s probably also wearing a cape, you schedule that thing out years in advance.
And Fox would very much like to continue making movies about cape-adorned man punches (and, on rare occasions, cape-adorned woman punches), so they’ve submitted their future schedule for all to see. Via the Twitter of BoxOffice.com, we now know when each of Fox’s various Marvel movies will debut, all the way through 2018. Here’s what their full superhero slate looks like:
X-Men: Days of Future Past – May 23, 2014
Fantastic Four – June 19, 2015
X-Men: Apocalypse – May 27, 2016
Untitled Wolverine Film – March 3, 2017
Fantastic Four 2 – July 14, 2017
Untitled Fox/Marvel Film – July 13, 2018
Technically, superheroes weren’t the only ones who could score a dates — Taken 3 is set for January 9, 2015, Untitled Ridley Scott Project for March 4, 2016, and that Frankenstein update with Daniel Radcliffe was bumped back to October 2, 2015. But since multiple studios aren’t fighting amongst themselves to schedule their many Frankenstein remakes, and because the only films Fox scheduled more than two years from now are comic book flicks, they take precedence here.
Untitled Wolverine Film isn’t much of a surprise, considering that a few days ago director James Mangold mentioned that it shoots right after X-Men: Apocalypse. Frankly, Fantastic Four 2 isn’t, either. It’s a mega-budgeted superhero movie starring hip young attractive people that are totally in with today’s youth. Whether it’s any good or not, it’ll probably make enough money to justify at least one sequel. And on the off-chance it does flop, no big deal. Fox can just postpone shooting the next one while awkwardly shifting the blame to “marketing issues” and “target audiences” (it’s happened before — look at The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones).
It’s that last vague offering, Untitled Fox/Marvel Project, that holds the real mystery. Even if it doesn’t hold much mystery at all. Chances are, it’ll be X-Force. X-Force has a screenwriter and it has a bunch of domain names picked out by Fox (ensuring that yes, the studio is ready to market the hell out of the thing), which can’t be said of Fox’s other maybe-in-the-works superhero movies.
Deadpool has a director and a script, but then it also has little support from Fox. The latest update on Deadpool is not an optimistic one: “We’re just waiting for the studio to embrace what an amazingly fucking awesome film this would be.” And the idea of an X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover was brought up last year, then debunked almost immediately, then re-bunked a few months later. But in its current state, Fantast-X Four isn’t much more than a rumor.
But then, if we all know Fox is making X-Force, and X-Force is by far the likeliest candidate for that sweet chunk of July 2018 real estate, why not just mark X-Force on the calendar? Why all the secrecy? It’s that one little nagging thought that says Untitled Fox/Marvel Project might be something besides X-Force; some super-awesome surprise ace in the hole that Fox is ready to fire on Marvel and/or Sony.
Which is something they desperately need. Marvel might only have their schedule penciled in through 2017 (a year behind Fox’s untitled pic and Sony’s Spider-Man 4 release date), but the studio that came up with the whole “shared universe” thing is still the one to beat. They’ve got film, network TV and Netflix dominance. They’ve discussed upping their film output to three or four per year. Kevin Feige even mentioned that he has things planned out all the way to 2021, if our current superhero boom can sustain itself for another seven years.
So yes, superhero films now need to be reserved as far in advance as a reservation to the place from Jiro Dreams of Sushi. But they have to be. If Fox didn’t have five years of comic book movies in various stages of prep, they’d be steamrolled under ample competition. It’s the one great downside to Marvel’s cinematic universe strategy, that the film world can handle one decade-spanning, multi-franchise superhero world but starts to buckle once everyone else copies the same strategy (and God help us all if DC ever joins in for real). Three or four years ago, the concept of a “cinematic universe” seemed like the coolest thing ever. Who knows how we’ll feel in another few years, once studios start scrambling for the choicest summer 2035 release dates.