X-Men: Days of Future Past: Why Fox Desperately Needs it to Succeed
Back in 2000, Fox changed the landscape of comic book blockbuster filmmaking with the release of Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Audiences were introduced to a man with claws coming out of his hands, a professor who could read minds, and a holocaust survivor that could control metal, among countless other characters. This first X-Men film was responsible for bringing forth the current era of superhero blockbusters we have today by showing that not only could comic book characters be adapted onto the big screen, but successfully relate to audiences despite them having these unique abilities. Now, superheroes are as common in Hollywood as fireworks during the Fourth of July.
Fast forward 14 years and the X-Men franchise has another opportunity to leave a mark on comic book filmmaking, for better or for worse. Upon its release on May 23, 2014, X-Men: Days of Future Past carries a substantial burden for the studio, one that is much larger than just being a blockbuster comic book sequel. The film has the possibility of either cultivating a new era of superhero film prosperity for Fox, or threatening to bury the studio amidst the high competition that is currently in the market.
With all that being said, let’s take a look at the three major things that Days of Future Past will face once it’s released to the public.
Fox’s need to compete with Marvel, Sony and Warner Bros.
The current landscape of blockbuster franchise filmmaking is one in which if something doesn’t work after a few years, simply reboot and try again. Studios are so desperate for a sufficient cash flow that they are willing to sacrifice artistic integrity for continued profits. This is why Spiderman was rebooted only 5 years after the last film was released and why Batman will be making a return to the silver screen only 4 years after his last appearance. Money drives studios because, at the end of the day, all that matters is the bottom line. It doesn’t matter that Spiderman just got rebooted; it still made $752 million dollars, therefore, a sequel must be churned out for the masses despite the fact that it’s the same hero audiences saw just a few years ago.
As much as die-hard fans want to believe that they are the reason that blockbuster movies succeed, the truth of the matter is that casual moviegoers are who make or break a film. Because of this, studios must appeal to as wide a range as possible, while also delivering a product that doesn’t alienate the average consumer. Marvel is a prime example of a studio that ultimately succeeds in this endeavor. Since 2008, they have cultivated a line of films that appeal to their hardcore fan base because of the “shared universe” threads that bind all of their movies together, while at the same time reaching average moviegoers that can enjoy films ranging from fantasy adventures, (Thor) to period films (Captain America: The First Avenger) and gargantuan action team-ups (Marvel’s The Avengers).
Fox needs DOFP to successfully establish the X-Men brand as heavy competition to the high box office numbers being generated by Marvel, Sony and Warner Bros. Fox cannot afford to fall behind the other big movie studios anymore. This is why they have put a ton of their marbles in making DOFP one of the most expensive films they’ve ever made; no one puts that much money into a movie unless they expect a significant return on their investment. Their two major franchises include an X-Men series that has never reached stellar box-office heights (more on that below) and a Fantastic Four property that was mediocre both financially and critically (hence the reason they are currently rebooting it). Fox, despite the fact that it basically ushered in the comic book movie era, is definitely behind the curve with its own superhero franchises. Other studios are wiping the floor with Fox; just look at the success Warner Bros has had with Batman and a renewed Superman, Marvel with their interconnected universe, and Sony with Spiderman. Hell, Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise could even count as a superhero franchise, considering the numerous laws of physics they continue to break with each movie. Ultimately, DOFP needs to reignite the fire in Fox’s comic book franchises.
Which brings us to the next issue…
Having to rejuvenate the franchise’s lackluster box office
When compared to other superhero franchises, the X-Men have only been a moderate success. As of right now, the highest grossing film in the franchise is X-Men: The Last Stand with $459 million worldwide, a film that fans often consider being one of, if not the weakest, of the entire series. Other superheroes have thrived at the box office, taking in upwards of $800 million (Spiderman) and even some taking upwards of $1 billion (Iron Man 3, The Dark Knight, Marvel’s The Avengers). The irony of this situation comes from the belief that strength comes in numbers; if there are more heroes for audiences to watch and appreciate, then how is it that no X-Men movie has ever been able to break $500 million at the worldwide box office? The X-Men were basically The Avengers before the Avengers even made their way onto the big screen.
Because of this issue, there is no question that DOFP needs to be the highest grossing X-Men film ever. And no, simply cracking $500 million isn’t enough. In order for this film to be seen as a major success and have the ability to justify the continued existence of the franchise, it needs to break at least $700 million. With a cast that is loaded with premiere quality acting talent, the growing importance of the overseas market, along with the added bump of 3-D ticket prices and the general excitement of “getting the crew back together,” it would be a severe disappointment if this film was not the highest-grossing in the series by a large margin.
 And if we’re being even more honest, it might need to crack upwards of $850 million. Another thing to remember is the creative talent behind the camera, which includes the director who brought the franchise to fruition and who is responsible for making the most loved film of the series (X2). Add that along with a budget that makes this film look absolutely stunning and there is no excuse for this film not to be immensely successful. As Marvel’s The Avengers showed, audiences are more than happy to drop loads of cash on a team-up superhero film (even more so if it turns out to be good).
 The Fast and Furious franchise serves as the best example of this working with audiences. In 2011, Universal successfully sold Fast Five by making it clear that everyone’s favorite characters from the previous films would be making an appearance and joining forces together. The end result was $626 million worldwide off a $125 million budget and the highest grossing film in the series (until Fast and Furious 6 broke that record again two years later).
It will make or break the X-Men franchise
The future (pun completely intended) of this series is hinging on whether or not DOFP clicks with audiences. Fox’s marketing so far has made a good effort in not focusing on hardcore fans that have had their tickets essentially bought since the project was announced. Instead, the studio has made a conscious effort to convince those casual fans that this X-Men film is worthy of seeing. It’s no coincidence that Hugh Jackman (playing arguably the most popular X-man) is being made the center of this film. It’s also not a surprise that much of the marketing has had a focus on other superstars, like Oscar winner and American sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender. Each actor in this film is key to a specific part of the market that Fox is targeting. Audiences have shown they love films that feature of medley of high-profile actors in significant roles. The fact that this film is also a time-traveling, dystopian action thriller sure helps to interest some casual moviegoers. Also, a sequel to DOFP is already in development, with multiple spin-offs also being discussed; this only adds to the immensity of this film increases even further. This classic case of counting your chickens before they hatch shows the confidence (or arrogance?) that Fox has in their product. If X-Men is planning to survive as a franchise, then DOFP doesn’t just need to be a home-run for Fox; it needs to be a bottom of the ninth walk-off grand slam.
As a fan, I ultimately hope that DOFP will not only be a successful X-Men film, but that it will be a tremendous blockbuster that will set the stage beautifully for future movies in the series. At the time of this writing, a new trailer for the film was dropped by Fox, and it only added to the excitement that I’m sure other countless fans already have. However, the risk and studio pressure that DOFP has attached to it is undeniable. There’s no doubt that this film carries an unbelievable burden to not just be a good action picture, but a picture that justifies every one that came before it and the ones that hope to come after. It needs to reinvigorate a slowing franchise and push it towards a new era, while paying due respect to the path that it took leading up to this point. It’s a tough act to pull off, but here’s hoping that 2014 can play like 2000 and bring about the beginning of another long and prosperous line of X-Men films.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
I don’t know if it’ll be able to compete in terms of quality or box office with the marvel movies. Hell captain America the winter soldier was much better than even the good-great Xmen movies
I really wanted to be excited for this movie, especially cause I loved first class, and I love Peter Dinklage, but this just seems like they are Singer is just ignoring First Class and making his own damn movie. Oh I’m sorry, his own Wolverine movie. I understand people like him, but he is not the Xmen. The Xmen are a team, and after first class I was so happy to see a movie could stand without him(except the 15 second cameo), but now they are taking 2 steps back, instead of forward. Please, please, Singer. Keep Wolverine out after this one. I want to see an Xmen movie with focus on the Xmen, not him.
I agree with you 100%! I been saying this for years now. Everyone is on Wolverines case its insane how every movie revolves around him. Plus they gave him two standalone movies. I don’t hate wolverine I’m just saying a X men movie should be about the X men. I would have been happy if they sent Cyclops or Colossus to the past to round everyone up.
I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. The goal of this film is too bring the two timelines (X1-The Last Stand and First Class) together. The franchise has always been Wolverine heavy (Jackman puts people in seats), but this new film seems to focus on the conflict between Professor Xavier and Magneto. I am 100 percent okay with exploring this conflict more. That drama is what made First Class so compelling (at least in my opinion).
Favorite line in the trailer, “In the future, do I make it?” “No.”
Classic Wolverine, No sugar coating it.
As cool as these previews look. The universe is so screwy. I wish they would have just rebooted the whole darn thing, but fan favorites Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are hard to replace. I don’t see how these two universes are connected.
Wolverine lost his claws in The Wolverine. I’m not sure why Professor X is walking.
Young Mystic and old Mystic don’t seem similar in any way. I do think this movie is really more to pass the torch to the younger cast while keeping some of the popular old characters relevant. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Wolverine and he’s about the only character that plays into everything logically, because his age is unknown.
This is a reboot of sorts. Singer chose to do DoFP, so that he could use the time travel aspect to fix inconsistencies as well as decisions made with characters that he did not agree with.
Logan lost the adamantium in The Wolverine, but still has his bone claws, which is what you see in the trailer.
Charles walking could either be a change to the timeline due to the events of messing with the timeline or simply that his use of a wheelchair at the end of First Class was temporary while undergoing rehabilitation.
I see very little difference between the two Mystiques.
First Class was meant to be the torch passing, but it created inconsistencies between it and the original trilogy. As such, this movie is now meant to complete that intention.
This was very well researched article and really informational. I love X-Men and have followed the franchise since the first installment. I hope Days of Future Past does well at the box office. I think it will. I love that you bring up how big Hollywood studios focus more on making money instead of the creative part of the movie making process. It’s sad that money gets in the way of creativity. I believe that Bryan Singer is going to do a great job with this movie and the story is very interesting, even for those who do not follow the comics. It’s a great commentary on society, war, acceptance, and humanity. I think it speaks to a lot of different types of people. Plus who doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence.
Looking good, but I’m really not expecting much from this movie at all. I’m gonna try to keep my expectations as low as possible so I don’t have my nerd heart broken again.
Really wish it wasn’t Bryan Singer directing this movie. Why couldn’t we have the director from First Class?? First Class was like 3 billion times better than X-Men and X2 combined!
I am in full agreement. I’m also curious as to what the limits are to the X-Men franchise in terms of character selection; the Maximoff twins are set to appear in the upcoming Avengers movie, something I thought was impossible due to Fox having all rights to X-stuff.
In response to both of you, Matthew Vaughn (director of X-Men: First Class) was initially set to direct DOFP, with Singer as the producer. However, Vaughn ended up changing his mind and decided to focus on another movie of his instead (one of the links reporting this: http://collider.com/bryan-singer-x-men-first-class-2-sequel/206289/), thus dropping out of the director’s chair and leaving it open for Singer. Vaughn is still credited as a producer on DOFP though.
Hmm, I love the article, but I am skeptical about the notion that DoFP will ‘make or break’ the franchise, mostly because it could earn next to nothing and they would still give it a sequel. This article was really well researched and very entertaining to read, however!
Thank you! I see your point in that the studio might just go ahead and give a sequel even if DOFP bombs. But that would be a terrible idea, because if DOFP does indeed fail, Fox would be funding money towards a project that audiences wouldn’t even want to see. As a result, they’ll end up losing money and also wasting time on a film that wont be embraced.
Dissecting the audience into comic fans and general movie-goers is a sound strategy. I like that you are consciously thinking of that difference.
Days of Future Past is one of my favorite X-Men stories and I hope Fox lives up to the hype. they have a great cast and brilliant source material so hopefully this will all come together in a summer blockbuster.
Well written and researched article. Great job.
One thing is pretty clear- Marvel movies are kicking DC movies’ keister (other than the insanely popular Dark Knight trilogy). The MCU is the clear top dog right now, and Sony/ Fox Marvel films are cutting out a pretty good niche for themselves, but DC is finding itself in a sort of weird limbo between the ultimate connectedness found in the MCU, and the independence of the Amazing Spiderman and X-men films.
Completely agree. Every other franchise is essentially trying to replicate/catch up to what Marvel is doing. Sony at least has a plan with Spiderman (time will tell if their Sinister Six and other plans succeed) and Fox is attempting to re-launch X-Men and FF together, while Warner Bros. is stuck trying to figure out how they want to approach this whole dilemma (individual films leading up to team-up, or team-up film then individuals?).
I seriously hope this is a good movie. I have my doubts (I don’t think Bryan Singer can pull off a story as complex as DoFP successfully), but this trailer doesn’t look half bad. We need a good X-Men movie. The X-Men franchise deserves the same respect in the cinematic universe that Avengers gets. I hope Bryan Singer blows the doors off with this movie. Regardless, I’ll watch it just to support comic book movies.
I don’t think the story looks all that complex. There is some complexity there but it just appears to be on the surface, I think in the end the interpretation will be pretty basic. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing either.
Excellent article Giovanni. I could not agree more.
Excellent article Giovanni. I could not agree with you. Keep up the good work.
I have high hopes for this film, but as I see it, it’s a win-win. If it’s good, then cheers all around and let the sequels of hopefully equal quality. However, if DoFP tanks, the time could be ripe for Disney/Marvel to reunite the dream team and relieve Fox of their movie rights (for a staggering sum of cash, no doubt, but it would certainly be more plausible if Fox came to view X-Men as the franchise that keeps laying eggs).
Either way, I like the odds for plenty of good movies in the future.
Excellent article! I also agree with many of your points. I think what hurts this recent franchise shift for “X-Men” has been the journey through the past element. As a fan, I could not have loved it more, but for general audiences these trips back in time are polarizing. As successful as Marvel has been, Captain America wasn’t the big hit it was supposed to be, but it was a great trip through Americana. Critically these period comic films work for me, but Fox’s biggest risk here is throwing in so much money for what is more or less a period piece set in the 1970s. They have to some how cut back costs to experiment with the formula to be financially successful, but in my opinion “X-Men: First Class” was an excellent film and I can’t wait to see “Days of Future Past.” I would love to hear your more detailed opinion on the “DOFP” marketing, because I think online they’re knocking it out of the park in terms of creativity.
AGH! I am so excited for this film!! X-men is by far my favorite superhero franchise! However your article is a little disheartening 🙁 I wish all it took were die-hard fans to keep a GREAT franchise going. Quite honestly, if people weren’t interested in X-men now, I doubt this movie will change anything… unless it gets RAVE reviews. Ah well, I’m definitely going! I guess I’ll just have to persuade all my friends and their grandma to go too!
I agree that the Marvel films have done a better job at generating excitement and encouraging fans to make connections. I was amazed that Agents of Shield assumed fans had already seen Winter Soldier when it had only opened the previous weekend.
The only possible benefit I see of this film failing, is that if it does, Fox would likely not continue to make more Xmen films. This would lead to Marvel gaining the rights back, then an Avenger – Xmen crossover would be possible. Not saying I want the film to be bad, I am really excited for this film, but just stating the worse case scenario.
I was excited about this mainly because of the cast and because First Class was surprisingly good, but now I’m not sure. The previews looks slightly generic and overcrowded with characters. Still hope Bryan Singer nails it.
Frankly it looks epic, but it could also suck so we’ll just have to wait and see. If it manages to not confuse the hell out of the audience with all the time traveling stuff then I think it’s got a chance of being great. Just tired of the franchise basically being all about Wolverine all the time though.
I hope it does well, too. I rather like all of the x-men movies.
Very well-written article. But I agree with some of the above comments that Wolverine has become a bit overplayed, since he’s the star of every X-Men film and has two (and one forthcoming) standalone films of his own. I am not a fan of Bryan Singer’s work, particularly. I wish FOX had rebooted the franchise with First Class instead of doing a “pre-boot,” or whatever it is they called it. There are way too many continuity errors as is. But they’ll no doubt try to fix it within DoFP. I would like to see the studio rights revert back to Marvel, like Daredevil and Punisher have done.
I hope Days of Future Past succeeds. The last Wolverine movie was a big disappointment.
I agree. I was really let down by the last Wolverine movie.
Too many plot holes and story problems for it to be enjoyable.
…And that final sequence. So bad.
I have been really excited about seeing this movie because I loved X-Men: First Class, as well as the first 3 X-Men films. I never really thought about the fact that Fox really needed this film to succeed, because I just assumed with such an amazing cast, story, and fan base the movie would succeed by itself. However, you make a very interesting points about the struggles Fox faces to make this movie a success and not get eclipsed by marvel. Really great article!
So, you don’t think that Marvel should have control over the X Men franchise?
I think in an ideal world X Men and even Spiderman would in Marvel Studio’s wheelhouse.
I feel conflicted about DOFP. On one hand I want it to succeed, but on the other I don’t really want Fox to stay in charge of it.
I was merely taking a look at the big picture for Fox with regards to this film and how it could help or not help. But I definitely agree that in a perfect world, all the Marvel films would crossover with each other and have heroes like Wolverine fight alongside Iron Man, Captain America and Spiderman. I believe that all the studios would benefit tremendously (in terms of fan enthusiasm and financial success) if they shared their characters. Hopefully they’ll figure that out soon and we can all benefit from it.
I find it interesting that the control over comic franchises is very system to the old studio system in Hollywood. In the original studio system, Hollywood actors were dedicated to ONE studio and there would be no sharing. Now, with comic films becoming more prevalent, the rights to each franchise causes this same issue, which is very unfortunate. I definitely think sharing between worlds would make for a fantastic change of pace.
The more I see of this movie the more it looks like its going to be a convoluted mess. The prior movies have screwed up the continuity way too much.
I’ve never Read a Single Comic Book, But the X-MEN have always Stood out to me for Some Reason. Probably because their Unique Powers are the Most Interesting in Comic Books…
This looks like its going to be the best superhero movie ever!
While Fox would certainly benefit from the film succeeding, I do not see anything “desperate” about the need. While each of their previous films may have failed to live up to expectations, critically and commercially, the films themselves have yet be become true box office bombs. This film will make back its money, easily, and likely go beyond that simply on name and brand value alone. The true nature of their struggle is that they desire to be respected among their competition, which is remarkably stiff. This film is in no danger of failing, though winning respect will be an uphill battle.