If all the major studios distributing superhero movies were siblings, Marvel would be the over-achiever, Warner Bros. would be the rebellious troublemaker, and Fox would be the misunderstood one who played alone in the corner. It’s fitting that Rotten Tomatoes’ algorithm produces an actual grade, showing each studio’s track record like a report card waiting to be placed on the refrigerator. Marvel and DC, whether good or bad, have become predicable, allowing one to moderate expectations upon viewing the latest installment. Fox has proven themselves to be the wild card, offering some of the highest highs (Deadpool) and the lowest lows (Fan4stic). Their X-Men movie franchise, with Bryan Singer at the helm, has been their safety, their go-to which suffers from inconsistency (not to mention a convoluted timeline). It’s always one step forward (X2: X-Men United) and several steps back (X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
It would be nice if all of these movies could be “good” at the very least, but the failures sometimes help shape better outcomes in future films. For instance, would we have gotten 2016’s Deadpool if not for the garbage version of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Who knows, but these kinds of easy targets trampled over by ravaged fanboys send the loudest message that the studios are doing something wrong. But like a true love/hate relationship, everyone turns happy like the flick of a switch when something like Logan comes out and helps wash away the less-than-mediocre Wolverine movies which came before.
It’s not just that Logan managed to be good and deliver a more comic book authentic depiction of this beloved character. Where other superhero films have the stink of studio interference and overall lack of direction, Logan was the vision of James Mangold and Hugh Jackman fully realized. Shaking off the shackles of timeline obligations and franchise continuity, Logan became a singular experience, a full blown post-apocalyptic western with melancholic brutality, all while subtly checking off the boxes on the comic book movie checklist. While every other franchise is only concerned with the uniformity of a shared universe, this film thrives because of its voice.
Even something as goofy and irreverent as Deadpool manages to have a voice. It might be a filthy one, but it’s a voice. Instead of shying away from the source material, it’s embracing it and proudly displaying what sets this apart from other comic books. It’s evident that the best FOX superhero movies are the ones with a distinct vision. A movie like Fan4stic is one lacking a vision which could explain its terribleness. But the ones where the studio takes a step back and trust the director or actor to share their vision, however bold or off the path it may seem, are the ones that stand out as true creative accomplishments.
Possibly the most unique one exists on the small screen in the form of Legion. While it does exist in the X-Men universe, the FX show lives and breathes on its own, without even a mutter of “X-Men” at all. A hybrid of Stanley Kubrick, Inception, and Mr. Robot, Legion stands out because of how un-superhero comic booky it is. And that’s not to say it’s rejecting its source material, it’s completely channeling it. But it’s also letting the show creator Noah Hawley, who’s killing it with Fargo, take a weird story and rejoice in the fact that it’s weird. It doesn’t feel the need to remind the viewer every five seconds they’re watching a comic book show. It stands proud as a science-fiction thriller horror action thing. And while even the much praised Marvel Netflix shows sometimes lull a bit at 13 episodes, Legion is a lean 8 episodes that lives in a mindf*ck area for most of them.
Whether or not FOX has completely learned from all their past failures remains to be seen. The X-Men film franchise still seems to move up and down in quality. But right now, where we are, FOX is standing out from the other studios as the one where filmmakers can bring their own voice to the projects. Not everything needs to have the same tone and aesthetic. Sometimes it’s better for films to shine on their own rather than line up as a chapter in a cinematic universe. Sometimes it’s good to be different.
What do you think of FOX and their recent films/shows? Have they got it right or are they still struggling? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!