The 90s nostalgia continues: Fox announces X-Force movie

Comics fans have a love-hate relationship with their past. A huge hit in its day, the 1966 Batman TV series was widely cited as something the character needed to move away from in subsequent decades, even by people who loved the equally absurd, if not as colourful, Tim Burton films. Recently, though, the absurd take on the character has been experiencing a fan renaissance.

Similarly, comics fans loved the guns-pouches-and-teeth era of 90s X-Men comics at the time, then repudiated it in the next decade. Over the last few years, however, the 90s have been undergoing something of a critical reevaluation. And now it seems that is extending even to the movies.

It’s no news that Fox has been trying to develop an X-Force movie as a spinoff from its X-Men franchise. Hollywood journalists have been reporting it for years. Check out this 2009 article, for instance. But now it seems that this property is starting to take off, inspired perhaps by the success of Fox’s other 90s-inspired property, Deadpool.

Fox recently announced that Drew Goddard will be writing and directing an X-Force film. No firm date is set, yet, but we should expect the movie out after the release of the next Deadpool film in June 2018.  Deadpool 2 is set to introduce Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz), both important characters in the X-Force franchise.

So what can we expect from X-Force? It’s hard to say. The original team started out as a reimagining of the very first X-Men spinoff title, New Mutants. Originally intended as a high-school themed book with younger characters, New Mutants developed into a different title once penciller Rob Liefeld came on board in late 1989. One of Marvel’s hottest artists, Liefeld eventually spearheaded the move to a new title in 1991. The new team, X-Force, was intended to be a more proactive and militant alternative to the more conventionally superheroic X-Men, X-Factor and Excalibur teams.

As it happened, Liefeld left the book after only 12 issues, but the subsequent development of the team remained more or less consistent with that original vision. In most of its various incarnations, the team has acted as a sort of paramilitary force, undertaking commando missions rather than engaging in more traditional superheroic crimefighting.

How much of the comic team we’re gong to see in the film is uncertain. Deadpool was an important supporting character, and given the success of the film we’re likely to see more of Ryan Reynolds. We’re definitely getting Cable and Domino, and I suppose Feral seems like an obvious choice — her animalistic powers would be easy to bring to the screen. Legacy characters from the New Mutants included Sunspot, Cannonball, and Rictor, who would be fun to see in live-action, and both X-Men and Nextwave fans are going to be excited by the prospect of getting a proper live-action version of Boom-Boom, whose whimsical humour and destructive powers seem like they’d be a natural fit for a Deadpool spinoff.

As for the two characters on the left in the picture above, well … Shatterstar was essentially a spinoff character from Longshot, a character whose own origin is complicated enough. Shatterstar is a mutant, yes, but a mutant from another dimension — and not just another dimension, but the future of another dimension. He’s unlikely to come through unscathed, unless the bizarre complexity of his origin is just played as a gag — which would actually be pretty funny. And Warpath? Well … more Native American heroes is always a good thing, but he’s going to need a little work to be palatable to a 2017 audience. I mean, “Warpath,” and the feathers … we’ll see.

Still, with Drew Goddard at the helm, there’s a good chance we’ll finally see this film happening. Goddard adapted the screenplay of The Martian from the original novel, and he’s also responsible for the Netflix Daredevil series. As a former writer on shows like Alias, Lost, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he definitely has the genre chops, and he’s popular at Fox, where they’re also riding high on the success of Deadpool. The time may finally be right for a return to the world of pouches and tiny feet.

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