Deadpool surprised everybody this year when the scrappy. long-developed R-rated X-Men spinoff hit a home run at the box office, became a pop culture sensation, and against all expectation, earned the highest box office returns of any X-Men movie to date. Naturally, 20th Century Fox was quick to moving on the sequel, but the highly-anticipated sequel ran into some surprising turmoil when director Tim Miller dropped out over creative differences with Ryan Reynolds. Composer Junkie XL followed off the project soon after .
But according to a THR expose on the status of Fox’s X-Men empire, the studio is still full-steam ahead on the Merc with a Mouth, and they’re already developing Deadpool 3. Not only that, the third installment will reportedly feature X-Force, the team of superheroes most famously led by Deadpool’s frienemy Cable.
The creative forces behind Fox’s X-Men franchise have made it clear that X-Force is a major contender for big screen adaptation for a while now, with Reynolds in particular singling it out as a personal priority. Previous reports indicated that X-Force would receive a film of its own — a logical next step after introducing Cable in Deadpool 2, as is reportedly the plan — but it’s possible that the studio wants to hedge their bets by attaching their new team of mutants to their most popular player left in their arsenal.
The truth is that these plans are probably in a pretty lose state at the moment as the X-Men universe as a whole is currently in a state of flux. As the THR report lays out, Fox finds themselves at a bit of a crossroads with their long-running mutant verse, which has earned them more than $4 billion, worldwide. Bryan Singer‘s X-Men: Apocalypse was critically panned and saw a sharp box office drop from its predecessor, earning only $544 million worldwide to Days of Future Pasts‘ $748. On top of that, X-Men stars Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult have reached the end of their three-picture contracts, and if the studio wants them to re-up, it’s going to be costly. They now have to decide if those contract negotiations would be worth the price considering the diminishing box office returns.
At the same time, Hugh Jackman is in the midst of filming his final turn as Wolverine for James Mangold’s Logan, and without Jackman and their First Class ensemble, the franchise’s star-power boils down to Reynolds’ unlikely savior, Deadpool. The studio was eyeing Channing Tatum‘s Gambit as the possible leading man to carry the franchise in Jackman’s absence, but that project has faced its own set of problems, failing to get in front of cameras on schedule and losing director Doug Liman.
Gambit is expected to get back on track with a new director after Channing Tatum wraps on Logan Lucky, and Fox also has Josh Boone‘s young adult-oriented The New Mutants in the chamber, but it will be fascinating to watch how the franchise that helped kick-start the superhero trend evolves from here.