Love them or hate them, superhero movies have held strong as Hollywood’s biggest cash cow for the last decade and a half. Box office performance cannot be denied; four superhero films have grossed over $1 billion since 2000. Even the most critically panned — see “Elektra” and “Green Lantern” — often generate profit.

 

(screenjunkies.com)

(screenjunkies.com)

The renaissance of comic book adaptations began 15 years ago with the release of Fox’s “X-Men.” The series has seen its share of highs and lows, but generally survived due to the marketability of its headlining cast; that may soon change.

 

While attending the premiere of her upcoming film, “Serena,” Jennifer Lawrence announced to MTV news that next “X-Men” film — “X-Men: Apocalypse” — would be her last. Lawrence first appeared as the shapeshifting mutant Mystique in 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” reprising the role in last year’s hit, “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” She inherited the character from Rebecca Romijin, giving her mainstream appeal and opening up career avenues such as heroine Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” franchise, as well as her Academy Award winning turns in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.”

 

(screenrant.com)

(screenrant.com)

Days later, fan favorite Hugh Jackman revealed that he would also leave the franchise and his iconic role as Wolverine after one more outing. Unlike relative latecomer Jennifer Lawrence, Jackman’s Wolverine has appeared in every single “X-Men” film to date. This, combined with his contradictory statement last month about playing the character indefinitely, makes his departure all the more dramatic for longtime fans.

 

With these developments come inevitable concerns for Fox. Where does the franchise go from here? As star studded as the “X-Men” films may be, none of the actors are as inherently marketable as Lawrence and Jackman. In particular, Lawrence has become a role model for young women, preaching positive body image and self-confidence. We see this problem compounded by the fact that the “X-Men” films have already received a great deal of criticism for lacking cultural diversity. On the other hand, rival company Marvel Studios has generally been lauded for recently announcing its plans to bring a wider range of diverse characters to the silver screen. It is an ironic twist when one considers that the X-Men have long existed as Marvel’s allegory for major historical civil rights issues.

 

Ultimately, Fox needs to find suitable replacements for its exiting stars, or risk making the same mistake that Sony made when they mishandled the “Amazing Spider-Man” franchise. With Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds poised to join Fox’s “X-Men” universe, we will just have to wait and see if their combined star power can atone for the absence of Lawrence and Jackman.

 

What do you think of Lawrence and Jackman leaving? Can “X-Men” survive without Mystique and Wolverine? What do you think of Tatum and Reynolds? Comment below or tweet @connerws