Some thoughts on Simon Kinberg, ‘X-Men,’ ‘Fantastic Four,’ and world-building

Simon Kinberg has quickly become one of Fox’s greatest assets, and it looks like they’re about to double-down on him for the foreseeable future.

Earlier today, I recorded a short video piece about Kinberg’s new deal to help expand both the “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” worlds on film, and I’m sure he’s got some big ideas about what to do with both of those properties. He’s also hard at work on his “Star Wars” spin-off film, whichever one it is, as well as the TV show “Star Wars: Rebels.” He’s joined that club where he is pretty much booked every day of the year, and on giant movies that are absolutely going to be made. It’s pretty rarefied air, and he seems to be handling it well. When I spoke to him last, at an event for “Elysium,” he talked a little bit about how great it had been participating in the “Star Wars” process and spending time with Lawrence Kasdan, who has to be considered one of the old school masters of this sort of thing.

This raises a larger question, though, about the sudden move everyone’s making to this model that’s worked so well for one company. I feel like I may not have made the point I was trying to the other day, or at least I didn’t make it clear with what I wrote. When I wrote about the way Warner is approaching their DC comic movies right now, I wasn’t trying to say that I know the way they HAVE to fix things. Far from it. Ultimately, all that matters is that each studio look at what they have and find the best way to make it. That’s all any of them can hope to do. There are hundreds of ways to screw up any potential adaptation, and only a very few ways it really works.

There are two different forces at work here. As a writer, I can see the appeal of getting to lay out a huge-canvass story, something that works in individual pieces, but that also tells a larger story when you connect everything. It’s exciting to be able to get all those balls in the air, and if you do it right, it can be thrilling for the audience as well. For the studios, the appeal is obvious. If they can get the hooks in the audience with the first film, they hope they can keep them on that same hook for as long as they can keep things going.

The real question now is about audience fatigue. So far, audiences seem to be enjoying what Marvel’s been up to. Is that what they want from all movies now? That’s a pretty big gamble, and I feel like the best cautionary fable so far involves a property that is currently being developed as another big sprawling universe. Remember when they announced that “Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines” was going to be the kick-off to a brand new trilogy of movies? Remember when that didn’t happen? Remember when they announced that “Terminator: Salvation” was going to be the kick-off to a brand new trilogy of movies? Remember when that didn’t happen? Well, once again, they are now saying that 2015’s “Terminator” will be a kick-off to a brand-new trilogy of movies, and they’re also saying there will be a TV series to run alongside that trilogy, creating a whole big fistful of new “Terminator” stories.

Before they do that, maybe they should step back and ask themselves why the last two attempts to kick-start this into an ongoing franchise have been unsuccessful. It can’t be purely because of how much they did or didn’t make, because if that was the case, I doubt anyone would want to make another film using that same property. It feels like the “Terminator” movies and TV shows are just successful enough to convince someone else that they could get it right, but not successful enough for anyone aside from James Cameron to ever want to do it twice. It seems like these big gambles are still gambles, and the idea that all anyone has to do is imitate Marvel to have a success is crazy.

I wish Kinberg well. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him get these two properties right. At this point, the only way we ever see a Kree-Skrull War on film is in a “Fantastic Four” franchise. I just wonder if there’s room for this many mega-franchises. I think it all comes down to what the audience wants, and the only way the studios are going to figure that out is by having some mega-failures. I just hope that on the other side of this experiment, they don’t blame guys like Kinberg. He’s still working on plenty of smaller original stuff, like Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming “Cappie,” and as long as he maintains that balance, he’ll be fine.

Step one of seeing what Kinberg’s plans for the X-Men look like will happen when “Days Of Future Past” arrives in theaters May 23, 2014.