Poland has a good analysis of the weirdness behind a new Hollywood Reporter article that’s getting a lot of traction the last couple of days, one where reporter Anne Thompson says that while X-Men may have beat Superman at the box office, Warner Bros comes out the winner in the long term.

What? The crux of Thompson’s argument seems to be that the X-Men franchise is essentially over. “The bloom is definitely off the X-Men rose,” she says, which makes no sense since she just got spent a paragraph talking about how X-Men: The Last Stand was a hit not because of Brett Ratner but despite him; that the franchise was the star this outing. She says that Fox should have waited for Bryan Singer to come back, somehow not realizing that Singer left to make a movie that is massively underperforming. She talks about how Singer is “a proven tentpole director with a canny understanding of the action-adventure universe” – but the only tentpole films he has made work are the X-Men films, which Thompson claims are self-cleaning!

The rest of the article is part of Warner Bros’ massive spin campaign to make Superman Returns seem like something less than one of the year’s biggest disappointments (Poland points out that Superman may very well make less than Godzilla), even going so far as to imagine that Superman’s illegitimate son could be a future star of the series. Huh? We’re planning films twenty years in the future? Or is Thompson thinking the next Superman film will be a variation on Spy Kids? Either way, read Poland’s blog entry for a good numbers breakdown of the situation.

What’s annoying to me is the dismissal of the X-Men franchise. Thompson sees the Wolverine and Magneto spin-offs as signs of the series’ weakness, while to me it’s anything but. It’s Fox taking full advantage of the franchise’s strongest suit: its massive number of characters. There’s a reason why Marvel keeps publishing a zillion X-Men related comics – people keep buying into these characters and universe. There’s no other superhero franchise so automatically and organically geared to spin-offs.

Thompson also makes a big point about the main actors being too expensive to come back for sequels. And the point is? Does anyone really believe that Hugh Jackman or Halle Berry are opening these pictures? Give me a break. I like Hugh Jackman a lot, but he’s going to be taking the X-Men momentum to create his career; he’s not giving any to the franchise. And Halle Berry is a non-entity at this point in the world of big budget action films or we’d all be talking about her Jinx movie. And they killed off or depowered everyone else who wasn’t signed on for more films or couldn’t be easily replaced.

The real truth is that being forced to bring in new characters is the best thing that could have happened to this franchise. The X-Men universe is bursting with viable characters, and bringing in new ones adds freshness to the films as well as keeps costs down – just hire up and coming actors who will work for peanuts. And the truth is that while comic fans may sneer at second string mutants being added to the mix, the general public – aka, the people who brought X3 above 200 million dollars – don’t know Cannonball from Cable. But they’ll come back for an X-Men branded film, and if it delivers they’ll come back for more. In the future this franchise could be a series of trilogies, a cycle of regenerating sequels.