The latest trailer for X-Men: Dark Phoenix seems to contain a joking nod to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox by The Walt Disney Company. While the apparent joke could be a coincidence, it's also so prominently featured in the Dark Phoenix trailer that it can't help but seem like an intentional provocation.
Rumors regarding the final X-Men film to be produced by 20th Century Fox have run rampant ever since Disney began the process of taking over the company in November 2017. The release of Dark Phoenix has been repeatedly delayed by reshoots, pushing its release date back twice. This has prompted many to speculate that Fox had lost confidence in the filmmakers and had ordered the reshoots in a desperate bid to make the movie better. Others have speculated that the movie was being changed so as to integrate Fox's X-Men universe into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite repeated claims to the contrary.
In either case, the latest Dark Phoenix trailer seems to poke fun at how the X-Men have been acquired by the same studio that controls the MCU. The final scene of the Dark Phoenix trailer depicts several members of the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants on a prison train, bound and shackled with power-neutralizing collars, just before Jean Grey comes to the rescue. All of the guards on the train wear uniforms featuring rather prominent patches declaring that they work for the "MCU".
This seems to be entirely intentional, as there is no preexisting organization called the MCU in the original X-Men comic books and no clear indication of what the acronym stands for. (Mutant Containment Unit, perhaps?) It's also hard to dismiss the provocative symbolic imagery of these classic characters, bound and powerless, effectively restrained from revealing their true selves. One of the larger concerns regarding the Disney/Fox deal has been that Disney might be reluctant to let the filmmakers handling the franchise take chances with darker, more adult material on the characters, such as in Deadpool and Logan. Given the issues auteurs like Edgar Wright had with changing their styles to better fit the house style required by the MCU, this would seem to be a valid concern and one well worth referencing.
On the other hand, it isn't like 20th Century Fox has been entirely innocent when it comes to micromanaging its creators either. Director Tim Miller left Deadpool 2 over creative differences with the producers. And the nightmare stories regarding the production of various X-Men films and the continually changing production teams have become the stuff of Hollywood legend. Still, the presence of the MCU guards is amusing regardless of whether this was an intentional riff towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the part of Dark Phoenix's production team or just a happy coincidence. In either event, it matters little in the end, because the X-Men franchise will soon be under Disney's control and there's no indication that these incarnations of the characters will be continuing on into Phase 4 of the MCU. Still, for fans of Marvel's mutants, one thing is certain - this will not be the end of their favorite superheroes cinematic adventures.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020