It’s official: Disney has purchased Fox’s entertainment division (including the X-Men and the Fantastic Four), in one of the most stunning moves since, well, the last time Disney did something like this. The Mouse House — which seems bent on slowly and systematically taking over all of film and television — owns every one of Fox’s media properties and franchises. Avatar. The Simpsons. Alien. Planet of the Apes. Even The X-Files!
But none of those are probably more important than Marvel Studios (also owned by Disney) reacquiring the film and television rights to one of its most popular properties, after almost two decades of having to keep its hands off: the X-Men. Fans have been quick to assume this means that Avengers characters will soon mix things up with Fox’s existing roster of X-Men on the big screen… But is that really how Marvel will handle it?
Though Disney may have tied the new Star Wars trilogy heavily to the original trilogy, incorporating the movie version of the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be far more complicated. Here’s why it makes far more sense for Marvel to scrap Fox’s entire X-history, and start over from scratch.
The Avengers movies and all of the solo character flicks that are part of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe more or less keep with the real world’s date. In 2017, it’s 2017 in Marvel’s movies, too.
One exception was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was set just a few months after the first movie. But Avengers: Infinity War will get the Guardians’ timeline all caught up with the rest of the MCU. Another pending exception is Captain Marvel, which Marvel’s head honcho Kevin Feige says is set in the 90s. But since Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is expected to be a major figure in the MCU going forward, it’s safe to assume she’ll catch up to the modern day somehow as well.
Over in Fox’s X-Men universe, X-Men: The Last Stand was so awful that it caused the studio to eventually rewind the films to the 1960s, rebooting the entire franchise with X-Men: First Class. Each subsequent film has jumped forward by roughly a decade (though the characters don’t appear to age), and the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix will continue that trend, bringing the action into the 1990s.
So… 2017 and the 1990s. Aside from the logistics of combining these disparate timelines… How would you explain why Tony Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. have been completely ignoring the many, many superpowered mutants all around the world? Likewise, why haven’t the modern-day X-Men ever dialed the Avengers and asked for help all those times Magneto or some other villain tried to kill them?
The big screen’s Avengers and X-Men are separated by 30-some years. Combining them would require folding time, merging alternate universes, or some other ridiculously complicated scifi rigamarole. If they forego that, Disney would have to come up with a really good story reason for these characters to have been ignoring each other for decades.
When Marvel Studios at long last got its hands on Spider-Man thanks to its partnership with Sony, Marvel rebooted the character completely, ditching any connections to previous Spider-Men in order to make him fit into the MCU. Doesn’t it follow that they’ll do the exact same thing with the X-Men, to make those characters and stories their own?
Rather than being beholden to all the baggage that comes with Fox’s messy, contradictory continuity, imagine the appeal of starting with a clean slate. A blank canvas gives Marvel the opportunity to do justice to classic X-Men stories that Fox’s films have never attempted — or bungled.
For example, Fox has made a habit of cherry-picking X-Men from different eras and teams to use in its movies. Starting over means that Marvel could start with the mutant race “awakening” right here in the present day. They could even kick things off with a movie where the original five X-Men — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman, and Angel — come together, and then build the roster from there.
Page 2: Recasting the X-Men
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