Mutants are coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's possible that they may not use the X-Men name. After several years of separation, the Marvel Universe is going to become unified on the big screen in the near future, with Marvel Studios confirming that mutants will join the MCU. But a time frame for when that will happen hasn't been provided yet.
Of course, this was no huge surprise, as the Disney/Fox deal, which was officially completed in early 2019, gave the X-Men and Fantastic Four movie rights back to Marvel. And now, Marvel is confirmed to be working on their own Fantastic Four movie - a film that could very well release in the MCU's Phase 5 - but what they're doing with the X-Men is less clear.
Given the fact that the X-Men are one of the most popular teams in comic book history (and a popular movie brand, thanks to 20th Century Fox), it's understandable that Marvel will want to take their time to get everything right. They'll also want their version of the mutants to differentiate from what came before, and one way they can do that is by avoiding the X-Men name.
The X-Men Name Is Tarnished After The Fox Movies
The original X-Men movies were partly responsible for launching a wave of superhero movies in the 2000s, but they've since lost their foothold in the 2010s. Since the first movie came out in 2000, the franchise has expanded massively, through a soft reboot and (more recently) the not-quite-connected films Logan and Deadpool. Nearly twenty years of X-Men movies has connected the name indelibly with the Fox versions of the characters, and that's not necessarily a good thing for the MCU. Given the massive flop that was Dark Phoenix, it's become clear that audiences have fallen out of love with Fox's X-Men (excluding Deadpool, that is), and attaching this name to new films may have a negative impact on the box office.
In addition, most of the major characters (especially Wolverine) have been on-screen for most or all of that time, in one form or another, and while there's no sign of superhero fatigue in general, it's definitely time to give fans a break from the characters - or, at least, the team - that they've seen time and time again. If Marvel truly wants to re-launch the X-Men in a way that doesn't have audiences thinking about everything they've already seen, ditching the name may be the best start.
Kevin Feige Said Mutants, Not X-Men, At SDCC
It's worth noting that the announcement itself didn't include the X-Men team name. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige specifically said "mutants" - not once, but twice - at the end of Marvel's SDCC panel. This may simply have been a casual language choice, but given the importance of the statement (and its rehearsed placement in the panel), it's far more likely that the Marvel boss intentionally chose this word. Had he wanted to stir up excitement over a new version of the classic team, presumably calling them X-Men would have been the smart move, so it's telling that he didn't; it suggests that the team itself won't be the introduction of mutants to this universe.
Feige isn't the only one in the Marvel family who isn't keen on the idea of the X-Men as a team joining the fray, either. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely said in July that they believe it would be a good idea for fans to get a break from the X-Men. The Russo brothers might be keen on creating a Wolverine movie, but from the looks of the Marvel slate, Markus and McFeely have it right, and the mutants may not become a big part of the MCU until Phase 6. Though considering that MCU phases are happening twice as fast now, it may not be a long wait.
Traditional X-Men Will Be Hard In The MCU
On top of the need for audiences to have a little break from X-Men movies, from a storytelling perspective, it wouldn't be easy to bring in the classic team without some narrative hoop-jumping. Professor Xavier and Magneto have been fighting each other in the comics for decades, and this isn't the kind of battle that would happen without anyone in the world noticing. Spider-Man, as a younger kid just working in his own neighborhood, was relatively easy to slot into place as a new addition, but an entire school for mutants in New York wouldn't be as easy. Marvel would need to explain why the X-Men - not to mention, their enemies - hadn't been discovered yet. Plus, the X-Men sitting out Captain America: Civil War is one thing, but for them to not join the fight against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame is something else entirely; it doesn't make sense.
The X-Men have such a long history in the Marvel Universe that short of coming from an alternate MCU timeline, bringing them into the universe, in the traditional sense, would be overly complicated. Add this to the fact that there are already several great team-ups in this universe, that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have appeared as non-mutants, and that the Xavier Institute and Professor X's backstory have already been explored in depth in the Fox films, it looks like Marvel's best bet is to do something different - and introduce mutants individually.
Mutant Is Better
Bringing in solo mutants, and calling them "mutants", rather than going for the X-Men team is something that will work far better for the existing MCU. This allows Marvel to pick and choose specific mutants and focus on the fan-favorites (especially those who've been neglected on-screen in the past). Wolverine may well appear, but bringing in X-23 could be a much better choice for the new Avengers team - and as X-23 often prefers to work solo, this makes sense for the character, too. Deadpool, as a character who isn't a core X-Men member, could make the transition on his own. However, aside from the big characters, adapting lesser-known mutants would be the way to go, at least from the start.
This approach would prevent any X-Men fatigue from affecting the box office, and could stir up interest in the mutants once again, as movie-only fans would get to learn that there is so much more to Marvel's mutants than just Xavier's A-team. Mutants could be introduced slowly and become part of the established teams in the MCU, rather than needing an entirely separate team of their own. This would solve plot issues, too, as mutants could easily exist in the world in secret, living alone. It may be a massive change from what fans were expecting from the news that Marvel would be taking back the X-Men, but if there is anything that the MCU does well, it's take unexpected moves and turn them into massive successes, which is what the X-Men need right now.
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