Fox's Marvel movie universe has A LOT going on right now
One of the first questions that sprung to mind in the aftermath of the Marvel acquisition was what the deal meant for all the X-Men projects that Fox already has in development. The studio has a trio of movies that have already wrapped filming -- Deadpool 2, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and New Mutants (though this one is about to undergo significant reshoots) -- and we imagine that Fox has/had sequel ideas in mind for all three films. Actually, we know that a New Mutants trilogy was planned, and yeah, Deadpool 3 was all but inevitable. But now that the characters of the X-verse are set to return to Marvel, pretty much every project outside of those first three is being called into question. And that's a lot of projects.
Despite constant delays and enough director turnover to make the Flash movie look like it's experiencing a smooth pre-production phase, the Gambit solo film starring Channing Tatum still has a release date (April 2019). Another long in-development project, X-Force, has been in the works for nearly 5 years now, but after finally locking down writer/director Drew Goddard last September, plans were in place to start filming as early as this year. These two still have a solid chance of happening, but things get far less concrete after that. Solo movies are currently in the works for the likes of Doctor Doom, Kitty Pryde, Multiple Man, and X-23. And those are just the projects we know about. Though the status of those films hasn't been officially confirmed one way or the other, as of now, they're iffy at best.
Prior to the Disney deal, Fox had the next 2-5 years of its X-verse (at least vaguely) mapped out. We're not saying that Marvel needs to wait on all that once the deal goes through; they definitely won't. But it may be in Marvel's best interest to work hand in hand with Fox on which projects to develop, which would help smooth the transition once the ink dries on the merger. That is, assuming that Marvel doesn't have too much on its plate as it is.
The MCU also has A LOT going on right now
Marvel has spent nearly a decade building their cinematic universe, and its all set to culminate this summer with Avengers: Infinity War. After the third Avengers movie and Black Panther hit theaters, Marvel will follow up with Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers 4, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. For everyone keeping score at home, those last two will kick off Phase 4 of the MCU, and the full MCU schedule is concretely set through 2019. But hey, the phases usually last 2-4 years and consist of 6-10 films, right? There's plenty of room to introduce the X-Men and the Fantastic 4 somewhere in there, right?
The problem there is that it takes at least two to three years to develop a movie. Fox's Marvel characters won't actually be accessible until mid-2019, which means that we won't likely see them onscreen in anything more than a teaser/cameo role until 2021. If they wanted to do it earlier, the MCU would have to start developing projects centering on characters they don't even officially have the rights to yet, which is an awfully risky thing to do. There's really no sense in rushing this, assuming that Marvel has plans in place to keep their cinematic universe firing on all cylinders until the X-Men arrive.
Which brings us to the small matter of Marvel having 20 friggin movies on the docket before the Fox deal was agreed to. (When Kevin Feige confirmed that number in late November, he was seemingly including Spidey 2 and Guardians 3.) Since the statement was made just weeks before the Fox deal was confirmed, it's possible that he may have had an X-related project or two in mind as well. But again, that's not definite, and the MCU has been making some serious moves as of late to expand its universe and introduce new heroes. Marvel's dance card will never be too full for the X-Men, but it's hard to see there being much room to squeeze them in before Phase 5 without them completely reworking all the plans they have in place.
Simply put, Marvel won't likely have the rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four officially secured before Phase 3 ends with Avengers 4. And since both Fox and Marvel have so much on their plates as it is, we shouldn't expect to see the two teams join the MCU before Phase 5. If they arrive sooner, it could end up being a rush job. We've waited over a decade for this -- we can wait a few more years to ensure that it's done right.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018