Rebooting the X-Men franchise after almost two decades and more than a dozen movies won't be easy, but it may actually be easier than Marvel Studios' Spider-Man reboot. With Spider-Man, the studio was charged with bringing something fresh to a franchise that had already been rebooted just a few short years ago. There had already been two well-liked versions of Spider-Man - played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield - and Sam Raimi's trilogy delivered moments that have become iconic in Spider-Man history.
Marvel's parent company, Disney, is currently in the midst of hashing out the details of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, which will bring all of Fox's Marvel properties back into the family - including the X-Men universe's rogue offspring, Deadpool. As with Raimi's take on Spider-Man, many aspects of the X-Men movie franchise (mostly steered by director Bryan Singer) have become definitive; it's hard to picture anyone other than Patrick Stewart as the older version of Professor Charles Xavier, or anyone other than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. But while the idea of Marvel discarding the current franchise and starting completely anew within the Marvel Cinematic Universe might seem unthinkable, studio boss Kevin Feige has already proven that he can successfully pull it off.
Marvel's Reboot Of Spider-Man
Spider-Man's first MCU movie, Homecoming, was appropriately titled. The Spider-Man movie rights have been in the hands of Sony Pictures since Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter sold off a slate of character rights (in order to give Marvel Studios a much-needed cash injection) in 1998. Those rights still reside with Sony, but the underwhelming performance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spurred the studio to cut a deal with Marvel, so that Peter Parker could come out and play with the Avengers.
There were plenty of pitfalls with this plan, but Marvel approached the latest reboot of Spider-Man in a smart way. First of all, the MCU skipped over retelling Spider-Man's origin story, which had already been shown in detail twice on the big screen. Peter Parker was also aged down, with the then-19 year-old Tom Holland taking on the role and portraying Peter as a high school kid, with all of the enthusiasm and inexperience that goes hand-in-hand with being a teenage superhero. Spider-Man: Homecoming avoided using villains who had been seen in previous movies (it probably wouldn't have been as exciting to watch Spider-Man fight Green Goblin all over again). Finally - and perhaps most importantly - Marvel made good use of the fact that Spider-Man was sharing a movie universe with the rest of the Avengers, introducing the character for the first time in Captain America: Civil War and casting Tony Stark as a mentor figure to young Peter.
Why Bringing The X-Men Into The MCU Is Easier
Rebooting the X-Men for the MCU does bring with it one additional challenge. Whereas Spider-Man was just one superhero, the X-Men movies include an entire ensemble team and two characters who are largely independent: Wolverine and Deadpool. The latter is further complicated by the fact that Wade Wilson excels when allowed to let loose in an R-rated movie, and Disney is fiercely protective of its family-friendly image. However, whereas Wolverine and Deadpool are currently riding the highs of Logan and Deadpool 2, respectively, the main X-Men series hit a bit of a slump with X-Men: Apocalypse. Unless X-Men: Dark Phoenix dazzles audiences so completely that they can't bear to see the mutant team rebooted, the X-Men franchise is probably in as good a position as it can be for a reboot.
We're assuming for the moment that the X-Men will get the full reboot treatment, since the mechanics of trying to merge the current X-Men universe with the MCU would be incredibly messy. The X-Men movies are built on a bedrock of alternative history, in which Magneto went to prison for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and mutants have been a known (and feared) quantity for decades. However, the MCU's X-Men reboot wouldn't necessarily need to include all the same characters from the current line-up. There are literally hundreds of mutants in the pages of Marvel Comics, including major characters who either haven't appeared on the big screen yet, or have been given barely any screen time. Marvel doesn't need to cast a new Cyclops, or a new Jean Grey, or even a new Wolverine - at least, not yet.
We can't yet guess how exactly the MCU will welcome the X-Men into the fold, but what we do know is that it will be as much an opportunity as a challenge. There was plenty of skepticism surrounding Spider-Man's second reboot in a decade, but if Marvel Studios managed to pull that off, the X-Men reboot should be no problem at all.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2019) release date: Aug 02, 2019
- Gambit (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020