At last, every Marvel fan’s dream is coming to pass. The X-Men are joining the MCU. Disney has purchased the bulk of Fox’s film and television empire, and as a result is gaining the film and TV rights to Marvel’s merry mutants. Disney CEO Bob Iger has already confirmed that he plans to see the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and even Deadpool become part of the MCU. But when can we expect this to happen, and how is it possible?
It’s worth remembering that Disney’s purchase of Fox will have to go through various regulatory channels. The problems aren’t actually related to superheroes. Rather, there are concerns that Disney could be gaining too much power in terms of sports programming. Another key issue is that the purchase gives Disney a controlling stake in Hulu, leading to further antitrust challenges. Finally, the Justice Department has traditionally been wary of so-called “horizontal mergers,” that see direct competitors combine.
In reality, Disney and Fox wouldn’t have progressed to this stage if they didn’t think the deal had a solid chance of being approved. The House of Mouse is expected to argue that the Fox purchase is necessary given the changing entertainment industry. Technology companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix are simply becoming too powerful, and Disney needs a certain degree of scale in order to compete.
This process is clearly going to take time. That means Fox’s 2018 X-Men films will at least still release on schedule. Meanwhile, Marvel is currently filming Avengers 4, and is soon to start production on 2019’s Captain Marvel and the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel. Any changes to Marvel’s slate will happen in 2020 at the earliest, giving Marvel at least two years to prepare.
The X-Men And Phase 4
Bob Iger has made it clear that the X-Men will be entering the MCU. So how will the House of Ideas accomplish this? It depends how they regard the still on-going loose continuity started all the way back in 2000.
Marvel could choose to use the idea of the “Multiverse,” revealing that the X-Men films happened in a different timeline. Doctor Strange already introduced the concept of the Multiverse, and it’s recently been revisited in episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This would allow Marvel to retain high-profile actors, such as James McAvoy, and follow on from Kinberg’s current continuity.
The second option is a simple reboot. Marvel could settle for relaunching the X-Men franchise inside the MCU, just as they did with Spider-Man. The fundamental problem, however, is that they’d need to explain where mutants have been all this time. Simply having mutation kick off in the present day would strip key characters of their history.
But that difficulty isn’t insurmountable. The original X-Men comics were set in a world where mutants were few and far between. Over the decades, they became increasingly common — so much so that one Grant Morrison plot speculated that mutants would render humans extinct. The MCU could use the older status quo, setting up a scenario where there were initially only a handful of mutants on the planet. As the franchise progresses, mutants become more common, and the public begins to become aware of them.
Interestingly enough, this approach would fit rather well with the wider MCU. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. maintained the so-called “Gifted Index.” This was a catalog of super-powered beings, including the pyrokinetic Chan Ho Yin. Although some gained their powers from accidents and experiments, others could easily be mutants.
Fox’s X-Men Spin-Offs
Moving away from Fox’s tentpole X-Men movies, what about the recent spinoffs? They’re hardly your standard MCU fare. Deadpool was a raunchy comedy, Logan was a bloody and brutal Western, and next year’s New Mutants promises to launch a horror franchise. Fans have understandably been concerned that these experimental films would be ditched in favor of PG-13 versions. Thankfully, Bob Iger himself has said he wants more Deadpool sequels, hinting at an R-rated Marvel imprint.
Ironically, the looser continuity actually makes it easier to integrate these spinoffs with the MCU. Is there really anything about Deadpool that means it can’t be set in a timeline related to the MCU? Amusingly enough, the film actually included a glimpse of what seemed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, which was at the time a wry gag but could be retconned. Suddenly, Deadpool — and, by extension, the upcoming X-Force films — can easily be woven into the MCU. They can be treated as an “adjunct,” part of the wider shared universe that doesn’t really impact the main PG-13 films. It’s the same approach taken by Marvel’s current range of television and Netflix shows.
The same may well be true of Josh Boone’s New Mutants, although it’s too soon to say for certain. If the trailers are any indication, this is quite a self-contained film. It will be almost entirely set in an institution where dangerous mutant teenagers are kept under supervision. Barring any explicit continuity nods to the main X-Men timelines, there’s no reason that idea couldn’t be easily absorbed into the wider MCU.
Kevin Feige has long dreamed of bringing all Marvel’s characters back under one roof. Now, we’re one step closer to making Feige’s dream a reality. But these are still early days, and we shouldn’t expect to see the X-Men stand side-by-side with the Avengers until 2020 at the earliest.
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