Nobody knows how the Marvel Cinematic Universe will introduce new versions of the X-Men yet, but the best choice would be through the Disney streaming shows. Assuming everything goes as planned in the Disney/Fox deal, by mid-2019 Marvel Studios will have regained the film rights for the X-Men, so it's inevitable that mutants will soon be joining the ranks of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy as heroes in the MCU.
The House of Mouse's $71.3 billion merger will see it absorb the bulk of Fox's TV and movie empire. Both shareholders and US regulators have approved the deal, although it's currently awaiting approval from international regulators. Then, later in the year, Disney will launch the new Disney streaming service, which they intend to compete directly with rivals Amazon and Netflix. Together, these two major business developments give Disney both a wealth of content and digital distribution.
In the event all the pieces fall into place, Disney CEO Bob Iger has already confirmed that the X-Men and the Fantastic Four will be overseen by Kevin Feige, bringing both into the MCU. Marvel already has the rights to over 7,000 characters, and that number will increase dramatically. At the same time, Marvel Studios will support Disney by launching a range of new high-budget MCU TV shows. Is it possible that these two new opportunities will be connected, and that Marvel will choose to develop the X-Men as streaming shows ahead of a movie?
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The X-Men May Not Fit Well Into The Movies Yet
The fundamental problem for Marvel Studios is that the X-Men may well be a little too big to easily add them into the MCU. The X-Men franchise's core concept has allowed countless comic book writers to exercise their creativity, fashioning mutants from diverse backgrounds and with sometimes incredible powersets. As a result, the X-Men's world includes more characters than possibly any other superhero franchise. The success of X-Men spinoff TV shows like The Gifted and Legion has effectively demonstrated that even D-list characters can become successes. So, while most comic book readers are excited about the addition of the likes of Wolverine, Professor X, and Storm, Marvel Studios will also be considering some of the lesser-known concepts - the Morlocks, perhaps, or X-Statix. It's important to remember that Marvel has a habit of turning relatively unknown franchises into box office hits, as they're attempting next with an Eternals movie, so small characters can't be ruled out.
The last few years of the MCU have seen team-up movies are becoming the norm, which could create a logistical nightmare, with the Russo brothers desperately working out the schedules of a massive range of A-list actors in order to film Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4. The addition of the X-Men just makes things worse, especially if Marvel cast major names for lead roles in the superhero team. This is going to be a lot trickier than many X-Men fans think.
X-Men Shows Can Prep Mutants for the Big Screen
Here's where things get quite interesting, though. We recently learned that Marvel Studios is preparing a series of big-budget TV shows to stream on the new Disney app. So far, most attention has focused on the question of which film characters will get their own six-or-eight-episode series after the already reported Loki and Scarlet Witch shows. But these TV series could also work the other way round, introducing characters and concepts ahead of the movies, establishing their existence in the MCU and exploring the underlying concepts ahead of development for the movies. Marvel Studios could potentially use TV shows to lay the foundations for the X-Men in the MCU, ahead of bringing them to the big screen.
Although Disney and Fox are no doubt sharing information in order to begin the process of consolidating their assets, there are lines they can't pass at this stage, not without risking violating antitrust laws. This explains why we shouldn't really expect to see a Marvel Studios X-Men movie until at least 2021 at the earliest. Marvel won't even start pre-production until the Disney/Fox merger is complete. But those restrictions might not apply in the same way to TV shows for the Disney streaming service. Although it's never been officially confirmed, the TV rights to the X-Men appear to at least be partly held by Marvel. That's why FOX Broadcasting and FX Networks needed to strike deals with Marvel TV to produce their own X-Men spinoff TV series. So Marvel Studios may well be able to start work on an X-Men TV show ahead of the merger. It still wouldn't release until fall 2019 at the earliest, though; if only because Disney streaming isn't expected to launch until then.
So not only could Marvel potentially use these TV series to lay the foundations for future X-Men movies, they could also start working on that idea a lot sooner.
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- 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 02, 2019