Why Marvel Should Take Its Time Introducing The X-Men To The MCU
With the acquisition of 20th Century Fox, it was very apparent that one day, in the not-too-distant future, there would be a moment when the Marvel Cinematic Universe became acquainted with the X-Men (as well as possibly the Fantastic Four). The characters have been owned by the formally-independent movie studio for decades, and it milked this property for all its worth — in ways both beneficial and not to its own financial gain.
But now, the X-Men are Disney's property. And that means the comic book characters are subsequently under Marvel's reign now too. So, it wasn't a matter of if the X-Men would join the MCU, but rather when. Because we all know this day is coming. We just have to wait until this much-anticipated moment happens. But when this past Comic-Con panel revealed no publicly-announced plans to place the X-Men characters inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the reality was clear: it will not be a quick transition. For better or worse, Marvel is going to take its sweet time making this move happen.
It could be three years. It could be five, ten, maybe even 15 years before we see the Marvel Cinematic Universe getting chummy with the X-Men. But it will happen one of these days, even if the producers are going to take a moment to properly shift the tides in this direction. Unlike Spider-Man, there are a lot of characters being thrown into the ring with this transition, as well as the proper introduction of mutants into the MCU. Therefore, for many reasons, it's clear that Marvel is probably making the right decision in keeping all the X-Men at bay until it sees it's fit to bring them into the giant fold.
The temptation to finally unveil the X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is apparent to the creators and audiences alike, and there are obviously a lot of comic book fans out there chomping at the bit to see this transition come to pass. But for reasons we'll list here, there are several reasons why a bit of breathing room between two giant comic properties meshing into one is almost certainly the best call to make — both creatively and financially.
The Distance Will Separate Marvel's X-Men From Fox's X-Men
For many moviegoers, their familiarity with the X-Men comes from the Fox interpretation of the characters. They might not be that accurate to the source material or even the best (or worse) interpretations of the characters. But unlike, say, Iron Man, Captain America or Thor, to name a mere few, the general moviegoers have an idea in their heads of what these characters are like and what they should be. Perhaps for some moviegoers, there might be little room for creative freedom when they're so used to see X-Men movies at their local cinema at a fairly frequent rotation. Filmgoers know X-Men.
There was even an X-Men movie this summer, Dark Phoenix, though you would be forgiven if you forgot about it (or avoided seeing it). And there is yet another X-Men movie on the way, but we'll get to that in just a moment. The point is, there are about a dozen X-Men movies out there and we have gotten to see these characters time and time again. Based on the box office results for Dark Phoenix, there is an argument to be made that enough is enough. The Fox version of the X-Men has come to an end, and Disney knows their time to play in this sandbox is coming up sooner rather than later.
But patience might be a virtue here. With some time to breathe between X-Men movies, there will likely be a renewed interest in the property. It'll be more beneficial to Marvel's bottom line if it lets moviegoers' memories of these characters fade into the recesses before it's time to bring them out again. Because unlike Spider-Man, the X-Men aren't a guaranteed box office draw at the moment. Ticket sales have wained with the last few films, and it is clear that there is some fatigue setting in for these characters. But it's also clear that, throughout the years, there has been a lot of interest.
Therefore, it would be better for everyone to take some time apart from these famous characters before they're brought back with new actors inhabiting them. Most notably, it'll take some time before audiences will be ready to see someone other than Hugh Jackman in the role of Wolverine, to give only one example. Plus, Marvel already has a billion-and-a-half characters at its disposal at the moment. Unlike Fox prior to the Disney acquisition, it doesn't need the X-Men to stay stable. It has a lot on its plate already, and the X-Men can be pushed aside for a second until it is the right time.
More Time Allows Marvel To Introduce Mutant Lore And First Characters
Similar to how Marvel gradually introduced magic and intergalactic characters into its expansive world-building, one of the key reasons why the MCU brand has remained so successful is because Marvel likes to take its time and assure audiences are well-adjusted into its newest changes. The studio doesn't just plop things in willy nilly; it has a process, and that process involves a lot of strategy and planning in order to ensure success.
With that in mind, Marvel hasn't really explored the introduction of mutants into their universe. There are characters like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch who fit this definition, at least in the comics, but they've often been hinted at more than explored in any real or deep capacity. This is mainly due to the majority of the mutant characters being tied to Fox all these years, but now that they've come over to Disney and, subsequently, Marvel, this is the time when the producers have to start making baby steps and letting the characters be gradually introduced here.
That not only includes the mutant characters, but the lore itself, which is certainly going to be a big process to squeeze into this already well-ballooned universe. It would only be fitting, therefore, if Marvel took some time to properly transition the mutant lore and introductory characters inside the MCU.
Gives Producers Time To Nail The Best X-Men Cast Possible
Casting is crucial to any film's success. Often among the most under-appreciated aspects of the filmmaking process, the right casting is often what can make or break a film. Even if the script falters or the special effects are hokey, if you are invested in the characters and the actors playing them, that mileage can go a long way. Subsequently, it is often crucial that the right actors be cast in the right parts for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Especially since these actors — with the notable exception of one or two performers — often end up playing their characters long-term, in many films.
We obviously saw that happen with the X-Men as well when they were under Fox's tenure. Many of the main actors in the franchise were playing these characters for a decade or more at a time, often using the extensive time spent with these superhero characters for beneficial means — as seen in the better films in the franchise (at least, in my opinion) like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Logan, to name two prominent examples. It is no easy task, therefore, to cast the new X-Men in their second cinematic phase. People need to be convinced that this decision was the right creative move for this property. Ultimately, that will come down to the right actors being picked for the right parts in this universe. This is certainly not an easy task.
You have a lot of expectations for what these characters should be inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and every actor brings something different to their respective roles. It would be easy for Marvel to pick a few hot stars of today to fill in the cast and put them in the movie once they're ready to do so. But it's clear that Marvel has never been about simply picking big names to fill in its casting call. Marvel is enough of a sell on its own, and it knows that many Hollywood stars are coming to the studio to make it into this proven money machine. Therefore, it has no shortage of big names to fill out the roaster. It ultimately comes down to Marvel picking the actors who fit the roles best — whether they are famous or not — to make it work.
It's not an impossible task, but it's going to require time. Those involved need to search for the right actors, and they have a lot of shoes to fill here. The X-Men are huge — way bigger than Spider-Man and all the mainstay Avengers combined — and it's going to take some hours and proper planning to pick the actors who are the best fit for these individual roles. This is going to be a long process for the long haul, and therefore it's better to push any new X-Men movies aside for producer Kevin Feige and his team to decide who they should pick here and how they can fit them into everyone's schedules.
Allows Marvel A Chance To Give Other Prominent MCU Characters Closure
With Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it is known today came to a close — in many different respects. It was, by no means, the end of the MCU. That probably won't happen anytime soon. But it did close out the stories of a few key characters, as well as give a chance for this series to reflect on where it has gone and ponder where it is set to go next. It was a big turning point for the ever-expanding movie universe. And it was clear that in the next few years, the MCU would be getting a bunch of new faces, and things were hopefully going be changing for the better pretty soon.
Phase 4 is a collection of movies and TV shows centered around characters we know and some characters we're unacquainted with as moviegoers. It is a mixed of new and old, familiar and fresh, and it will not simply be a trove of sequels and reboots. The Marvel machine is still chugging full-speed ahead. And with the introduction of several new characters, it's clear that some other notable superheroes/do-gooders will be hanging up their tights.
It's possible, for instance, that Thor might not be Chris Hemsworth by the time Phase 4 is done. And with Phase 5, we'll probably be saying goodbye to the Guardians of the Galaxy, at least in their current iteration. These are only two examples, but it's apparent that with the introduction of new things comes the departure of many of the actors and characters we're used to seeing inside the ever-prolonging MCU. Therefore, if we're going to be introducing dozens of new characters to the MCU with the inclusion of the X-Men, they are going to have to clear house in some regard or another, and that will take some time. After all, nobody's residence in the MCU is permanent. There are only so many rooms available, and the X-Men need to wait before they can come in.
Interest In New X-Men Movies Can Be Renewed
As mentioned earlier, the X-Men are well-tangled into the superhero movie genre. We've seen several movies with these characters, and we have all been made familiar of their origins, their connections to the other X-Men and so on and so forth. We can't expect Marvel to simply push them into the MCU and expect a huge turnout of people to not only be interested, but put aside their reverence for two-plus decades of blockbusters in an instant.
Now granted, it's safe to say that the X-Men movies haven't always gotten the best reputation. There are several flops scattered inside the hits, either critically or commercially (or both). But it's clear that, at its best, the X-Men series has produced some of the most noteworthy comic book movies of the past two decades, and it'd be foolish for MCU to pretend that X-Men hasn't played a big role in establishing the cinematic universe they created.
In many respects, the X-Men movies paved the way for audiences being ready to accept something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hell, there are some folks out there who don't even know that Deadpool, for instance, isn't already inside the MCU. At least, not yet, of course. With the exception of the aforementioned Deadpool and Logan, the anticipation and appreciation for the X-Men movies has been declining in recent years. It's pretty clear that Fox really milked the franchise for all its worth in an attempt to keep Disney at bay as long as possible, but it could only do so much with the X-Men series. It's time to let the property take a rest for a little bit until Marvel decides it's time to bring them back into the general public's eye.
There's no telling when that will be, but it's clearly not going to happen tomorrow. Marvel likes to play things smart, and it would be wise for it to let some time pass before it gives the green light to another X-Men movie or start trickling the characters into other films inside the MCU. Let the X-Men stay quiet for a little bit, letting people know that this new interpretation of the characters is separate from what they've seen before. Then, after that, let them in the public's conscious again. And while there is no guarantee that audiences will come in droves to see the film, it's more likely to be successful after time has passed opposed to a year or two from from now, when moviegoers don't think of, say, James McAvoy or Michael Fassbender in these parts.
There's Time To Experiment With How To Best Use The X-Men
Obviously, Marvel can't simply do the same thing with the X-Men. Similar to how it changed things up with its younger, more vulnerable take on Spider-Man, there is a clear need for producer Kevin Feige and the rest of the folks at Marvel to do something unique or, at the very least, a little bit different with these characters. After all, if it's the same thing all over again, what will compel moviegoers to return to see just more of the same thing?
That might work for a spell, but it would seem in Marvel's best interest to switch things up and flip a few scripts. That would require experimenting and seeing what would be both fresh and vibrant for these characters, while also staying true to their core components and their key foundations. It is not an easy balancing act. And if Marvel wants to do it right, it's gonna need to take it slow and figure out the best way to approach these already established characters in a brand new light. That won't come naturally. It will require hard-work, a lot of patience and, you guessed it, time.
It Gives Someone/Anyone Time To Release The New Mutants
Initially, I included this header as a joke, but there's no escaping the fact that The New Mutants is probably not going to sit on a shelf forever. One of these days, it'll come out. At least, one hopes it does. Whether it gets a proper theatrical rollout or it's dumped on a streaming service like Disney+ or Hulu, both of which are under Disney's thumb now, we should expect this film to come out one of these days. And it's going to confuse quite a few folks if Disney releases the horror film shortly before the studio rolls out its new, updated take on the X-Men inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At the moment, The New Mutants is scheduled to come out on April 3rd, 2020, but goodness knows if that release date is going to stick. The other ones certainly haven't, and it has been several years between the release of the first trailer and the expected release of this long-shelved film. Between reshoots, a series of delays and this recent studio merger, The New Mutants has constantly remained in a shuffled state. It's hard to know what this movie is going to look like if (or when) it finally makes it to the finished line. And the recent news about Disney's dissatisfaction with the first quarter numbers for Fox has definitely put a lot of the studios previous movies in a state of flux. This troubled title, most certainly, is not an exception.
Therefore, it might be a while before we see The New Mutants — in whatever shape or form. If it's going to be take a little while, as it has already, it might be wise for this reason — as well as the other reasons listed above and a few more — if Marvel puts a hold on their future X-Men plans for now.
As we've stressed before, the day when the X-Men enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe is bound to happen sometime soon. But it could be a few more years before it happens. It's not something that should be rushed, and it's clear that Kevin Feige doesn't want to rush the process. Either for the reasons listed above or for other reasons not publicly disclosed now, the X-Men's introduction into the MCU will happen— but probably not too soon.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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