Last year, the main series of X-Men films that had been running since 2000 ended with the critically and commercially underwhelming Dark Phoenix. Once The New Mutants arrives… eventually, that will mark the official conclusion of the entire Fox X-Men franchise, as the studio is now under the Disney umbrella. Now the plan is for the X-Men to be rebooted within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirming at San Diego Comic-Con last year that a movie about mutants is in the works.
Given the way the MCU mythology has unfolded so far, introducing the X-Men will be a complicated endeavor, but there is another group of superpowered individuals that could be the key to introducing mutants: the Eternals. They have their own movie coming out in November, and while the X-Men and Eternals aren’t closely intertwined in the comics, there are already theories floating about that the latter will be integral to setting up the former later this decade.
What Is The Status Of Mutants In The MCU?
While the X-Men have been available to use in Marvel comics, animated shows and video games for the entirety of their existence, 20th Century Fox owned the film rights to the characters for several decades. That meant that when the MCU launched in 2008, the X-Men, who’d already played a big role in popularizing the superhero genre for the previous eight years, could not be included, hence why there’s been no mention of mutants in the MCU whatsoever.
That’s not to say there aren’t enhanced individuals on Earth in the MCU, but there certainly aren’t that many of them. And while it looked for a time like the Inhumans were going to take the mutants’ place as the primary group of people with special powers, not only has their been no mention of them in the MCU movies, but considering how events in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans haven’t been acknowledged on the big screen (not to mention how badly the latter series bombed), I suspect that their official introduction into the main MCU canon is being saved for down the line. The Ms. Marvel Disney+ series would be a good place for that to happen, but that’s beside the point.
As far as the mutants are concerned, now that 20th Century Fox is part of Disney, they’re available to use within the MCU. But how do you bring the X-Men and all these other kinds of superpowered Earthlings into play at this point? Well, that’s where the Eternals could come in.
Who Are The Eternals?
Much like the Guardians of the Galaxy once were, the Eternals are a group of characters who are fairly obscure within the Marvel mythology, but that will certainly change once their movie comes out. For those who need a primer, the Eternals are a race of beings who were created by the entities known as The Celestials. Traveling to Earth millions of years ago, these powerful aliens carried out genetic experimentation on porto-humanity, a.k.a. The Wanderers, and this resulted in the creation of two divergent races: the Eternals and the Deviants.
While both the Eternals and the Deviants are both incredibly long-lived, have unique special abilities and developed advanced technology, the former look like humans, while the latter are hideously deformed. And though the Deviants are generally weaker than the Eternals, the latter have a low birth rate, making it difficult to keep their numbers up.
The Eternals and the Deviants have been enemies for millennia, and the Eternals have taken it upon themselves to protect humanity not just from the Deviants, but from other threats as well. We haven’t learned much about what’s in store for their conflict in the MCU, although apparently the Deviants will be depicted quite differently compared to how they’re shown in the comics. But along with becoming big players in the MCU’s cosmic realm, the Eternals could also pave the way for the X-Men to enter the picture.
How The Eternals Can Connect To The X-Men
Look around the internet, and you’ll see plenty of people speculating about an X-Men/Eternals connection in the MCU. For instance, ScreenRant noted that the X-Gene, which is the source of mutation in a person in the Marvel universe, was introduced into proto-humanity during The Celestials’ experiments, though it wouldn’t actually manifest until humanity emerged. It’s possible that something similar could have occurred in the MCU, and that mutants were a failed experiment prior to the creation of the Eternals.
On the other hand, Inverse has speculated that the MCU’s mutants could be descendants of either the Deviants or the portions of proto-humanity who weren’t turned into full-fledged Eternals. The Deviant angle could be especially interesting, because while many mutants look just like humans, there are also folks like Nightcrawler who don’t blend in with the general populace, and this could be a good way to explain why they’re so visually distinctive.
Who knows, it’s possible that mutants could have been created by experiment the Eternals or Deviants ran themselves. Since these beings live for tens of thousands of years, if not significantly longer, that’s more than enough time to encode the X-gene into early humanity and lead to mutants surfacing in recorded history.
What Does This Mean For The MCU?
For all the Fox X-Men franchise accomplished (or lack thereof), one thing it never delved into is why mutants existed. Delving into their origins is a good way for the MCU’s version of the X-Men to stand out from its predecessors, and considering how this franchise is a web of interconnectivity, tying the mutants and Eternals together could be a plausible way to make that happen. We have no idea when the X-Men will hit the MCU scene, but The Eternals laying the groundwork for their introduction could make the X-Men’s debut even more anticipated.
Of course, there is one big question that would need to be sufficiently answered: if mutants descended from the Eternals in one form or another, then how come they haven’t been seen or heard from yet? Assuming the MCU’s Celestials ran their experiments millions of years ago like in the comics, then that means by now, a decent, if not abundant portion of the population should carry the X-gene. So you’d think that at some point over the MCU’s first 23 movies, even if the X-Men hadn’t formed yet, mutants as a whole would have at least been mentioned.
That’s the biggest obstacle not just to connecting the X-Men to the Eternals, but featuring mutants in the MCU as a whole. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t workarounds to this conundrum. Perhaps one of the Infinity Stones-powered snaps in Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers: Endgame had unintended consequences that resulted in mutants being incorporated into the MCU’s history, or maybe the time travel in Endgame accomplished this instead. It’s also possible that mutants could end up being existing in a separate universe, as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will open the door to explore parallel realities.
Regardless, using the Eternals to set the stage for the X-Men would be a cool way to connect two Marvel properties that haven’t crossed over that much in the comics. That’s not to say that these two groups will ultimately spend a lot of time with one another on the big screen, but even a loose connection can serve as interesting building blocks for this continually-expanding mythology.
Right now, The Eternals is scheduled to come out on November 6, though given how the coronavirus pandemic is shaking up the film industry, that date is subject to change. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates concerning the MCU’s future.