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Walt Disney owns 20th Century Fox. That’s the reality in which we now live after Thursday’s landmark deal was announced. The acquisition of Rupert Murdoch’s vast entertainment empire by Bob Iger’s company will have rolling effects on a huge number of properties, from Aliens to Family Guy. For comic fans, though, there’s only one thing worth geeking out over: the Marvel Cinematic Universe just got mutants.
And cosmic surfers. And a family of superpowered adventurers. And a merc with a mouth.
If it was earth-shaking when Marvel and Sony struck an agreement for Spider-Man to join the MCU, this latest move registers Galactus on the Richter scale. (Um, more on him later.) For the first time since superhero cinema become a bankable endeavour, the pride of Marvel’s vast catalog is back together under one roof. The X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Deadpool, and all their related heroes and villains could now conceivably join the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Defenders, and all the other blockbuster creations that have made up the massive interconnected Marvel universe.
Which, when it comes down to it, is incredibly complicated. The X-Men and Deadpool are already well-established in their own world, and Marvel Studios has reportedly mapped out their series until 2028. Plans can adjust, though, and Kevin Feige’s team would be silly not to embrace the gift they got on the third night of Hanukkah. So the question now is how do they pull it off?
Well, we probably won’t know for a good while. It’ll be a year before the Disney/Fox deal really goes into effect, after all. One thing’s for sure, though, the MCU just got a whole lot bigger, and things are definitely going to start changing. Here are 10 ways how.
The X-Men are clearly the biggest aspect of all this, not only because of their stable fanbase and cinematic success, but because of the sheer number of characters involved in the X-brand. We’ve seen maybe 75 different mutants appear in the X-films to date, which is like a nickel next to a stack of hundreds compared to how many mutants exist in the comic books. Before Disney and Marvel Studios start worrying about introducing Boom-Boom or Doop (please, God, introduce Doop), however, they have to figure out how to fold the X-Men into a world that already knows the Avengers.
Since X-Men: First Class rebooted the franchise in 2011, mutants have been inextricably connected to world events like the Cuban Missile Crisis or that time Magneto tried to assassinate President Nixon. It would be inconceivable to simply add that mess to the MCU timeline, a universe in which superpowered beings didn’t really start emerging until the late 2000s. Yes, Captain America: The First Avenger was set during World War II and Captain Marvel will take place in the ’90s, but you can’t expect audiences to buy that Nick Fury only started trying to recruit remarkable people in 2010 when the X-Men were literally stopping the Apocalypse in 1983.
So, if you can’t simply say, “the X-Men were here all along,” what do you do? One answer would be the multiverse. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recently started fiddling with the concept, and both Ant-Man and Doctor Strange have already brought multiple dimensions into the conversation. If you really wanted to keep the current cinematic X-Men class alive in the MCU, ripping a hole through the space-time continuum might be a way to do it.
Ultimately, however, that would be a ridiculously complex path and likely unsatisfying. Time travel in the X-films has already made continuity a mess, and bringing in universe travel wouldn’t help matters. Besides, Hugh Jackman’s story as Wolverine ended beautifully with Logan (poor guy will never get that X-Men/Avengers crossover he wanted so badly), and though X-Men: Dark Phoenix was intended to launch a new trilogy, it’s probably a perfect way for the current incarnation of the X-Universe to end. So, perhaps it’s best to go the way of Spider-Man: Homecoming and go for a full reboot.
That way, you could sneak Wolverine into WWII with some nice retconning, lining the character up with Captain America just like in the comics. You could even have the sudden rise of mutantkind lead to an adaptation of the infamous Avengers vs. X-Men storyline — essentially the Civil War of team crossovers. (In the comics, it’s the return of the Phoenix Force that sparks the discord, but even if Dark Pheonix sucks, I don’t think audiences need a third adaptation of that story.) Imagine if the first X-Men MCU film pits a newly formed team against Magneto’s Brotherhood (movie one); in the destructive wake of the final battle, the Avengers are sent in to assess the threat (movie two). Misunderstandings and pride arise, and you’ve got two giant teams of heroes duking it out. After the Sokovia Accords, the characters’ internal conflicts would be even more heightened. Once the dust settles, you could have Beast, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, or any of the other X-Men who have historically also been Avengers switch teams (movie three). Scarlet Witch could even do the reverse (we’ll get there, folks).
It would have to be something that sets the rise of the X-Men parallel to the formation of the Avengers, just tucked in the background. Heck, maybe Professor Xavier actually gets inspired by Nick Fury. But there’s actually one character who might have already set that groundwork. A character whose story could be used as an anchor to lock both established universes together.
It’s almost ironic that the most R-rated aspect of this deal could be Disney’s best bet to introduce X-Men into the MCU. Though Deadpool is understood to exist within the X-Universe as we’ve known it, it’s actually pretty tangential. There are barely nominal references to the X-Men themselves, and the Colossus in Deadpool is completely different from any version seen in the main X-franchise. Plus, the way Wade Wilson shatters the fourth wall could easily be manipulated to explain how he’s able to know so much about both the XU and the MCU.
And here’s the kicker: Deadpool is sort of already in the MCU. The final battle takes place on a decommissioned ship that, to fans, is unmistakably a Helicarrier. Of course, at the time, FOX couldn’t call it that, so this was just some cheeky fan service by the filmmakers. Now, however, it could be used to set Deadpool sometime after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a movie in which three massive Helicarriers crashed in Washington, DC. You could even say some of Hydra’s targets in that film were mutants.
Iger has already said Disney isn’t planning on changing much with Deadpool, and even hinted that his inclusion in the MCU could open doors to more R-rated branding. (Maybe the Netflix shows will finally get their shot at the big screen!) As long as Deadpool 2 doesn’t throw too many wacky curveballs in terms of mutants’ standing in the world, it could be retconned into the MCU with minimal effort. Furthermore, with Cable being introduced in the upcoming film, time travel would already be an accepted MCU concept, something that would be crucial to a character later in this list.
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver
Beyond providing the clearest case for why you can’t simply fold the XU into the MCU (how do you explain two Quicksilvers?), these two might be a pre-established in to combine the franchises. What if instead trying to use the multiverse as a gateway for mutants, you posit that they’ve been there all along? Because of the convoluted way the rights were split, both Disney/Marvel and FOX had rights to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, though the former couldn’t call them “mutants.” The story in the MCU is that Baron Wolfgang von Strucker fiddled with Loki’s staff to infuse the twins with powers. How hard would it be to change it so the experiments didn’t give them abilities, but simply kickstarted their innate X-genes?
Much in the way Spider-Man was introduced via an Avengers film (which, let’s be frank, that’s what Civil War was), you could have Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) be the bridge across which the X-Men walk. Say she discovers she’s in fact a mutant, and learns that her father is one of the oldest mutants alive. She heads out on a journey to find him, only to discover he’s Magneto, a homo-superior supremacists who tries to recruit her in his upcoming war against humanity. That could either spark AvX, or be used as a way to bring together the first X-Men, whose inaugural mission is to rescue Wanda or help her stop her father.
As with any of this, it would take some chronology finagling. Maybe Wanda has known this for some time and has kept it a dark secret from her Avengers teammates. And of course, Magneto’s origins in the Holocaust are integral to the character, which brings up some timeline issues, though that could be explained by saying his mutant powers slow his aging (hey, it’s happened before). Still, it feels truer than having mutants suddenly appear post-Infinity War, introduces a code red-level villain in Magneto, and ties the existing MCU into the incoming one. It’s all going to be a bumpy ride, but this might be the smoothest route to a prolegomenous entry of the MCU X-Men.