This past Friday, shareholders from both 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company officially approved Disney’s offer to buy a significant portion of 20th Century Fox. There are many reasons and benefits for Disney acquiring the rival entertainment company but one of them especially interests superhero fans. That is that now Disney and Marvel Studios can use the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties whose film rights were held by Fox. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the most formidable shared cinematic universe will now be a superpower and Marvel Studios will take full advantage of its acquisitions. So what lies ahead for Marvel Studios? Let’s explore.
Enter The Mutants
The X-Men are the biggest prize for Marvel Studios since they are very popular with fans and the mutants’ absence in the MCU has been glaring. That didn’t stop the film studio from producing quality films it is just that it annoyed many that the studio, which proved it cared about its characters, were unable to feature the mutants. Meanwhile, while Fox did put out some fine films like Logan and Deadpool, their films were hit or miss. At times it was obvious that Fox did not appreciate or understand the mutants and often the adaptations were not faithful, at best. Other times we were presented with dire schlock like X-Men Origins: Wolverine that did a textbook character assassination on Deadpool.
Now that Disney and Marvel have the mutants under their fold, the question is what to do with them? The Disney heads made it clear the mutants would be folded into the MCU though there is a good argument for keeping the mutants in their own separate universe. That is because a core concept of the mutants in the Marvel Comics is that they have existed alongside humanity for a very long time. For obvious reasons there hasn’t been any evidence of mutants to date in the MCU with the closest analogy being the Inhumans as shown on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans. So how could it be that mutants have existed in the MCU all this time? Where were they during the events of Avengers: Infinity War? A separate argument can be made for the MIA characters from the TV side of the MCU like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but that is another story.
The way forward is to have mutants being a recent phenomena in the MCU that came about from the events of Thanos’ finger snap in Avengers: Infinity War. Another is to tie them with the Eternals, a property that the film studio is reportedly exploring. The Eternals storyline about alien Celestials experimenting on prehistoric humans and leaving them with a genetic time bomb that explodes into mutantkind during modern times is an avenue worth considering. Or have it that mutants have existed all along, but are very rare and stay hidden, which would go nicely with Logan/Wolverine and Professor X, and that for some reason more mutants have become more prevalent. This mystery could be explored over several films, perhaps as post-credit scenes. Being that it will take some time to properly redo the X-Men, mutants could be gradually introduced in other films and the fourth MCU phase could culminate in an Avengers vs. X-Men film. That could be a perfect way to launch a new series of X-films.
A casualty of the Disney acquisition are the upcoming Fox mutant films Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants. Both were supposed to come out this year, but have been delayed until next year. The latest rumors have it that both films are considered by insiders as bad as the infamous Fant4stic and that they may be scrapped altogether or be dumped on streaming services. It’s too early to say but the films now seem like unwanted children without any future. Dark Phoenix will be the swan song of the proper Fox X-Men films and it might not even feature the word “X-Men” in its final title to avoid associations with future MCU X-Men films. The New Mutants has gained the stink of being a troubled film laden with extensive reshoots and that doesn’t bode well. Its fate may depend on how Dark Phoenix fares. If Dark Phoenix fails, whether as a theatrical release or a streaming release, then expect The New Mutants to disappear like the infamous Roger Corman film version of the Fantastic Four.