This week James McAvoy, who played a young Professor X in the most recent X-Men movies, was talking about whether he’d ever return to the franchise. This got me thinking about what the future of the mutant family will look like, and I’ve come to realize that I’m desperately hoping Disney won’t integrate the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For those not up to speed on the Marvel film rights timeline, here’s a brief history lesson: due to financial difficulties in the 1990s, Marvel sold the film rights for a load of its characters to various studios. During this period the X-Men were sold to Fox. Then in 2019, Disney acquired Fox along with all its assets, including the rights to make films about the X-Men.
- How to watch the X-Men movies in order
- The best streaming services in 2021
- Plus: 9 new movies and TV shows this weekend: Sopranos prequel, SNL and more
This means that Disney, which also owns Marvel Studios, is now free to do whatever it wants with the X-Men on the big screen. As part of the Fox merger, the House of Mouse also got the rights to the Fantastic Four characters and it’s already been confirmed they will be integrated into the MCU in due course. It’s assumed the same will happen with the X-Men.
However, I’m crossing my fingers that someone within Disney shares the same view as me and sees that the true potential of the X-Men lies away from being a small part of an interconnected franchise, but instead as the stars of their own universe.
Too many X-Men to name
Since debuting in comic book form in 1963, there have been more than 250 X-Men across all media. These have ranged from unforgettable characters like Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm, to slightly more obscure members of the team such as Lifeguard, Beak, and, and I promise this one is real, Goldballs.
Even just considering the A-listers, there are an awful lot of X-Men worthy of significant screentime. Cramming all of them into a single film is nigh-on-impossible, which is why previous silver screen adaptations haven’t even attempted to. Instead, a small selection have been chosen and the roster has expanded through sequels.
I expect Disney will take the same approach when it finally puts its own mark on the characters but want I really want to see is the X-Men explored in even greater detail.
Give them their own universe
From my perspective, the X-Men clan is large enough to sustain its own interconnected universe. I want to see fan-favorite characters like Magneto, Gambit, Kitty Pryde, and Nightcrawler in their own solo movies before teaming up, or clashing, in a larger X-Men movie.
In my dream reality, the X-Men franchise would essentially become its own MCU-style universe. Multiple standalone features that focus on just a single hero or a couple of characters would build into larger event-style pictures where all the characters we have become familiar with team up to fight a larger threat.
The X-Men don’t need to be a single piece in a larger picture, they can support a whole universe themselves. The MCU model has been proved extremely successful, and I think it’s one that suits the X-Men perfectly. Why not replicate it?
The MCU is crowded enough
Marvel deserves serious credit for how well constructed the MCU has been since it launched over a decade ago. Even the infrequent missteps have been minor and largely smoothed over by subsequent retcons.
However, the MCU is definitely getting a little crowded. Sure, Avengers: Endgame did thin the herd slightly with some beloved characters not surviving the events, but the main players count has swelled beyond 30 heroes — that’s a lot of characters for audiences to keep track of.
Is throwing another dozen or so of the most popular X-Men into the mix really the best idea? I’m concerned that this approach would lead to either the X-Men being neglected, or the current crop of the characters being shunned to one side, or in a worst-case scenario both groups suffering.
Disney’s solution to avoid overwhelming audiences with too many heroes at once could be to introduce a smaller collection of X-Men. This might be an effective remedy, but it would be a great shame if so many excellent comic book characters were ignored because the MCU was growing too unwieldy to manage.
Trust in Marvel
Of course, all my worrying could be for nothing. After more than two dozen MCU films, almost all of which are at least pretty good, Marvel deserves the benefit of the doubt.
We saw earlier this year how successful Marvel is when it comes to growing its interconnected universe. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings didn’t just add a new hero to the already rich mix but a whole new mythical dimension.
I may have my concerns that the X-Men will struggle to find a place in the MCU, but if there was ever a studio that could successfully thread that needle it’s Marvel. Plus, even I can’t deny that my hype levels would go into overdrive if an Avengers vs X-Men film was to enter production.