8 Challenges for the MCU X-Men Franchise to Overcome
With the X-Men's future as part of the MCU certain, Marvel Studios has some work ahead of them to ensure that they thrive.
With more than 10 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe projects to consider, injecting the X-Men might not be so simple.
The X-Men may still be years away from making their debut in the MCU but that hasn’t stopped us from speculating how they’ll get there. It also hasn’t slowed down Kevin Feige and company from making movies and developing their television portfolio, all of which will count towards the greater universe. This all may be fun and exciting but the longer it goes on, the more problems it will undoubtedly cause when it’s time to insert an entire universe’s worth of characters and stories into their catalog. Some of the damage has already been done. No one thought it possible for the X-Men movie rights to return to Marvel. They sure didn’t. Which is why they’ve got quite a few housekeeping items to take care of before the X-Men come home. Here are 8 challenges for the MCU X-Men franchise to conquer before or soon after their introduction.
1. The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Starjammers
I loved the first Guardians movie. It was fun and bright and full of wit. Marvel was able to take barely known characters and turn them into intriguing leading men and women. I will admit I disliked the second movie, but that’s neither here nor there. But you have to be blind, or ill-informed if you didn’t notice how much Marvel Studios pilfered aspects from a particular group of space pirates. Enter the Starjammers. A plucky rag-tag group of space piraty-mercenaries fighting against an oppressive superior military force. Heroes, but not opposed to robbing someone blind when the situation calls for it. Sometimes when it’s not at all necessary. (Related: X-Men: 10 Most Impactful Members of the Brotherhood of Mutants Not Named Magneto)
Look at that description and tell me who else it reminds you of? Historically, the Guardians are nothing like what they’ve become. By all means, they’ve been closer to space Avengers than anything resembling the Starjammers. A smaller hurdle to clear, but it does put the breaks on the X-Men being able to stay true to their source material when it comes to Cyclops’ family. Especially if they want to make a Phoenix Saga based movie in the future. I doubt that last part, but the Starjammers as we know them, are kind of off the table for time being.
2. A Lack of an Established History
The original origins of the X-Men franchise date back to a time before recorded history… or the invention of the wheel. In the books, the X-Gene was ignited or at least seeded eons ago by the Celestials. Space Gods that were introduced in the Guardians of the Galaxy. They are also responsible for the existence of the Eternals. By the time the X-Men make their way to the MCU, they’ll at least have that going for them. However, there are closer spots in time worth recognizing.
For instance, Apocalypse’s activities throughout the centuries. Sinister’s long line of experiments across two continents. Magneto’s experiences during the Holocaust. Wolverine’s many military campaigns including the Civil War, World Wars, and participation in black op organizations. Most importantly, the formation of the X-Men under Professor Charles Xavier. All these are extremely important to set up the landscape in which the X-Men exist. Without them, most of what makes the X-Men function disappears. (Related: 10 Most Promiscuous X-Men in Franchise History)
At the moment, the very notion of mutants doesn’t exist within the MCU. It’s not an organic problem. Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige wrote their stories with the idea that they’d never have the rights of the X-Men back. With them being on the horizon, there’s going to be a lot of backtracking and improv to make even a little of their inclusion make sense. Chances are, they’ll be using a combination of factors to fit them in including the twisting of reality and traveling to an alternate version of it. Assuming they care about maintaining any X-Men history. Otherwise, I suspect they’ll be starting from scratch. Possibly going the Ultimate Universe route.
3. Validation and a Reason for Being
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If you’re reading this, then by now you’ve already had the pleasure of watching Endgame. The summation of more than 10-years’ worth of cinematic storytelling, the likes of which had never been attempted. It was less of a movie and more of an event all itself. At the same time, the movie demonstrated just how bloated the MCU is with do-gooders. Most of which are based on Earth, ground-zero for the proliferation of the mutant race, and of course, the X-Men.
Assuming you’re like me, and you counted, then you know there were around 32 active heroes in Endgame. That’s not counting the entire nation of Wakanda, the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D., the army of Wizards, New Asgard, what’s left of the Nova Corp (decimated off-screen by Thanos) and the Ravagers, who were suddenly willing to die for strangers. By the time the X-Men debut they’ll also be joined by the likes of Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Blade (and that whole world), and possibly a Defender or two. (Related: The 10 Best X-Men for Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe)
What’s the big deal? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not as big as the Marvel Comics Universe. Not at all. Comic books come out every month. Entire worlds can be confined with those pages and be fleshed out indefinitely. On the other hand, movies take time to be produced. On average, two or more years if sequels are not shot concurrently with the original feature. In that period a title can put out 24 to 48 issues of lore!
The X-Men go through a lot and with so much happening it’s not too hard for readers to accept that they and the Avengers don’t constantly crossover into each other’s business. Moviegoers have become smart and will notice the number of heroes versus threats. They aren’t just going to buy the X-Men or any group saving the world alone. It happens even now while dealing with just what they have. The X-Men aren’t the only heroes coming in. The Fantastic Four, Defenders and other franchises will be populating the MCU both in TV and film making the need for so many heroes perplexing.
4. The Existence of the Inhumans
I know. The ABC Inhumans series bombed terribly and the MCU doesn’t even recognize the happenings of their TV franchises. However, keep in mind, the series was going to be a movie-franchise first. There was even a rumor of Vin Diesel taking up the role of Black Bolt. And guess what? With the exit of the Spider-Man franchise, there are talks of breathing life back into the franchise. Not a huge problem, but one nonetheless. Like I said before, movie audiences aren’t stupid. It is not going to be easy to convince them that not one, but two secret super subspecies live on MCU Earth. (Related: 10 Times The X-Men Horrifically Failed)
Especially if Marvel chooses to go the lame “mutants were always here” route. There’s a distinct reason the Inhumans have always played second fiddle to the X-Men. It’s an interesting concept, but best left as part of another franchise such as the Fantastic Four. In reality, the Inhumans only challenged the X-Men when Marvel Comics tried to replace the concept of mutants with Inhumans over the rights they now own. In the end, unless drastic changes are made to one or both franchises, Marvel runs the risk cannibalizing their product(s).
5. Effects of the Current Socio-Political Climate
The push for diversity and representation has grown from a touchy subject to a full-on campaign for Marvel Studios executives. Handled properly, it shouldn’t be a huge deal. The X-Men have a lot of available lore to mine. But how often are things done right in Hollywood these days? I’ve grown up being an X-Men fan. I get it, the team has been historically very white. I know. That’s so inherently evil and oppressive. But seriously, do you know why? It’s not because Marvel creators and editors are trying to hold minorities down.
It’s because the X-Men books are a largely American action team based out of America. Brace yourselves, I’m going to drop knowledge on you busters. If you hadn’t noticed, America while being a diverse country (and by ‘diverse’ I mean more than just skin color), the majority of its citizens have been Caucasian. It’s not something that I bring up with the intentions of slight. It’s a reality. Sometimes it’s a truth that’s hard to see depending on where you live. For instance. I grew up in areas of Dade and Broward Counties (Florida). In the schools I attended there, Caucasian students were a very small minority. Like small, small. I’m talking about around 30 out of 1500+.
With that said, I understand it’s not that extreme everywhere else in the country. I can even see how someone could come out of that with a skewed perspective. As a lifelong X-Men fan, I want to see my favorite characters as they are supposed to be and recognize them. Not changed because someone wants to feel acknowledged by a fictional character. Tweaks here and there made to ensure they fit into the current status quo are expected, but with Fiege vowing to give us an X-Men movie “as we’ve never seen before” and other execs questioning why they need to be called “X-Men” (the ‘Men’ part offends, apparently)- I don’t have a great outlook on the franchises’ future in terms of respecting the source material. (Related: Marvel Producer Victoria Alonso Believes The Name X-Men Is “Outdated”)
6. No Intergalactic Footprint
Due to many intergalactic adventures, the X-Men have left a decent impression on their galaxy. Most notably beginning with their experiences with the Phoenix, the Shi’Ar Empire, and the Brood. All have been mined in other Marvel properties, but their starting point and most influential stories came in issues of X-Men. The influence of these intergalactic forces have spread across the Marvel Comic Universe since they first appeared in the pages of X-Men. Especially the Shi’Ar Empire. They’ve become major players- even in the Avengers comics.
Thanks to the Thor series, The Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and the last two Avengers films, MCU fans are now well-traveled within the known universe. I fear it will be difficult to introduce the Shi’Ar or Brood to audiences as ‘big deals’ when they’ve never been mentioned before by any of the current space-cases. On the bright side, if Disney/Marvel choose to use the Brood, they won’t be sued for their likeness to the Xenomorph creatures from the Alien franchise. Because they own that too. (Related: 10 Best X-Men Leaders of All Time)
7. The Phoenix Movie Problem
To date, the now-defunct 21st Century Fox Studios has either referenced or explicitly centered a movie around the Phoenix Force 4 times. How they used the concept isn’t the problem, it’s the funk that’s been generated by two embarrassingly poor attempts of Fox to create a feature film. The first outing with X-Men: The Last Stand (X3) can be attributed to how much of it was written during a writer’s strike and the absence of director Bryan Singer. However, the same cannot be said about Dark Phoenix.
There were a lot of bad decisions, from the cast to the choice of director. What the two strikes have created is a bad mental space in the minds and thoughts of fandom. How many franchises are allowed to survive not one, but two failures at telling the same story within ten-years? I don’t think Disney will be greenlighting anything Phoenix related for a very long time, and that’s a shame because it’s widely considered the pinnacle of X-Men storytelling. (Related: X-Men: Dark Phoenix Flames Out At Box Office)
8. Time Travel Rules
Since Chris Claremont’s classic two-issue tale Days of Future Past, time travel has been a huge part of the X-Men mythos. I’d say anywhere from 40-60% of the franchise’s characters are either the direct result of or at least have been partially molded by the act. It’s why one of their best performing movies was based around the activity. Time travel has become as commonplace to the X-Men over the years as their many space adventures. So, what’s the problem? The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new rules for space travel. That’s what.
They aren’t just confusing, but inconsistent and abhorrently counter to the rules that Marvel Comics and every other publisher subscribes to. Theoretically flawed or not, the “Back to the Future Rules” are what most, if not all, time travel stories have used. If the past is changed, the future will adjust accordingly. Those are the rules popular science fiction utilizes. While Endgame was indeed an accomplishment, it’s sabotaged a great deal of possible future X-Men plotlines within the cinematic universe.
Here’s how the MCU time travel rules function as explained by Professor Hulk; You cannot change your present, by changing your past, because the past is now your future, and your present is the past. Instead, what happens when you “time travel” is that you’re effectively crossing into (or creating) an alternate reality that will then continue on a timeline different from the one you experienced.
Unless the X-Men begin reality hopping, we’ll never see proper adaptations of the Age of Apocalypse storyline. Legion or whoever they’d use to eliminate a young Xavier cannot travel backward through the time stream and accidentally alter the present. It takes away the finality of it all if it’s an alternate reality. Not to mention, time travelers like Cable, Bishop, Fitzroy, Stryfe, Ahab, and Rachel Summers will have no reason to enter the present (all hoped to change or maintain their futures, except for Rachel who essentially got deposited into the present by the Phoenix Force). (Related: 10 Times Members of the X-Men Joined Other Marvel Superhero Teams)
Heck, the Phoenix Force will also have to be adjusted (if they ever attempt it again). The Phoenix exists throughout all times and realities as a single, multiversal, cosmic entity connected by the White-Hot Room. Which is why it’s the guardian of the M’kraan Crystal, the nexus of all realities. Makes sense now, right? There are not multiple firebirds in the multiverse, but according to the MCU, there has to be now. In terms of the X-Men franchise, space-time is now a narrative cluster-#@[email protected] of epic proportions.
So, what do you think will be the biggest problem for the X-Men when they join the MCU? Let us know below.