With yet another series of rumors flying around about a deal between 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios, fans are no doubt excited at the prospect of seeing the X-Men fight alongside Earth's Mightiest Heroes on the big screen. However, while many react positively at the idea of the X-Men joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, others claim that the general tone of Marvel's films is childish and too light-hearted to properly convey the complex issues that the X-Men bring to life. To these nay-sayers, I say:
In all seriousness, though, Fox's darker direction for the X-Men is undoubtedly the best choice for the franchise; while Marvel Studios is beginning to approach more serious territory with Captain America: Civil War's real-world themes, they would still have to play catch-up in order to reach X-Men levels of serious, and it's likely that dark is a direction that Marvel doesn't want to go. Plus, there's no denying that a company owned by Disney could never do Deadpool's character justice in a movie. So this leaves us with the question "how do we bring the X-Men into the MCU, while respecting continuity and real-world issues at the heart of the mutants' mythos?" Well, I'm glad you asked.
Why so serious?
Before we tackle how to bring the X-Men into the MCU, we need to understand why the X-Men need to be handled with a serious tone. The biggest theme in X-Men comics is that of social acceptance; in fact, Professor X and Magneto were based on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, respectively. The underlying tone of most X-Men movies is the struggle of what amounts to a superheroes' civil rights movement, and this conflict is often what puts Magneto and Professor X at odds. Both X-Men (2000) and X-Men: First Class demonstrate this point beautifully, with both characters agreeing on the ends, but not the means. Professor X believes in peaceful protest, while Magneto wants equality (or more than equality) by any means necessary. That being said, I cannot imagine a movie about the African American civil rights movement with Iron Man levels of comedy. Not to say that X-Men movies can't throw around jokes every once in a while, but the real world themes that these characters represent need to be handled with a serious and delicate hand; not dark, just serious.
Before we explore how to best portray the X-Men tonally in the MCU, let's first discuss some ways that mutants would have to fit in the overall universe that Marvel Studios has created.
Don't get me wrong: I LOVE the original X-Men movies, especially X2. But we all know that it would make no sense for the original cast (or the prequel cast) to be the team to join the MCU. Obviously, the universe that Fox has built would have to be scrapped, which would no doubt be a disappointment to the people who fancy the newest additions to the prequel cast.
With a new team of X-Men would have to come a new team of actors, and while it would be difficult for most audiences to see anyone other than Patrick Stewart play Professor X, sacrifices have to be made.
... EXCEPT Deadpool
While it would be difficult to see anyone other than Sir Ian McKellen play Magneto, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to see anyone other than Ryan Reynolds play Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds has fought so hard for a Deadpool movie, and he so perfectly exemplifies the role, that it would be a mistake to waste all of his (and the rest of the crew's) effort. Deadpool without a doubt houses the most comic accurate versions of the X-Men: Colossus looks like he's ripped straight out of the panels of a comic book, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead finally delivered a classic yellow X-Men suit (unless you count the deleted scene from The Wolverine). We could even keep Deadpool's entire cast, and claim that it's always taken place in the MCU.
In fact, it seems that Deadpool was ahead of the game, already dropping hints that it might take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (helicarriers, anyone?); plus, it doesn't make a huge point of the fact that it takes place in the same universe as the X-Men franchise. Also, any continuity errors or logical inconsistencies that the X-Men would bring to the MCU could be dismissed in a one-liner from the Merc with a Mouth.
Change up Inhumans on Agents of Shield
What do Inhumans have to do with the X-Men? Well, for starters, EVERYTHING! I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again: Inhumans are Marvel's replacement for the X-Men. On Agents of Shield, Inhumans present the same civil rights issues that I mentioned earlier, so it would be repetitive (to say the least) if the X-Men were to be brought to the MCU. The solution is long overdue: we need less Inhumans on Agents of Shield. That doesn't mean no Inhumans, it just means less.
First, stop making every person with superpowers an Inhuman. DON'T GIVE EVERY SUPERHERO AND VILLAIN THE SAME ORIGIN! The Flash does this, and it's annoying. Smallville did it, and it was annoying then. And Agents of Shield is starting to head down the same route. The only powered people on the show that aren't Inhumans are Carl Creel (the Absorbing Man), Deathlok, and Gravitron, and they're never even on the show anymore. I look at Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and literally every superhero in the movies, and wonder why Agents of Shield can't do the same thing with their heroes.
Plus, every member of the X-Men is a mutant, so they all got their powers the same way as well (for the most part). To fix the issue of repetition, the Inhumans on Agents of Shield need to stop being a subject of public discrimination, so that the X-Men can be.
Wait until after an Inhumans movie
Despite everything I just said about Inhumans on Agents of Shield, an Inhumans movie needs to happen, even if the odds of it happening don't look great right now. And more importantly, an Inhumans movie needs to happen before the X-Men come to the MCU.
In order to separate Inhumans from the superhero civil rights movement, we need a new cast of characters. Obviously, this group of characters would be the Royal Family (pictured above). Simply put, Inhumans fighting some greater evil would give them something to deal with other than social inequality. Inhumans acting as actual superheroes may even change the public's opinion of them. It isn't news that Agents of Shield frequently reacts to Marvel's latest blockbuster, so an Inhumans movie could shift the focus of the show entirely. Of course, by the time this movie would come out, Agents of Shield could be off the air, so the social issues that Inhumans deal with on television may even resolve themselves. In any case, an Inhumans movie would somehow have to deal with social injustice before the X-Men can become public outcasts.
Make mutations a result of Infinity War
This point also somewhat stems from Inhumans on Agents of Shield: how could mutants suddenly appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? If they've been around for years, then why has nobody ever mentioned them? The simple solution would be to say that they have existed, but they've managed to keep their existence a secret. But someone's already used that excuse... guess who?
Marvel Studios can't get away with using the same excuse twice, and mutants suddenly popping up around the world would be jarring for audiences. So the solution I propose is having mutants evolve from humanity as a result of the Infinity Stones. Thor: The Dark World showed us the effects that the Reality Stone had on Jane Foster. There's no doubt that the power of the Reality Stone, and the other infinity stones, will be unleashed upon the human race, so it wouldn't be difficult to imagine these alien energies mutating the DNA of a small portion of the human race.
In combination with the Time Stone, these energies could be unleashed throughout history, causing mutants to show up before the events of Infinity War. An temporal epidemic like this could explain the existence of mutants like Wolverine and Apocalypse in the MCU, despite being born long before the present era. Speaking of Wolverine...
Give Wolverine a break
With Hugh Jackman's next Wolverine movie set to be his last appearance as the character, fans have been asking who could replace the iconic actor, and if X-23 will be taking up the famous claws. But if you ask me, Wolverine deserves a break.
Wolverine has appeared in every X-Men movie except Deadpool, so I think it's fair to say that we've had enough Wolverine. In all honesty, there's nothing new that the character has to offer audiences: we've seen his origin, we've seen him kick ass, we've seen him grow as a character, and we're likely to see him die soon. Audiences don't need to see seventeen years of a character all over again. Instead, let's give the spotlight to
Lesser known characters
Let's face it: we've been seeing the same X-Men on screen for almost two decades. Despite a little variation, the core team (Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Wolverine) has always remained the same. In this regard, FX's upcoming series Legion is a step in the right direction.
Legion is to center around David Haller and the story surrounding his mutation, an interesting tale that many fans are excited to see brought to the small screen. After seeing the same team for sixteen years, fans are thirsty for something new, something fresh. It's why many were excited to hear that Jubilee was to appear in X-Men: Apocalypse, and that Gambit was to receive a solo outing. In the end, however, neither of these instances really panned out, and with rumors floating that Legion won't even take place in the same universe as the X-Men movies, it seems that third strike means Fox is out. If the X-Men were brought to the MCU, it would be the perfect opportunity to explore the stories behind lesser known mutants, or even those who weren't portrayed properly in the original films (Cyclops, anyone?).
Enough with the prequels
This one is probably a given, but we can't have any more X-Men prequels. With the next X-Men movie rumored to take place in the 90's, Magneto would only be ten years away from looking like Sir Ian McKellen; as talented as he is, there's no way Michael Fassbender could pull off that look.
If the X-Men are brought into the MCU, their movies would need to take place at the same time as the rest of Marvel's movies, especially if mutations are supposed to be the result of the infinity stones.
DON'T make Magneto Scarlet Witch's father
The Maximoff twins got their powers from the Mind Stone. That is final. Do not try to rewrite the characters' origins to make them mutants. And DO NOT make Magneto their father.
Not only would making a newly introduced Magneto the Maximoff twins' father be a huge mistake in terms of continuity, but it would also completely ruin the arc that the twins had in Age of Ultron. Motivated by the death of their parents at the hands of Tony Stark, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch joined forces with Ultron in order to destroy the Avengers. While this storyline may not have been handled perfectly, there is no doubt that the events of that film affect the decisions that Scarlet Witch makes in Civil War, as well as the events in the rest of the MCU as a whole. Marvel and Fox can't just retcon a movie like they can a comic book (they got lucky with Days of Future Past).
Leave production rights with Fox
"WHAT?!? Aren't we trying to get the rights to the X-Men back to Marvel Studios?" I hear you thinking (that's right, I can hear thoughts). In a word, no. Because the X-Men coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't mean that Marvel gets the rights back. In fact, this is a common misconception with Spiderman's introduction in Civil War. Marvel Studios does not own the film rights to Spiderman, Sony does. Marvel and Sony struck a deal so that solo Spiderman movies, while still taking place in the MCU, will be produced by Sony, with creative input from Marvel Studios; while team-up/Avengers movies that include Spiderman will be produced by Marvel Studios.
A deal like this is most likely as far as 20th Century Fox would be willing to go in order to bring the X-Men to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in all honesty, it's probably for the best. Fox produced X-Men movies would permit a more serious tone and would allow the films to explore the themes of social injustice that have become synonymous with the mutant team. In addition, Fox would still get to produce R-rated Deadpool movies, yet still have them take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then, when the X-Men team up with the Avengers, these themes would most likely take a back seat as Marvel Studios takes the reigns (with input from Fox).
A deal like this would be a perfect compromise for the fans, the characters, and the studios. It's a win-win-win.
Keep Channing Tatum as Gambit
This one is a bit more personal to me, but after hearing about the cancellation of Channing Tatum's Gambit movie, I was disappointed. Channing Tatum is clearly very passionate about the project, and it would be a shame if he never got to portray the character. He's never actually played Gambit in an X-Men movie, so there wouldn't be any continuity issues, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be a perfect fit for his character.
Whaddaya say, Marvel?
Make the Fantastic Four a part of the deal
If the X-Men are coming to the MCU, there's no way that the Fantastic Four aren't. When it comes to Marvel's First Family, ignore the whole "production rights" section. GIVE THE RIGHTS BACK TO MARVEL! Bring the Fantastic Four into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, get Brad Bird to direct, give it a lighter tone, and it'll be golden. Not only have the Fantastic Four never been done well, but Doctor Doom hasn't either. While many fans were disappointed by the way Ultron was brought to life last year, I don't think there's any way that Marvel Studios would risk getting Doctor Doom wrong. And after Doctor Strange is released later this year, the MCU will be exposed to a whole different side to the universe: one that Doctor Doom often exploits in the comics.
Plus, along with the Fantastic Four would come characters like the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and the Skrulls, all of whom fans have been clamoring to see given justice on the big screen.