The X-Men take a bow this weekend with “Dark Phoenix,” the concluding chapter for the current mutant superhero group. What happens next, though, is something that even their mind-reading leader Charles Xavier doesn’t know.
The Disney/Fox merger brings that whole crew of comic-book characters – fan favorites like Wolverine, Cyclops and Magneto – to Marvel Studios where they can join the Avengers on the big screen. You could have Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool meet Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, or the lineage of female X-Men characters getting a reboot and teaming with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel for a space adventure.
But will they?
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Sophie Turner's Jean Grey gets imbued with great power that tears her apart, inside and out, in the X-Men film "Dark Phoenix." (Photo: 20TH CENTURY FOX)
Without a doubt, the X-Men belong with their comic-book kin, says Erik Davis, managing editor of the movie site Fandango.com. Plus, the timing is perfect with “Avengers: Endgame” putting a cherry on the 22-movie saga so far before the next big story starts. “Fans have always wanted to see more crossover between the X-Men and the MCU,” he says. “Now the stage is set for Marvel to widen the scope of their cinematic universe like never before.”
Slashfilm.com editor in chief Peter Sciretta isn’t so sure. “If you asked me 15 years ago if a Marvel Cinematic Universe could exist without the X-Men, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he says. “Now that we have 11 years of Marvel Studios, it’s hard to imagine how the X-Men could even fit into the mix.
“I know fans want it and Disney will eventually give it to them, but I think we are years out from it happening.”
For Disney, it makes financial sense to incorporate the X-Men into the MCU rather than shelve the characters: According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, X-Men films since 2000 – including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine movies and Reynolds’ Deadpool films – have racked up $2.4 billion domestically. (There’s still one Fox remnant left to release: the much-delayed, horror-tinged “The New Mutants,” slated for April 3, 2020.)
Still, “it’s probably best to take the X-Men and just sort of push them off to the side for a little bit,” says “Avengers: Endgame” director Joe Russo. “They’ve had a very ubiquitous run for a long time now and I think before you bring (the team) back, it should be put on ice for a little while because it just needs some time to recycle itself.”
The Disney/Fox merger means the female X-Men could team up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe's finest women warriors, including Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, from left), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Shuri (Letitia Wright). (Photo: MARVEL STUDIOS)
At least some sort of vacation would benefit the X-Men, says Uproxx.com senior entertainment writer Mike Ryan, especially after the poor critical reception for “Dark Phoenix.” (Just 23% of critics like it on Rotten Tomatoes.) “We need to miss them before they make a comeback. And frankly, we do not miss them right now. If anything, we’d like them to go away.”
“Dark Phoenix” star James McAvoy, who has played Xavier (the role originally played by Patrick Stewart) since 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” thinks it’s possible his cast has had “the last go-round” and is waiting to see what Marvel does. “I’m pretty happy with it if I’ve got to go and hang up my bald head.”
Were the X-Men to get added to the mighty Marvel world, McAvoy wonders how well they’ll meld since the X-Men are essentially a metaphor for outsiders.
“One of the things I love about the X-Men universe is that superpeople are everywhere. There could be potentially millions of them in that world,” McAvoy says. “In the Avengers world, there’s only a few superheroes and they are heroes, whereas in the X-Men world, they’re almost like a minority that mainstream society is afraid of and tries to suppress and ghettoize.”
Original "X-Men" star Hugh Jackman joined the newer actors Nicholas Hoult and James McAvoy in "Days of Future Past." (Photo: ALAN MARKFIELD/20TH CENTURY FOX)
Davis thinks the best way to introduce a rebooted X-Men crew would be the approach Marvel took with Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man: weave them in with existing characters before launching their own franchise. For example, perhaps a new Wolverine pops up as an antagonist in “Black Panther 2” as a way to “bring these mutant characters into the MCU without simply offering fans a reboot,” says Davis.
Sciretta would love to see Jackman’s Wolverine standing alongside the Avengers one day, and using alternate universes would be one way to achieve that. Ryan, though, argues that Deadpool is a “crazy gift” to the MCU as a popular character whose meta commentary could tie everything together: “Let’s imagine the first time Deadpool meets the new Wolverine, whoever that may wind up being. Of course Deadpool will crack wise about ‘the other guy who played him.’ So this can pay homage to what people liked about the old X-Men movies while charting new territory.”
The X-Men and MCU need each other equally, Davis says: “The X-Men are in desperate need of a refresh, and the MCU is in desperate need of a new influx of beloved characters that can help shape, redefine and then lead the next era of Marvel movies.”
McAvoy’s greatest wish is that whatever happens, the socially relevant themes will continue to define the X-Men’s corner of the superhero galaxy: “Hopefully (Marvel) can find some way to really exploit that and really dig deep into that social commentary the fans find really compelling.”
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