Comics on Film: Folding Fox's Marvel Characters into Disney's MCU

Comics on Film: Folding Fox's Marvel Characters into Disney's MCU

Feb 02, 2018

The apparent upcoming sale of 21st Century Fox's media properties to the Walt Disney Company has been met with a wide variety of reactions from all kinds of people: business owners, politicians, media personalities, filmmakers, and performers. It's not hard to find a group of people opposed to this kind of deal, nor is it difficult to find those who are actively enthusiastic about it.
One group of people who generally fall on the enthusiastic side of the equation are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it's easy to see why. While the MCU has crafted a very holistic vision of the Marvel Comics Universe in its films over the past decade, it still manages to feel incomplete due to a few notable absences. Spider-Man was one such absence, but even the Webhead has been folded into the shared universe's larger framework due to his appearance in Captain America: Civil War and, of course, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Still, some of Marvel's absolutely biggest names in the form of the Fantastic Four (aka FF), and perhaps more notably the X-Men, have been absent for the entirety of the MCU due to the film rights for those characters being owned by 20th Century Fox. The barrier keeping those characters out of Disney's Marvel efforts will likely disappear, though, if the sale of the Fox media properties to Disney goes through as planned. So, what does that mean for the future of the FF and the X-Men, and how can those characters be folded into another embedded continuity?
The Fantastic Four: A Clean Break from What We've Seen Before
The most obvious thing to do with Marvel's "First Family" is to introduce them to the wider MCU with a clean break from what we've seen before, and this is likely the path of least resistance. Unlike the X-Men, the Fantastic Four's cinematic franchise hasn't been nearly as popular or ubiquitous within the superhero genre, with two different conceptions that have exhibited very different levels of success. While it might be fun to see the cast of the 2005 and 2007 films reprise their roles, this is highly unlikely since that franchise's Johnny Storm, actor Chris Evans, now plays one of the MCU's most important characters in Captain America.
It also doesn't seem particularly likely that Marvel Studios would be at all keen to revisit the 2015 conception of the FF under Fox's management either, since the film directed by Josh Trank is regarded as one of the worst entries in superhero cinema ever made. On top of that, the actor who played Johnny Storm in that film, Michael B. Jordan, is set to make his villainous debut in the MCU later this month in the highly anticipated Black Panther, starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Ryan Coogler.
Clearly, the best course of action is to integrate the FF into the fabric of the larger MCU by introducing them for the first time, similarly to the way Peter Parker was introduced into the larger framework. Maybe the team has already been established and the Baxter Building is simply a locale we've never seen before in New York. Or, like Spider-Man, perhaps they've just come into their powers and are starting to make names for themselves. It would be easy, it would make sense, and it would allow recasting of the roles to more closely fit the vision of the comics, as a lot of MCU casting tends to do.
The X-Men: A Complicated Road
When comparing the FF's cinematic franchise to the one belonging to the X-Men, things get exponentially more complicated. Unlike the FF, the X-Men have had a largely successful and increasingly diverse cinematic franchise that's persisted for the better part of 20 years. Although in some places it's radically different from the source material, audiences have a general expectation of what an X-Men movie looks and sounds like. On top of that, successful spin-offs like Deadpool and promising ones like The New Mutants make the prospect of outright abandonment of the existing tenets of the franchise a potentially difficult decision.
On the other hand, even as one of the oldest solid modern superhero franchises, the prospect of a clean break is easier to take since the X-Men franchise has never been rebooted, at least in the traditional sense of the phrase. Because of that, audience tolerance for a full-on reboot of the X-Men may be higher than it is for characters like Batman or Spider-Man, and would also allow the creative teams at Marvel Studios to fashion the X-Men as they see fit.
However, considering the recent successes of films like Deadpool and X-Men: Days of Future Past, it may not be an entirely easy decision to simply abandon what's been done with the X-Men since 2000. So, while this may still be unlikely, a greater effort could be made to incorporate the familiar elements of the current X-Men franchise into the larger MCU.
Could This Happen Anytime Soon?
This is a more complicated question, and according to the one guy who would really know, any possible incorporation of the FF or the X-Men into the MCU is still years away.
According to a recent interview with Kevin Feige at Vulture, the MCU has announced film projects through the end of next year, along with a couple of unannounced projects in the pipeline. Feigesays: "It would be years away. We’ve announced everything through 2019, so none of those would be adjusted."
So, it seems clear that this is a question that we'll have to wait a while to see what will actually happen, and that's of course presuming that the deal clears all the business and regulatory hurdles and happens as it's currently conceived. Until then, we have a lot of MCU films to anticipate, in addition to a Deadpool sequel, The New Mutants, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and a fair amount more.
You can be sure, though, that Comics on Film,, and Fandango will all be keeping our eyes on this as it continues to unfold.

Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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