For years, it seemed like it would never happen. The X-Men, a hugely important piece of Marvel Comics canon, were shut out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for as long as their movie rights were owned by 21st Century Fox, which continued to grind out new films featuring the team long after the continuity of the series fell apart and quality plummeted.
But with the Disney-Fox merger around the corner, fans no longer have to make peace with the idea that Cyclops will never shake hands with Spider-Man. It’s a new era for the X-Men, just in time for the MCU’s Phase Four.
While we’re celebrating the victory for Marvel Studios, though, we may want to keep in mind that there’s no guarantee yet that the upcoming MCU films integrating the X-Men will be any good. Changing studios solves some of the problems inherent to the Fox films -- the muddied timeline, the uneven cast, the setting that differs from the real world only by way of mutants existing -- but it will create others. Impressive as Marvel Studios has been so far, we know better than to think they can do no wrong.
It’s also not true to say that Fox’s X-Men movies have done no right. The first one, released in 2000, was a crucial building block for the superhero genre in cinema. Altogether, they’ve contributed their share of high-stakes conflict, underlying themes of prejudice and the specialty of the genre: Stuff that looks cool. Those successes belong to those movies, and Marvel Studios would be making a huge mistake in trying to replicate them.
So, when a new cast of actors take up the roles of the first few mutant characters to appear in the MCU, what we’ll be looking for is how differently their introduction is approached. Keeping the mythology intact will be a tall order, since by that point dozens of MCU movies will have gone by with nary a mention of the mutants among us. But the element of uncertainty around Phase Four means that a rule-changing reset might be in the works already, so anything goes.
If people with mutant abilities start popping up in a world already accustomed to superheroes, this may finally be the chance for Professor X to guide us through it by traveling the world and recruiting students for his School for Gifted Youngsters. Not only would that bring in a diverse international team to work with, but it would be a refreshingly unique way to blend the newcomers into the existing canon while still honoring the source material.