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When Will the X-Men & Fantastic Four (Realistically) Make Their MCU Debut?

After months of speculation, Disney CEO Bob Iger has confirmed that Marvel properties formerly cinematically licensed to Fox, including the X-Men and Fantastic Four, will be directly overseen by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. The confirmation solidifies fan hopes that Marvel's Merry Mutants and First Family will one day fight alongside the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but now the big question remains: When will eagerly anticipated integration of the properties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe take place?

While shareholders approved the $71.3 billion acquisition by Disney of the majority of Fox's assets this past July, the actual completion of the merger is still months away. The deal needs to be legally cleared at both federal and international levels, and while the acquisition is not currently expected to run into any unforeseen complications, this process still takes time. As such, the projected completion of the acquisition deal is forecasted for summer 2019. In other words, the cinematic rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four still legally belong to Fox.

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The other major factor in planning the integration of the former Fox cinematic properties into the MCU is one of simple logistics. Marvel Studios historically plans out its entire release calendar years in advance. That being said, changing that schedule to accommodate fast-tracked productions is not without precedent.

Last year's Spider-Man: Homecoming was a relatively sudden addition after Disney and Sony agreed to a last-minute deal in 2015 to share the cinematic rights to Spider-Man and include the character in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. This year's Ant-Man and The Wasp was moved up to take Captain Marvel's planned release date after the latter film ran into delays securing a director. Adding a wrinkle to this situation is the fact that Marvel is still scrambling to replaced filmmaker James Gunn to helm Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 after Gunn's firing by Disney this past July, making its initial planned release date for 2020 increasingly unlikely.

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With Marvel already readying films for principal photography for its 2020 releases, the earliest full films starring the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters could be anticipated is 2021. Feige claimed as recently as July that the studio currently had no plans for either property. Of course, this doesn't discount the possibility that last-minute cameos or supporting roles could take place, like Peter Parker and Aunt May's inclusion in Civil War. But there is another consideration making these late additions doubtful.

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