For fans of the X-Men, there's one critical component missing in the #MCU: Professor Charles Xavier's team of mutants. With Fox owning the film rights to Marvel's iconic superheroes, fans have looked on with sorrow as we headed into Phase 3 of the MCU's history without a single mention of an X-gene.
Fans have been longing for a deal between Marvel and Fox for years - one similar to the famous one between Marvel and Sony. An unexpected guest appearance in #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy2 led fans to believe there may well have been a deal over the #FantasticFour, but Marvel Studios visionary #KevinFeige has confirmed that's not the case:
"No, but I would say there’s not like there’s anything frozen that there needs to be a thaw. There’s no weirdness. It is just very very cut and dry, and they’re doing their thing, and they’re doing it quite well in most regards, and we’re doing our thing."
In what should surely be the last word on the subject for a while, Feige told JoBlo:
"The only reason I don't say "no, never" is because of the amazing things that have happened over the 17 years here. But I don't see that happening anytime soon."
Why Fans Were Getting Hopeful
The sad truth, though, is that fans had been getting hopeful; the relationship between Marvel and Fox seemed to be improving; we recently learned that the studios made a deal over Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy. Even more exciting, Marvel Television is working closely with Fox over a series of X-Men TV shows, including #Legion and #TheGifted.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 featured an unexpected cameo that many fans hoped would be a sign of behind-the-scenes negotiations. Sadly, our hopes were dashed; the race in question is a shared property between Marvel and Fox, meaning both sides can use them.
Fans had desperately been hoping that Fantastic Four's poor reception and X-Men: Apocalypse's relatively disappointing box office performance would push Fox into proposing a deal with Marvel. Now, it's pretty clear that isn't the case.
Should We Blame Deadpool?
Ironically, X-Men: Apocalypse's performance wasn't as poor as some critics made out (especially when you look to the international box office figures). More to the point, though, 2016 also saw the most unexpectedly-successful superhero film of the decade - #Deadpool. That movie proved superhero films can embrace a far wider range in terms of tone and style, and Fox has followed that up with this year's much-loved Logan.
Far from dialling back on the X-Men franchise, next year Fox is releasing no less than three X-Men movies; Deadpool 2, New Mutants, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Both Deadpool 2 and New Mutants will continue Fox's Deadpool-inspired pattern, branching away from the traditional style of blockbuster superhero movies. New Mutants is believed to be a young-adult supernatural thriller!
It's clear that Fox believe the X-Men franchise still has plenty of potential, and they're hard at work on next year's films. They're not interested in any deals with Marvel right now.
Over at Marvel's side, the reality is that Kevin Feige is right: the company does indeed have enough characters and concepts there to keep them busy for a long, long time. In perhaps the most astounding indication of this, Marvel turned down a Blade/Underworld crossover just because "we'll do something with 'Blade' at some point."
Marvel knows that they're sitting on a gold mine — especially now that Spider-Man has entered the MCU — and they have no interest in conducting costly, time-consuming negotiations just to add yet more toys to the sandbox. That's especially the case given Marvel is currently focused on delivering some of the most challenging films to date - with so many actors involved in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4, they're desperately trying to juggle countless schedules while continuing to plan ahead.
Look On The Bright Side!
While this is disappointing news for most X-Men fans, I think there's a silver lining to this cloud. I fully understand that Fox's X-Men franchise has its problems — not the least being a very, ah, 'difficult' continuity — but it may well be better for the X-Men to stick with Fox.
As I've suggested in an earlier post, the fact Marvel chose to sit on the Blade franchise rather than use it suggests that, should Marvel somehow reacquire the X-Men, there's no guarantee they'd actually get round to using them. We'd certainly not be seeing two or three X-Men movies a year — and meanwhile, there's no way the MCU would expand to include the likes of the bloody, brutal western that is Logan. If two separate universes is the price we have to pay for Deadpool, Logan, and New Mutants? I'm OK with that.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, X-Men fans, but it's official that the X-Men deal is off the table. Kevin Feige definitely has a point when he says Marvel has enough films to work with right now, and it's pretty clear the X-Men aren't a big priority for the House of Ideas. On the bright side, we can still look forward to next year — with a triple dose of mutant goodness!