In case you're one of the five people in the world of nerd things who never got the memo, Fox and Marvel have a complicated relationship. Every character in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Men movies was created by Marvel Comics, but before Iron Man came along, when Marvel were broke as hell, they sold the rights to the X-Men to 20th Century Fox for a quick buck.
This week, the news broke that Marvel and 20th Century Fox would be co-producing a new, untitled X-Men TV show focused on a mutant family on the run from the government. It sounds like it could be pretty good but, more than that, the two studios coming together is in itself quite significant, raising once again the question of whether Marvel — which is owned by Disney, and couldn't go broke now even if it invested the entire box office of Captain America: Civil War in cocaine, strippers and Dom Pérignon Blanc — should buy back the rights to the X-Men.
With that in mind, I'll be using this article to break down the pros and cons of such a deal, however likely it may or not be, and to try and work out whether retreating to Mother Marvel is really in the best interests of mutantkind.
Why Marvel Should Extradite The X-Men
How about we start with the fact that both the Avengers and the X-Men have a varied and sprawling history in the comics which neither film universe has yet managed to replicate? Marvel's first Civil War event involved an absolute ton of superheroes. Although only a loose adaptation, Captain America: Civil War had literally ten.
That actually made sense in the context of a very personal story with high emotional stakes, but my point stands: an entire universe of heroes and mutants exists out there, and there's joy in seeing characters from different comic book backgrounds interact. As it stands, we'll never see Nick Fury and Charles Xavier in the same room, as in Ultimate War, and that just straight-up sucks.
Then again, Marvel don't even seem that bothered about using the superheroes they already have (don't hold your breath for Daredevil doing combat alongside the Avengers on-screen), so there's no guarantee we'd get a big crossover even if they did own the X-Men.
The bigger, more culturally important argument for a reunion is the fact that Marvel appear to be killing the X-Men comics. That makes sense from a business perspective — publishing a new X-Men comic is akin to promoting future movies from a rival studio — but it's also shady as all hell and massively disrespectful to fans of the X-adventures on the page. And there are a lot of them: In 1991, X-Men #1 sold over 8 million copies to become the all-time best-selling comic book.
Leaving politics aside, it's easy to argue that Marvel simply makes better movies than Fox. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has come a long way since Iron Man. It's now a machine, constantly churning out well-written, entertaining solo and team-up movies which generally respect their characters (unlike, say, DC's Batman v Superman, which gleefully transformed the Caped Crusader into an armed murderer).
By contrast, the X-Men movies are a constant source of controversy. Personally I loved X-Men: Apocalypse, but many of my friends and colleagues took issue with everything from Bryan Singer's direction to the fact that, 16 years later, Magneto still can't decide whether to be Xavier's straight boyfriend or his greatest nemesis. If new blood is needed to reinvigorate Xavier's mutants, wouldn't it make sense for Marvel to give the transfusion?
Well, not necessarily...
Why Xavier's Team Is Just Fine At Fox
One of the reasons Civil War felt like the jewel in the crown of the MCU was that, in many ways, it played out more like a political thriller and human drama which happened to feature superheroes than a traditional comic book movie. That sense of grounded emotion seems to be the direction Marvel is headed in, a move that the decidedly mixed reaction to Avengers: Age of Ultron (a big, dumb comic book adventure) will only have fuelled.
That in turn leaves a big space for a proper comic book movie. The new X-Men trilogy, in particular Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, feels like a truer representation of a comic book on the screen, and all the insanity that comes with it, than the more grounded MCU. The world of the X-Men comics is one big, colorful, crazy realm in which anything can happen (and probably already has). Common sense is often left at the door, and that's no bad thing.
I want the X-Men to head into space. I want mind control, evil clones and journeys into alternate dimensions. I want to see Jean Grey command Cyclops to make out with Emma Frost. From the future... on her grave. Kevin Feige will be in his grave long before Marvel ever embraces the batshit nature of comic books. Ironically, both of DC's big tentpoles this year — Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad — pay homage to their comic book origins in a similar manner to the X-Men movies.
The crucial difference is that the X-Men don't take themselves so seriously. Moira woke Apocalypse by entering a pyramid and leaving its chambers exposed to sunlight for like, two minutes. Are we meant to believe nobody else ever did that before now? Of course not. We're meant to roll with the punches, because they're dumb and they're fun. And that's what the X-Men are all about.
Marvel's Best Hope
So, should Marvel make a move on the X-Men? Personally, I'd rather they didn't. In a way the X-Men have always been completely unique within the realm of Marvel Comics. They're big, bold characters who deserve equally bold movies.
That's not to say a rethink at Fox isn't in order — in particular it's going to become borderline impossible to make another trilogy if every movie continues to skip forward a decade in time. It's probably time to put Mystique to rest, too, and focus not just on the younger generation, but also on the other mutants so-far unexplored in the current timeline. The likes of Daken, Bling and Karma are still waiting for their moment, and there are quite a few more waiting in the wings.
In fact, Marvel would do better to focus their attentions on the Fantastic Four. Fox are still threatening to make a sequel to last year's morbidly embarrassing mega-bomb and, much like a Trump presidency, that simply can't be allowed to happen. Fox has failed the Fantastic Four, and only the Midas touch of Kevin Feige can possibly unscrew the nails from the coffin.
But the X-Men have not been failed, and under Fox, that comic book-style cross pollination of characters from various teams finally seems set to happen. We have both X-Force and New Mutants on the way, not to mention the introduction of Cable in Deadpool 2 — the same Cable who was birthed by the clone of Jean Grey... who is about to go all Dark Phoenix on our asses.
Fire up the Blackbird folks, because the X-Universe is all coming together at last — and, like us, Marvel is merely a spectator.