The dream of many a geek came true recently when it was announced that Disney had purchased a significant portion of the holdings of 20th Century Fox, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. This means that these two key pieces of the Marvel Comics Universe can now join their Marvel brethren on the big screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU) which includes the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, and numerous other characters. But how exactly is this going to work? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is well established as is Fox’s X-Men universe. Here I offer my suggestions on how to make this happen as smoothly as possible.
First things first. The previous Fox produced Fantastic Four and X-Men films and TV series? Gone. That’s right. Let them all go. Logan was a well received and critically acclaimed farewell to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. The upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix , The New Mutants, and Deadpool 2 can be the final installments for this franchise. The less said about the three Fantastic Four films the better. It’s time to start afresh. New continuity, new stories, and new actors. Yes, that includes recasting Wolverine. Hugh Jackman wielded the claws with honor for nearly two decades, but Wolverine is bigger than any single actor.
Okay, I’ll make one exception. Ryan Reynolds can continue as Deadpool. The unique nature of the Deadpool character makes him self aware of the fact that he is a comic book and movie character. In Deadpool, the “merc’ with the mouth” was aware of his previous timeline from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Deadpool being aware of his transfer from Fox to Disney is fertile ground for 4th wall breaking jokes and bits in future movies.
So, how do we suddenly introduce mutants into the well established Marvel Cinematic Universe? A number of suggestions have been offered by fans, but the solution I would go for is simply this: MUTANTS WERE ALWAYS HERE. So, what happened? The concept is that for a time, mutants were a part of the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe until the day that Professor Charles Xavier decided that the best way to protect mutants from a world that fears and even hates them was to use his incredible psychic powers combined with his power enhancing Cerebro devise to make the entire world forget that mutants ever existed. Think about it. You’re a part of the MCU, and up until a certain point, mutants were there. Imagine the scene in Captain America: The First Avenger when Cap returns from rescuing Bucky and the other soldiers and you see Wolverine in the crowd or a shot of mutants marching with MLK for civil rights. It was all there until Charles Xavier made it disappear from our minds.
But what happens when Magneto or some other mutant causes a scene? How do you cover that up? Well, that’s where the X-Men come in. Think of the X-Men kind of like the Men in Black. They show up, contain a situation, erase the memories of any witnesses, and suddenly everyone is talking about a gas leak or natural disaster rather than some big mutant battle. You find some old newspaper article about mutants from decades ago? Your mind just blocks it out because Xavier’s mental suggestion is so deeply implanted. The world has been “X-ed” by the X-Men (a new layer of meaning!) Get on the Internet and you’ll find bizarre and outlandish conspiracy theories about the mysterious “X-Men,” because no cover-up is perfect, right?
Eventually of course you have to let the cat out of the bag and reveal to the world the existence of mutants. Now, at this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, enhanced individuals with powers like those of the Avengers are well known, accepted, and even viewed as heroes. So, where does the fear and hatred of mutants come from? How about from the fact that they have taken it upon themselves to mess with people’s minds and alter their perception of the history of the world. Imagine that you’re Tony Stark or Steve Rogers. Are you going to automatically trust and be OK with these powerful people who have manipulated you and the rest of the world even if they thought it was for the best? What gives them the right? This scenario sets up conflict between the X-Men and the Avengers and between mutants and the entire world that makes sense in a world where people with powers are already a thing.
Then there is the Fantastic Four. Where does Marvel’s “first family,” the franchise that essentially launched Marvel Comics as we know it, fit into the tapestry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
“The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space,” – John F. Kennedy
I see those words spoken by John F. Kennedy in 1960 as the impetus for the Fantastic Four. Let’s run with that. Initially, the Fantastic Four would be set in the Cold War era of the early 1960s with the whole space race between the United States and the Soviet Union just as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did it in 1961 in the original Fantastic Four comic book. Dr. Reed Richards could have easily been a brilliant contemporary of Howard Stark (Iron Man’s father) and Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man). Reed’s theories about space travel would’ve been revolutionary, controversial, and largely misunderstood and unaccepted by most of the scientific community. With or without official government approval, Reed was determined to launch his own prototype spacecraft. Along with Ben Grimm, Sue Storm, and Johnny Storm, they launch…and are lost.
Or so it is believed.
The reality is that these four intrepid explorers found themselves hurtled into the far reaches of space and have spent the last few years exploring and discovering alien worlds, technologies, and dimensions far beyond human understanding. Of course during all of this exploring the primary mission has been to find their way back home. Eventually they do, but it is only to discover that while it has only been a few years for them, decades have passed on Earth. To complicate matters even more, upon their arrival on Earth, Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny are bombarded with strange cosmic rays which transform them into those familiar characters we know as Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, the Invisible Woman, and the Human Torch…THE FANTASTIC FOUR! The Fantastic Four’s return and transformation turn them into instant celebrities.
Of course this fame and notoriety brings from the shadows a man who has walked the earth for nearly a century, kept young by studying abominable practices of mixing science and sorcery. He was once a friend of Reed Richards, now an enemy consumed with petty jealousy, old grudges, and a desire for revenge and power. He was once the heir to the throne of the small and insignificant Eastern European country of Latveria (renamed Sokovia when his aristocratic family was ousted from power–see what I did there, MCU fans?). He is Victor Von Doom, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe will soon tremble before this man dubbed DOCTOR DOOM!