Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, including the movie studio, is complete and effective as of this moment. There are many facets to this deal, including previously Fox-licensed Marvel properties now falling under the purview of Marvel Studios. Here’s what to expect from X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and when to expect it.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has previously stated that Fox-licensed Marvel properties will be overseen by Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige. Why wouldn’t they be? Feige has turned the MCU into the highest-grossing franchise in movie history. No one has been as successful at turning comic book superheroes, even obscure ones, into beloved, must-see films for audiences all over the world.
Moving the former Fox franchises into the MCU most likely means rebooting them. Marvel Studios has a carefully-crafted timeline while Fox always played fast and loose with continuity in the X-Men series. There is no current Fantastic Four franchise to work with. The only exception to the reboot rule may be Deadpool.
The main X-Men franchise has been hit and miss after its second film was released in 2003. The last effort, X-Men: Apocalypse, was a major miss in 2016 and Dark Phoenix, due in theaters June 7, does not look much better. I’ve noted previously that Disney could try to move the film over to a streaming platform like Hulu (or less likely, Disney+) or opt for a VOD release, but even if it still hits theaters, Dark Phoenix will be the end of the flagship X-series before the MCU reboot.
Disney is inheriting one other Fox-produced mutant movie in New Mutants. That film needs reshoots. We’ve known that it needs reshoots for over a year, but they still haven’t happened. The project is in serious danger of being scrapped or, at best, being unceremoniously dumped on a streaming platform.
Many have been predicting Disney+ as the final destination for New Mutants, but I don’t see it. Disney should not risk damaging the reputation of the brand new streaming platform that is set to be the center of the company’s business for the foreseeable future. New Mutants also has a horror vibe that may not suit the family-friendly nature of Disney+. Hulu, of which Disney now owns 60%, makes more sense.
Regardless of what happens with the already-shot Fox Marvel movies, the only mutant with any chance to survive the MCU reboot in his current form is Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). Unlike the main X-Men series, the Deadpool franchise has positive momentum. Apart from a couple of cameos and name-drops, the two Deadpool movies have largely existed apart from the rest of the X-franchise. It’s separate enough to easily be spun out of the X-Men universe and into the MCU.
Explaining Deadpool’s presence in the MCU could be as easy as having him acknowledge his new home while breaking the fourth wall, as he often does. The last time we saw Wade, he was screwing around with Cable’s (Josh Brolin) time travel device. If Marvel Studios wants, the studio can use that to help explain how Deadpool went from one universe to another, or choose one of several other potential explanations.
Fox’s plan for Deadpool was to have him lead X-Force, to be written and directed by Drew Goddard. As far as we know, however, that script was never written. Marvel Studios could stick with X-Force, move straight to Deadpool 3, or choose an entirely different path. Iger is open to keeping the franchise R-rated, so Reynolds does not necessarily have to worry about watching his language just yet. Of course, if Deadpool pops up in other Marvel franchises, expect the delay button to be used.
There is no active Fantastic Four franchise right now. Noah Hawley wrote a script based on Doctor Doom, and Feige even asked Hawley if he was still working on it. That project never got anywhere near production, however, so Disney isn’t pot committed to it. If Feige likes the script, he could ask for a rewrite to make it fit in the MCU, or he could scrap it in favor of whatever else he would prefer to do with the FF and related characters.
The events of Avengers: Infinity War and presumably Avengers: Endgame make Phase Four, or whatever it’s called, the perfect time to introduce Marvel’s First Family. The need for space (or Quantum Realm) exploration is obvious. Send the team on a mission, bombard them with a few cosmic rays, and they will be in business.
As fun as it is to dream up how these characters will be introduced in the MCU, fans must be patient. Marvel Studios was not allowed to develop these properties while the Fox deal was pending regulatory approval. Nothing beyond casual daydreaming could take place, until now. Feige and company are starting at square one.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have already locked picture on Avengers: Endgame. Of course, the shawarma post-credits scene for The Avengers was filmed after the movie’s red carpet premiere. It is possible for Marvel Studios to add a last-minute name-drop or Easter egg to Endgame, but that does not mean fans should expect it. Let it be a pleasant surprise if it happens at all.
Marvel Studios has yet to announce its slate beyond this July’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. It is unofficially known, though, that Black Widow and Eternals will be the studio’s 2020 releases. Black Panther 2 (Ryan Coogler), Doctor Strange 2 (Scott Derrickson), and Shang-Chi (Destin Daniel Cretton) all have directors attached and appear to be in the lead for Marvel’s 2021 release dates.
We probably will not see a movie led by formerly Fox-licensed characters until 2022 at the earliest, and we could be waiting until 2023, or even 2024. We just don’t know much about Marvel Studios’ plans beyond 2021.
Whatever plans Marvel has can be shifted to accommodate these freshly-inherited properties. Marvel moved things around in Phase Three after reaching an agreement to share Spider-Man with Sony. Of course, Marvel had to make room on the calendar for Spider-Man solo movies for Sony in order use the character in Marvel’s own team-up films.
That is why we had Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 2017) just over two years after the agreement with Sony was announced in February 2015. That is also why Marvel Studios is turning around a sequel for Sony, Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5), just two years after Homecoming. Marvel hasn’t made a sequel that quickly since Iron Man 2 (May 2010) followed Iron Man (May 2008). I haven’t forgotten Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014) and Captain America: Civil War (May 2016), as those were 25 months apart and not a tight two-year turnaround.
The difference between Spider-Man and the Fox-licensed characters is that this time, there is no external partner to appease. The 20th Century Fox movie studio still exists, but its authority over Marvel characters is over. Marvel Studios has full control over X-Men, Deadpool, and the Fantastic Four now.
Feige and company are free to move at their own pace and pick the perfect spot(s) to introduce these characters. References and teases in post-credits scenes can begin as early as Avengers: Endgame or Spider-Man: Far From Home, but will more likely start in 2020 or 2021. Those teases could come in Marvel Studios movies or in limited series on Disney+.
Deadpool could theoretically move at his own pace or have a separate film that effectively moves him into the MCU. Beyond that, however, fans should plan on waiting a little while before seeing any meaningful appearances by mutants or the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They are home and we can celebrate their arrival, but let’s give them time to get settled. Marvel Studios will.