The face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can potentially change forever with Disney's recent deal with 21st Century Fox, but it's possible that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige knew this was coming for a long time.
Fans know that Phase 3 of the MCU is slated to end with Avengers 4, which Feige promises will deliver audiences a "finale," so the question is now if the studio will wait until Phase 4 to incorporate Disney's newly acquired properties or if these characters will be interjected into films prior to that phase.
Despite the current popularity of characters like Captain America, Thor and Wolverine, the characters haven't always been as widely recognized. In the '90s, the decline of interest in comic books led Marvel to sell off the theatrical rights to some of their most beloved characters.
In 2000, Fox released X-Men, taking in over $50 million in its opening weekend. Batman and Superman had become major pop culture icons with their respective films, but this movie opened up Marvel's world of compelling characters.
In 2002, Sony's Spider-Man opened to an astronomical $114 million opening, solidifying Marvel's place in the world of feature films. Despite these initial deals helping keep Marvel afloat, the success of these films marked a missed opportunity for the entertainment company, as they didn't get to have creative control over what these studios did with their characters.
In 2008, Marvel Studios debuted Iron Man, the first entry into the MCU. The joy of this universe, and Marvel's ownership of the film
While X-Men, Fantastic Four
Sony was the first to reach a partnership with Marvel, allowing Spider-Man to appear in Captain America: Civil War while the creative minds at Marvel Studios helped Sony develop Spider-Man: Homecoming. This partnership proved a success to both companies, as Spider-Man's MCU debut was well-received and the solo Spider-Man movie did huge box office numbers and earned positive reviews.
It seems as though, rather than work out specific loopholes and stipulations for characters like the X-Men, Fantastic Four
Feige recently shared about the MCU with Vanity Fair, “22 movies in, and we’ve got another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different from anything that’s come before—intentionally.”
In 2014, Marvel Studios debuted the Guardians of the Galaxy, which focused on a relatively obscure, intergalactic team of heroes. The film became one of the biggest successes of the year, demonstrating how well Marvel knows how to use its characters, regardless of what audiences know about them.
With Feige having teased that current members of the MCU won't be involved in Phase 4, it would make perfect sense for an event to occur in Avengers 4 that either creates the X-Men or necessitates sending members of the Fantastic Four to space, only for that mission to be when they earn their powers.
It's still the early days of the deals, but we expect Feige and the rest of Marvel Studios to have had these plans for quite some time and we won't be surprised to see a new slate of X-Men and Fantastic Four films in time for the holidays.
The next installment in the MCU to hit theaters is Black Panther on February 16,