Should the Disney acquisition of 21st Century Fox's assets become reality -- something that appears more likely every day -- it will be good news for Marvel fans. The deal will bring the film rights for the X-Men to Marvel Studios and open the door for the characters to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has remained vague on plans for the X-Men -- after all, he's still waiting for the phone call to "say yay or nay" to his access to the characters -- the latest installment of the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp, may have very have created the foundation for X-Men characters to make their introduction to the universe.
Warning: SPOILERS for Ant-Man and the Wasp beyond this point.
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) realize that Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) may still be alive and well albeit stranded in the Quantum Realm. Their belief is confirmed when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) gets what turns out to be a message from Janet via quantum entanglement stemming from Scott's brief visit to the Quantum Realm in 2015's Ant-Man. Ultimately, despite interference from the film's antagonist Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and others, Janet is successfully located and rescued.
It's a happy ending of sorts if you ignore how the events of Avengers: Infinity War impacts the characters, but what's of interest isn't that Janet is saved but how the Quantum Realm has impacted her. Her time spent sub-atomic has left her different than she once was. As the original Wasp explains to Hank after he finds her, the Quantum Realm changes people in every possible way.
"It changes you," Janet tells Hank. "Adaptation is part of it, but it's more...evolution."
That "evolution" gave Janet some impressive new powers -- including a possible form of quantum telepathy, the ability to use her quantum energy to stabilize others, and potentially so much more -- and also opened the doors to explain the wide range of powers seen with the X-Men.
It's well-known that Marvel Studios can’t' use the term "mutant" when it comes to describing the super powers of characters. This is why Wanda Maximoff (and her brother, Pietro, before he was killed in Avengers: Age of Ultron) were very specifically shown to have received their powers not because they are mutants, but as the result of experimentation with Loki's staff. The MCU further got around mutants with the use of Inhumans and their powers being derived from exposure to Terrigen Mist, though the Inhumans television series was cancelled.
By having Janet evolve due to exposure to quantum energy without any other intervention, it's possible that Marvel could use the Quantum Realm as a way of unlocking superhuman powers for other characters as well. This would work particularly well considering that it doesn't appear that everyone exposed to the Quantum Realm automatically gains powers. While we don't see much of Hank Pym after Janet is rescued, it doesn't seem like he gained any special abilities having gone into the Quantum Realm to get her. Scott also doesn't appear to have gotten any special abilities from his trip in the original Ant-Man film -- his having Janet's memories and, later, being possessed by Janet are all manifestations of her abilities, not new ones for him.
With the Quantum Realm as a potential source for character power evolution, Marvel would be able to establish their own takes on the X-Men without having to stick to what Fox has already done with the characters in its series of films. Even beyond potential with the X-Men, having established Janet's evolution also provides the MCU with a way to abandon the idea of Inhumans and Terrigen Mists, too. One of the characters that Feige has teased that Captain Marvel's establishment in the MCU sets the stage for Ms. Marvel, a.k.a. Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan, to make her way to the big screen, too.
However the MCU chooses to bring in the X-Men -- or any character with mutant-like superpowers -- the Quantum Realm gives Marvel Studios a lot of truly fascinating options for whatever is next, especially since there is so much more to explore. Feige told ComicBook.com during press for Ant-Man and the Wasp that there are many unexpected places to go with the future of the MCU.20comments
"I think it would be amazing, another 10 years, another 20 years or so," Feige said. "We only focus on one step at a time but that's all about continuing to surprise with the stories, go unexpected places, continue to play with new, fresh, unexpected genres and then introduce characters that people might have heard of or a beloved big fan base like Captain Marvel or characters like Guardians where before we made that, which people had never heard of."
Ant-Man and the Wasp is in t heaters now. The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues with Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.