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Why has it taken Marvel so long to get started on an actual MCU X-Men movie?

With reports this week that a post-strike Marvel is finally soliciting pitches for an X-Men script, why has it taken so long for the MCU to get back to mutants?

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Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Now that the WGA strike in Hollywood is wrapped up, studios are reportedly gearing up to get writers back to work on scripts—including one of the most delicate jobs in the entire industry: Introducing Marvel’s beloved X-Men into the gen-pop of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As anyone who pays any kind of attention to superhero movies knows, Marvel has been extraordinarily ginger about this particular process, which has been in the works, at least hypothetically, ever since Disney bought Fox, which created all of the previous X-Men films, in 2019. (The last of which, box office bomb/franchise killer Dark Phoenix, actually hit theaters after the Disney acquisition went through, and might have left a bad taste in all involved’s mouths.) This week, Deadline wrote a story quoting anonymous sources stating that, now that the WGA strike is over, the studio is getting ready to actively solicit writers to pitch it for scripts on an X-Men film of its own.


Which raises the question: Why has Marvel been taking this process so slowly? The company has been at least hinting at mutant stuff since February of 2021, when WandaVision executed a casting gag that nodded to the X-Men films, bringing in those movies’ Evan Peters to play a (fake) version of the MCU’s Quicksilver. That was followed the next year by a full-fledged appearance by Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, and a scene in the Ms. Marvel miniseries where Kamala Khan finds out she has a genetic mutation. (That’s to say nothing of next year’s Deadpool 3, which brings the X-Men-adjacent character and his buddy Wolverine into the MCU.) But despite these teases, the studio has always been extremely hesitant to put anything official on the books, even as it’s loosely committed to similar “explored by other studios” sub-franchises like the Fantastic Four. (On the books for May 2025.)

Part of it might just be down to the studio’s focus on long-term planning: The MCU was still in the midst of its first big Thanos storyline when the Fox sale went through in early 2019, with Kevin Feige and his various teammates having sketched out at least the early drafts of its next several phases of films. (The first Phase Four films, including Black Widow, were announced at Comic-Con in July of 2019, although COVID-19 production delays led to many of those movies getting delayed or shunted to streaming.) It’s not like Marvel doesn’t have a lot of characters to pick through (we’re still waiting on the Blade movie announced at that same Con), even before getting to the ones who’ve already had whole film franchises to their names in other companies’ hands.


At the same time, there’s an issue of saturation. Bryan Singer’s initial X-Men movies in the early 2000s were landmark films for superhero cinema, being some of the first comic book movies of their era to show that superheroes who weren’t Batman or Superman could have serious box office draw. But despite a few highs (2014 franchise-topper Days Of Future Past) and successful unconventional spin-offs (James Mangold’s somber Logan and the action-comedy Deadpool movies) the series ran further and further into issues with diminishing returns as time went on, from both a creative, and a box-office point of view. By the time Dark Phoenix coasted the franchise to a halt in June 2019, it was clear that any energy it’d carried was spent, despite the fact that its new owners are well aware that there’s money to be made from them thar’ mutants. The long gap between Disney acquiring the franchise, and deciding to do anything with it (beyond upcoming nostalgic revival cartoon series X-Men ’97) might be as simple as giving fans time to genuinely miss (and maybe forget) some of these characters and stories.

Which brings us back to that Deadline story, in which it’s said that, despite opening up things for pitches from writers, “there is no rush” to get an X-Men movie actually written. (The piece also notes that an actual writer, and, presumably, a formal announcement of the movie’s existence, probably won’t arrive until early 2024.) Despite a 2023 that showed it to be far less invincible than it used to seem, Marvel Studios clearly feels it’s still got plenty of room and characters to work with, before finally giving in and issuing that famous “To me, my X-Men!” cry.