Marvel is using nostalgia for the X-Men franchise to introduce mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which may alienate audiences.
Marvel Studios may be banking too much on nostalgia for prior X-Men media as they begin introducing mutants into the MCU. The arrival of mutant-kind has been highly anticipated since Marvel regained the rights to the characters as part of the Disney/Fox merger in 2019. In the years since the deal, Marvel Studios has been drip-feeding X-Men references rather than introducing the team outright. The lack of any casting announcements or release date for the inevitable X-Men film could be a cause for concern as it appears that Marvel Studios is banking on audience nostalgia for Fox’s series. Using musical cues and the return of fan-favorite actors from Fox’s series, rather than pushing ahead with its own iteration.
Patrick Stewart’s return as Professor X in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a welcome cameo, but one that relied on the audience having an emotional connection to the actor playing the character. While Stewart is playing a multiverse variant of Professor X, his casting is a nod to Fox’s franchise, and his yellow hover chair, while originating in the comics, is a clear homage to The Animated Series when paired with composer Ron Wasserman’s opening theme. The same music cue that introduces Professor X is also used in the closing moments of Mrs. Marvel when it is revealed that Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is a mutant. As a result, the music connects Kamala, who is an Inhuman in the comics, directly to mutants.
Why It’s So Tempting To Use Nostalgia For The X-Men
The Multiverse Saga has been the perfect chance for Marvel to utilize audience nostalgia for the X-Men brand. Fox’s original X-Men trilogy helped revitalize the superhero genre in the early 2000s and beyond. It laid the groundwork and set the benchmark for modern superhero films by modernizing the heroes and grounding their stories in semi-reality. X-Men spirit X2: X-Men United were able to balance faithfulness to the source material with a fresh, creative take on the characters. X-Men: The Animated Series meanwhile is a childhood favorite of a key Marvel demographic and Marvel Studios’ continuation of the series, titled X-Men ’97, will be banking on that audience’s nostalgia to make it successful.
Hugh Jackman’s return as Wolverine in Deadpool 3 was recently announced, with the Australian actor returning to his breakout role five years after the character’s heartbreaking, seemingly definitive, death in Logan. Jackman has become synonymous with the character and seeing him on screen again is guaranteed to attract both die-hard fans and casual audiences to the cinema. If any character can easily transition from Fox’s universe to the MCU it would be Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and while Deadpool 3 shouldn’t need to rely on Hugh Jackman’s return to sell tickets, the excitement of seeing Wolverine again is too much to ignore.
Marvel Needs A Fresh Vision For The X-Men
The MCU is a dense, expansive world that, for a long time, focused on a single overarching narrative. Being a newcomer to the series could be intimidating even before the introduction of multiverses and character variants. For committed audiences, the multiverse is a perfect excuse to bring back fan-favorite characters and actors. However, for the majority, these appearances mean very little because they do not have an emotional attachment to the characters. Spider-Man: No Way Home, for example, had characters and plot points spanning twenty years and three continuities. As popular as prior adaptations are, the X-Men need a fresh start now that they are back with Marvel.
When the MCU has finished with the Multiverse Saga, it should move away from the referential nostalgia that Phase Four has been reliant on. If the MCU’s X-Men are to succeed, then the team will have to stand out from past iterations. It can do this by avoiding repeating storylines that audiences have already seen and focusing on a combination of old and new characters played by a brand-new cast. The current reliance on nostalgia for the X-Men that Marvel Studios is banking on will only alienate the wider audience. While comparisons with Fox’s series are inevitable, the MCU has to define its own version of these beloved characters.
Next: The MCU X-Men Can Correct Fox’s Biggest Costume Failure