After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the superhero stars are aligning as the X-Men and Fantastic Four are finally joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Jon Watts set to bring the latter “first family” of Marvel back to the screen.
The arrival of two such comic book juggernauts is arguably one of the biggest announcements to grace the MCU’s 12-year tenure, but in a parallel universe it could’ve been a completely different story. Way back when – before Disney nabbed the rights to 20th Century Fox and its catalogue of mutant heroes – those at the top were planning a sprawling X-Men vs. Fantastic Four movie that sounds like it would’ve put even Avengers: Endgame to shame in terms of ensemble superhero action.
In 2019, X-Men First Class writer Zack Stentz claimed a mythical X-Men vs. Fantastic Four movie had been in the works many years ago. Now, we’ve got confirmation. Speaking to Happy Sad Confused podcast, The Bourne Supremacy’s Paul Greengrass revealed what could’ve been before Mickey Mouse got his white gloves on both franchises. In 2010, Fox had apparently been toying with the idea of bringing the two powerhouses together in a movie that would’ve been (loosely) inspired by the Civil War arc of Marvel Comics (which went on to inspire Captain America: Civil War instead).
Greengrass explained, “They did talk to me about it. I wouldn’t say I was attached. [We] talked, and I thought about it, and in the end… [nothing happened].”
Interestingly, more than just chucking the awesome foursome in against Professor Xavier’s mutants, the movie would’ve apparently been a who’s who of famous faces and included pretty much everyone that Disney didn’t already have the rights to. It’s important to remember that back then, both Daredevil and Deadpool still fell under Fox’s jurisdiction, long before Charlie Cox was playing the Man Without Fear on Netflix’s Daredevil or Ryan Reynolds was breaking R-rated records with 2016’s Deadpool. In other words, the characters could’ve had a part to play in the crossover.
Greengrass’ confirmation clears up the cryptic mystery that Stenz laid out in 2019 when he told the Fatman Beyond podcast about a “secret movie” Greengrass has been discussing but ultimately passed on. Back then, Stenz said, “I can’t tell you what the plot was, but I can tell you that it used all of the characters, all of the Marvel characters that Fox had at the time in 2011. It used the X-Men. It used the Fantastic Four. It used Daredevil. It used Deadpool.”
And if you look at that period of Marvel movies for Fox, it becomes a little clearer just how amazing Greengrass’ idea could’ve been. The X-Men had bowed out with the maligned X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 and weren’t yet rebooted by Matthew Vaughn’s First Class (2011). It was much the same with Mister Fantastic and co. following Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), a third movie failing to make it off the ground, and the studio never managing to secure a director for a proposed Silver Surfer spin-off. It would be another five years before Josh Trank’s Fant4stic would be labelled one of the worst comic book movies of all time and lead to the upcoming reboot of the characters under the MCU umbrella.
As for Deadpool and Daredevil, Ryan Reynolds’ first portrayal of the Merc with a Mouth tanked thanks to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and the actor’s rebooted return for Tim Miller’s Deadpool was just an acorn. Ben Affleck never twirled his cane as Matt Murdock after 2002’s Daredevil, Jennifer Garner’s spin-off Elektra (2005) killed off all hopes of that, while characters including Blade, the Punisher, and Ghost Rider were scattered through various studios.
With not much going on in terms of Marvel movies for Fox in 2010, a crossover could’ve wiped the slate clean and started again. Then again, who knows if the studio wanted to lure back Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen and the rest of the X-Men back to take on Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Ioan Gruffudd, and Michael Chiklis from their FF days? Greengrass and Stentz haven’t revealed any details about who could’ve been involved. Ultimately, Fox was (finally) a victim of its own success and stopped the idea in its tracks.
Although First Class was a gamble, it paid off and earned an impressive $353.6 million at the box office. Vaughn was originally slated to helm a trilogy of X-Men movies – with plans for Tom Hardy to take over from Jackman as Wolverine – but the plans fell through and the studio went ahead with the lauded X-Men: Days of Future Past. Ironically, Days of Future Past went on to become something of a crossover in its own right as it bridged both eras of the movies.
It’s easy to forget the X-Men and Fantastic Four are both veterans of the superhero boom of the ‘00s to now. In fact, Bryan Singer’s X-Men is wrongly outshined by Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man as the movie that kick-started our ongoing obsession with comic book movies. Both teams have had their struggles over the years, with more recent entries like Fant4stic and 2020’s Dark Phoenix being particular lows.
Even if the idea of an X-Men vs. Fantastic Four could be revisited as part of the MCU’s ever-expanding slate, for now, it’s yet another superhero story confined to the ages of movies that never happened. Whether that’s a good thing, you decide.
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