The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU–The Avengers, Spider-Man: Homecoming) isn’t solely responsible for the comic-book film’s rise in popularity. Superhero movies were popular way before Iron Man hit the screen in 2008. Although comic-book movies started back in 1978 with Superman, the most recent era of the craze began in 2000. That year, Fox Studios released a relatively small budget action-flick about a team of genetically-enhanced humans who call themselves mutants. The film was helmed by The Usual Suspects director (Bryan Singer) and starred an unknown Australian actor (Hugh Jackman) as the lead. The rest is Hollywood history as the movie was a huge success and reinvigorated the popularity of comic book-based features.
Sixteen years later, the popularity has yet to die down. The X-Men film series is the only one that has managed to stick around. Unfortunately, all these years have not been kind to the universe’s timelines, making it by far the most complicated of all of the comic book cinematic universes. The basic concept behind the X-Men series is that people are evolving and a new race of genetically-mutated people have been born. Hence, they refer to themselves as “mutants,” which is a key word for the series, as they are the only ones allowed to use this specific term.
You may have noticed, while watching an X-Men movie, that the Marvel logo is shown during the opening credits. Its presence does not indicate that the film is a part of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. In fact, before Marvel Studios was formed in the mid to late 2000s, Marvel actually sold the rights to many of its most popular characters, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and of course the X-Men. Ever since the late 90s, Fox has owned the rights to the X-Men team and any Marvel character who is directly related to the series. The main rule that defines whether a character is an X-Men or an Avenger (part of the MCU) is the team of superheroes who they’ve spent more time with in the comics. This is why Deadpool and Gambit are associated with the X-Men Universe and not the MCU. This line sometimes becomes iffy, as some characters in the comics have spent an equal amount of time on each team, which explains why both series have versions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (although only the X-Men versions are referred to as “mutants”).
It’s still pretty hard to distinguish between these two series, but luckily, Fox has made it a bit easier on us. Most X-Men movies (all but The Wolverine and Deadpool) have “X-Men” in their title. The series started with an original trilogy that ended in 2006. Since then, it has had multiple actors play the same characters over different timelines. It’s sometimes extremely hard to understand, but in my next installment, I’ll dive deeper into each film’s relationship to one another. The most important things to know are that the X-Men are lead by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy), who believes that people and mutants can live together, and that his once best friend and often enemy, Magneto (Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender) believes that “mutants” are better than people and are meant to replace them. The most popular of the X-Men is Wolverine (always Hugh Jackman). He has appeared in every X-Men movie so far (although sometimes as just a cameo and only by name and picture in Deadpool). Since he can’t really die, he mainly holds the series together. With the universe trying to expand past just the X-Men team, these timelines are bound to get even more confusing.
The X-men series has had a long and confusing history which definitely requires its own article to fully explore its richness. To find out more about the past and future of the X-Men film series, stay tuned to the MoviePass Blog for more.