Marvel really messed up.
Years ago they decided to sell properties for the first X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man films, before doubling down with Iron Man and creating Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What is important here is that there is a total continuity for the MCU with film series like Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Avengers, Ant-Man, and shows like Daredevil and Agents of SHIELD. They did not, however, still hold the rights to integrate the X-Men, Fantastic Four, or Spider-Men. Fox now owns the X-Men and Fantastic Four and Sony has Spider-Man, and none of them are going to give up such cash-cow properties. For the last couple years Marvel has been fighting to get Spider-Man back into the MCU, which may have been worked out in a deal with Sony, but the relationship with Fox is strained at best. Marvel’s answer has been to de-emphasise the X-Men by countering with a focus on the Inhmans instead of mutants, and to cancel the Fantastic Four book.
What was Fox’s answer? To create a Marvel Cinematic Universe of its own with a continuity of films of the properties they own.
It has been confirmed now that Fox plans on crossing over X-Men and Fantastic Four, and creating a unified continuity between them. The “Singerverse,” as some call it, have been the various X-Men films including X-Men, X2, X-Men United, Days of Futures Past, and the Wolverine films. Now with the coming Fantastic Four reboot and the reveal of Channing Tatum playing Gambit in upcoming tie-in film it is clear that Fox is creating a movie universe all its own.
Now with the new X-Men: Apocalypse coming, the last film from Singer, they are trying to establish a history for the X-Men and an origin that will jump start the full continuity.
A lot of people have been comparing the box office numbers of the two franchise lines, and it is clear that Marvel Studios is the winner, yet X-Men is still an incredibly successful and established property. Even if Marvel was able to get X-Men back for their own universe, it would be hard with the effect that the Singer vision has had over the X-Men on screen. This would require them to start from the beginning with the X-Men, and Marvel has already done so much to essentially de-emphasize X-titles enough to avoid them. Fox has discussed doing an X-Factor film, amongst other similar books, so this is going to keep coming. Marvel’s only chance is to figure a way to integrate the two continuities without actually requiring Fox to give over the licenses. This may be a ton of work without a lot of financial reward, something Marvel execs have mentioned in relation to Fox’s ownership over the term “mutant” in relation to their characters, but this is critically important to maintaining the importance of the Marvel Universe. It is continuity that creates the myth and longevity of the Marvel Universe, and it is a deal like this that will allow them to keep the films tied to the long history of the comics. Without it, Marvel will simply kill some of its most popular characters rather than do the work and let Fox reap the benefits. Without this deal between Marvel Studios and Fox, they are going to need to be willing to lose the money and to have dual continuities for different character groups. This isn’t that crazy since this is something that is happening both in Marvel and DC’s Universes right now after Secret Wars and Convergence, respectively.
What do we know is that Fox’s X-Universe is nowhere near done, and if the Fantastic Four reboot is successful we are going to see them sticking with crossover events. For those of us who just like to enjoy heroes in big summer movies, this actually may be a good thing because there will be more opportunities to shut out the world and jump into modern myth.