Avengers: Endgame has now been in theaters nearly a month – and in that time, little new information about the post-'Infinity Saga' Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to light. And with the ramifications of Endgame still to play out in the wider MCU, starting in July’s Spider-Man: Far From Home (more on that shortly), there are still big, unavoidable questions about what’s next for Earth’s Mightiest movie franchise.
Chief among those questions is how exactly Marvel Studios’ newly-acquired X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights will be incorporated into the MCU.
Marvel studios President Kevin Feige has stated the MCU won't directly address the X-Men for some time - and given there are still two more 20th Century Fox-branded X-Men movies to go in June 7's Dark Phoenix and April 2020's New Mutants, it's possible we won't hear about how the X-Men might come to the MCU til at least after those movies have come and gone.
But the seeds for how Marvel’s once flagship franchise could become its future flagship franchise may have been laid in Infinity War and Endgame – and yes, we’ll go ahead and say it, we’re talking about the Infinity Stones.
Many fans dreamt of an MCU X-Men origin directly onscreen in Endgame – indeed, the idea of a future MCU connection between the Infinity Stones and the X-Men has been in the ether since Wanda and Pietro Maximoff got their powers from an Infinity Stone as explained in the post-credits scene of Captain America: Winter Soldier, when even the idea of the X-Men in the MCU at all was still a mere daydream.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, however, Endgame didn’t feature any Fox characters – X-Men or FF – but there’s a key moment in the movie that could inform exactly where and how mutants, and by extension the X-Men, could arrive in the MCU.
Thanos' multiple uses of the Infinity Gauntlet produced untold energy surges - Rocket explains as much in Avengers: Endgame. Could those energy surges have massive, heretofore unseen side effects on the Marvel Cinematic Universe? We've already learned of one.
The second Far From Home trailer flat out states that one of the side effects of the use of the Infinity Stones is the MCU Multiverse being breached (we’re taking Mysterio and Nick Fury at their word here ... for now) - that the 'snap' tore a hole open between dimensions.
And if one 'snap' could have such a drastic effect, what uncanny ways could four 'snaps' ripple out into the MCU? In fact, there may be a specific moment one could pinpoint as the possible birth of mutantkind in the MCU.
We’re talking about the second ‘snap’, first mentioned when Rocket explains the intense, unique energy signature that is emitted when Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet both times – the energy signature that allows the Avengers to track the Mad Titan down.
In that second ‘snap,’ Thanos doesn’t just use the Infinity Gauntlet – he destroys the Infinity Stones, presumably dispersing their fundamental cosmic energy into the universe.
Now, there’s the unlikely chance that Disney could choose to bring the X-Men into the MCU through that multiverse breach suggested by the Far From Home trailer, possibly “grandfathering” the cinematic X-Men into the MCU. As improbable as that is given the realities of the current X-Men franchise, it's not impossible that could be the route a character like Deadpool takes to meet the MCU.
But given the established nature by which we’ve seen the energy harvested from the Mind Stone grant Wanda and Pietro super powers, could a more likely possibility for the birth of mutants in the MCU be through that now unbound energy (which has to go somewhere, right?), which might affect the biology of compatible people, causing some people to be born with or develop super, mutant powers?
If that general idea sounds familiar, you may be recalling the aftermath of Marvel Comics’ partially Thanos-centric crossover Infinity, in which the Inhumans’ Terrigen Mists – which give Inhumans their powers through the process of ‘Terrigenesis’ – were dispersed into Earth’s atmosphere, causing apparent humans with latent Inhuman DNA to suddenly undergo Terrigenesis and spontaneously develop super powers.
Now, we’re not necessarily suggesting Marvel Studios would directly lift the entire Inhumans plot to bring the X-Men to the Marvel Universe - but with the Inhumans now unlikely to make it to the big screen MCU themselves, there's more than enough room to borrow a little. There’s even potentially a timeline in which children could be born with powers and be teens by the time an X-Men film gets to the screen considering the in-Universe five year jump.
But it’s possible Marvel could also incorporate the concept of folks spontaneously developing their powers following the Infinity Stones destruction a la the classic adolescent mutant awakening. And that route might also provide a key component of the way Marvel could bring mutants to the wider MCU.
Consider this: given the fact that the Inhumans kinda got shunted off to TV hell in a poorly received limited series instead of getting their own feature film, and given the minimal crossover the MCU has even with its most succesful shows, we're not holding our breath for the Inhumans to even get a mention in a Marvel movie.
Consider also: Kevin Feige and Brie Larson both seem eager to bring Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel – who got her powers in the post-Infinity Terrigenesis wave - to the MCU.
So what if, rather than being a latent Inhuman, Kamala Khan is one of the MCU’s first mutants, developing her powers (along with other mutants) through the side effects of the use of the Infinity Stones?
Given the possibility that Marvel might introduce the concept of mutants in the MCU before it addresses the X-Men themselves, Kamala as a mutant could be the exact bridge Marvel Studios needs to give her a slightly shifted (but now necessary) new origin, introduce the concept of mutants, and even give the mutant concept a doorway to the larger MCU through Captain Marvel (who has strong comic book connections to the X-Men of her own).
And, it would certainly be a significant departure for mutants on film – something Marvel Studios will likely be conscious of, given the 20 year history of the X-Men movie franchise – even if the team itself winds up looking like a more classic iteration of the comic book X-Men when they eventually make it to the MCU. Given the MCU's history of drawing on updated concepts for recovered movie franchises (a la Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-Man informing key aspects of Spider-Man: Homecoming) we think there's more than a case to be made that the MCU X-Men won't look like much Fox's version of the team, at the very least.
And as a bonus, if Marvel Studios connects the origin of mutants to the Infinity Stones, that could make Wanda and Pietro – you guessed it – the MCU’s first mutants after all.
Now, there's also the ways by which the Infinity Stones could lead us to Marvel's other big Fox movie rights 'get', the Fantastic Four - but that's a story for another day.