Well, after years of rumours, speculation and hoping, it has been confirmed this week that the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four film franchises are reverting to Marvel. Following a deal between Disney (Marvel’s parent company) and 21st Century Fox – reported to be worth a whopping $52M – a number of TV and film properties will now be under the mouse house’s control.
This means the two popular franchises can now be integrated into the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, a move that superhero fans have been hoping would happen for years, and one that will surely take the franchise to new, even more successful heights.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Marvel integrate the two teams. Everyone has a favourite superhero or team of heroes, and for as long as I can remember, the X-Men have been mine. I can remember going to see the very first film with my Dad when I was 9, all the way back in 2000. That was the film that arguably kicked off the comic book movie craze, and I was blown away by the story of seemingly ordinary people having extraordinary powers. Dodgy timelines and plot holes aside, I’ve really enjoyed the series as a whole (apart from the missteps of The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine). The Fantastic Four didn’t have the same effect on me. The original films released in the mid 2000’s were kind of goofy, while the 2015 reboot was a mess, so it will be a chance to get a good adaptation for a change when they do enter the MCU.
The deal isn’t happening overnight, so it appears that it will be a few years yet before these teams appear (I expect Marvel to start hinting at their existence in upcoming movies though). Fox still has the Dark Phoenix movie coming next year (with a potential sequel after that), as well as The New Mutants, a new spinoff series, to get through first. Despite having an intriguing cast, the last Fantastic Four film was a poorly made and poorly received disaster, and any plans for a sequel or reboot would likely be killed by this transfer deal.
Some speculation has been sparked online that Marvel may seek to keep the latest X-Men and Fantastic Four casts, and find a way of introducing them to the MCU, potentially by introducing the concept of multiverses. I think it’s unlikely that will happen (especially for the Fantastic Four, seeing as Michael B. Jordan is due to be introduced as the villain Erik Killmonger in Black Panther next year) and that they will instead opt to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with new actors in the roles.
Here are a few I think would be a good fit for the key characters.
For starters, I think it might work to have an introductory team consisting of some members of the original lineup in the comic books mixed with some from the team featured in the 90’s cartoon. The first film could introduce the main team living in the Westchester Mansion and serving as teachers in Xavier’s school. The subsequent films could then introduce new, younger characters.
Charles Xavier – Mark Strong
Charles Xavier has been played interchangeably between Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy over the 17-year run of the Fox X-Men series. A strong actor is needed to portray the teams leader, and Mark Strong should be a contender. With a string of diverse roles under his belt that signal his versatility, as well as having the signature look and sound associated with the character, he is the ideal choice.
Jean Grey – Natalie Dormer
Anne Boleyn, Margaery Tyrell, Cressida. Natalie Dormer has no shortage of iconic characters among her acting credits, and she was the first person that came to mind when I thought of who could take on the role of Jean Grey, currently held by her Game of Thrones co-star Sophie Turner. A potential problem exists in the fact that she had a small (tiny) part in Captain America: The First Avenger as Private Lorraine, who tried to seduce the Cap. Her part didn’t have any major impact though, so they could gloss over it in order to cast her as Jean. A bottle of red hair dye would be a start.
Cyclops – Mike Vogel
Perhaps best know for his roles in horror films The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Cloverfield, and on TV in Pan Am and Under the Dome, Mike Vogel was at one point up for the role of Captain America, which as we now know went to Chris Evans. Perhaps the role of optic blast shooting Cyclops would be a good fit for him instead. He’s a competent actor and has the right look to embody the character often viewed as Xavier’s second in command.
Storm – Naomie Harris
Storm has been played by two actresses before: Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp. For some reason, they haven’t connected fully with fans. To be fair, I think that is down to the way Storm has been written in the movies more than either actresses performance, as they both did great with what they were given. The new series is the perfect opportunity to bring the character more to the forefront, and Naomie Harris would be an excellent choice to play her. She looks the part (with a white wig or dye thrown in) and has a proven record of playing strong and interesting women in films such as 28 Days Later, Pirates of the Caribbean and the James Bond series.
Wolverine – Tom Hardy
Could there be anybody else? Ever since Hugh Jackman announced he was hanging up his claws and retiring from Wolverine after playing him for 17 years, fans of the character have been calling for Tom Hardy to take on the part. He is shorter than Jackman at 5 foot 9 so would be a more comic accurate depiction of the famously short superhero. And it’s hard to think of Hardy ever giving a bad performance, so you just know he will be great in the role.
Beast – Sam Claflin
Nicholas Hoult currently holds the role of Beast in the X–Men films, and has given an assured performance, even if he is slightly under-utilised in comparison with the other actors that make up the core four characters of the series now (Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence). Kelsey Grammar played the role once (as well as a small cameo in Days of Future Past) in the dire Last Stand film, and he was one of the only positive things about it. Another Brit who would be perfect to take it on in the MCU is Sam Claflin. He has the acting chops to pull off a Beast that is equal parts intelligent and humorous.
Rogue – Eliza Dushku
If there is one character that fans of the X–Men are dying to see recast, it’s Rogue. Anna Paquin played a shy, timid, self-hating Rogue in four of the films, completely at odds to the characters previously established confident, strong persona. It’s not Paquin’s fault that the character hasn’t been well received. She acted the part well with what she was given. But there is an ample opportunity now to give the fans the Rogue they have been crying out for. I think Eliza Dushku could give the part a good go. She is likely best known for her iconic role of Faith, the slayer who went down a dark path in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As Rogue was introduced as a villain at first in the comics, an ability to play the dark side before joining the good is essential.
Angel – Charlie Hunnam
Another character in need of a reprive is Warren Worthington III, otherwise known as Angel due to his mutant ability, large white wings that allow him to fly. Despite being a founding member of the X-Men in the source material, he was a throw away character in two X-Men films, played by Ben Foster and Ben Hardy. Despite previously saying that comic book movies weren’t in his plans, Charlie Hunnam would be a great fit for Angel. Best known for roles in TV shows Queer as Folk and Sons of Anarchy, he has some experience with blockbusters after starring in Pacific Rim in 2013. Angel was rich, suave, and charismatic in the comics, and seeing as Hunnam was once signed up to play Christian Grey in the 50 Shades of Grey series, it hints that he could be good in this role (if he ever decided to change his mind regarding superhero films).
Jubilee – Lana Condor
By far the least well known on this list, Lana Condor made her acting debut in last years X–Men: Apocalypse as Jubilee. It wasn’t much of a debut to be honest, given that she didn’t use her powers, had next to no lines, and was mainly just a vehicle for a bit of fan service. No official word yet, but it also appears that she isn’t returning for Dark Phoenix next year. The first episode of the X–Men cartoon from the 90’s introduced Jubilee as a young mutant on the run, who eventually encounters the X–Men and joins them. This might be a good starting point for the MCU X–Men, and as they barely used her in Apocalypse, a chance to give Condor another shot at playing her.
In the comics, the Fantastic Four were a group of scientists who gained their powers after being exposed to cosmic rays during a mission in space. The original film in 2005 went with this origin, while the 2015 reboot saw them transported to another dimension where they gained them. I’d imagine their introduction into the MCU will use the original take, or even just introduced them after they have gained their powers.
Mr. Fantastic – Armie Hammer
Over the last number of years, Armie Hammer has appeared on the cusp of being the next big thing but never quite getting there. And he’s also been rumoured for a number of superhero parts over the years from Batman, to Green Lantern and Shazam. The popularity (and Oscar buzz) of his latest film, Call me by Your Name, is sure to have his name being bandied about once again for such parts. He would be a perfect fit for the leader of the Fantastic Four, Mr. Fantastic.
Invisible Woman – Jennifer Lawrence
No stranger to action and superhero films at this stage, Jennifer Lawrence would be a good choice for the Invisible Woman. Some might disagree, given her divisive turn as Mystique in the X–Men series, and her disdain for the heavy makeup process involved in that character. But, there would be no blue make up involved in playing Sue Storm, and she is a phenomenal actress that can turn her hand to any part. And, the popularity she gained from the Hunger Games doesn’t seem to be waining, so it might be a good move for Marvel to try and get her for a different superhero role.
Human Torch – Josh Hutcherson
There is a superhero movie out there just waiting for Josh Hutcherson to star in it. Before he gained wider attention from starring in the Hunger Games alongside Jennifer Lawrence, he already had a number of credits to his name, having acted since he was a child. Prior to Tom Holland winning the role of Spiderman, Hutcherson campaigned for it and managed to generate a bit of buzz around him potentially landing it. His new show on Hulu, Future Man, has shown he has the jokerish side necessary to play the wise cracking Human Torch. He also has amazing chemistry with Lawrence, which could work well with the two of them playing siblings in this.
The Thing – Luke Hemsworth
The oldest of the Hemsworth Brothers, and the least well known, Luke Hemsworth actually started acting before his younger siblings, Chris and Liam. Like a lot of Australian actors, he got his break on a soap, namely Neighbours. Most recently, he has starred as Ashley Stubbs in the hit show Westworld, and had a cameo in the latest Thor movie alongside his brother, where he was an actor starring in a play about Thor. He has a look and build that would suit Ben Grimm/The Thing in Fantastic Four. They would have to ignore his cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, but it wasn’t hugely substantial anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem.