The gulf in the cinematic universe left by the end of the Avengers story arc still seems, for now at least, like it's going to be pretty vast. What is 21st century cinema, after all, without the heroics of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man?
Despite the vast line-up of Marvel Projects films still Disney have since announced, the future of the MCU's story still looks strangely uncertain. "The slate that we’re building over the next five years [is] not apples to apples," Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told ion9 when asked to compare the past and the future.
"It is two very distinct things and I hope they’ll feel very distinct. But there is a similar mentality going into it, which is ‘How can we continue to tell stories with some of the characters that audiences already know and love in a unique way, in a different way, in surprising way, of which we have a lot of plans and ideas and work already going into it?’
"[Then] ‘How can we introduce new characters that even hardcore fans, comic fans, have barely known or barely heard of.’ That’s really exciting too.”
Of course, there are plenty of new characters soon set to be introduced and potentially even brought across to the MCU once their deals expire, and that goes without even mentioning the spate of new TV shows we'll be treated to when Disney's streaming service eventually launches.
Tom Hardy's Venom and Jared Leto's Morbius still sit in Sony-owned purgatory, while Disney themselves plan on introducing The Eternals sooner rather than later. But the shape that the MCU's fourth Phase is set to take is still pretty much anyone's guess.
The most pressing question on the minds of many, however, is when the X-Men will eventually make their way across now that Disney has acquired Fox. For a while, the answer from Feige himself was essentially 'don't hold your breath.'
"It’ll be a while,” Feige said. It’s all just beginning and the five-year plan that we’ve been working on, we were working on before any of that was set.
"So really it’s much more, for us, less about specifics of when and where [the X-Men will appear] right now and more just the comfort factor and how nice it is that they’re home. That they’re all back. But it will be a very long time.”
For the most part, that's pretty much all we had to go on, with news very quickly turning to the debacle surrounding Spider-Man and Sony. The hype surrounding the X-Men also took a major blow since the release of the utterly forgettable box office bomb that was Dark Phoenix.
In a strange twist, however, it seems that the introduction of the X-Men has long been very much on the minds of those over at Marvel Studios after all. In a recently released deleted scene from the first Iron Man, Nick Fury remarks. “As if gamma accidents, radioactive bug bites, and assorted mutants weren’t enough,” says Fury, “I have to deal with a spoiled brat who doesn’t play well with others and wants to keep all his toys to himself."
The word Mutants is an obvious nod to the existence of the X-Men in the Marvel Universe, even if Marvel weren't really able to acknowledge it at that point.
At the Saturn Awards, Kevin Feige revealed an alternate version of the post-credits scene from ‘IRON MAN’ with Nick Fury mentioning “mutants” and “radioactive bug bites”. It will be included in the upcoming INFINITY SAGA boxset. (Source: @BRMarvelNews) pic.twitter.com/AqzTokEc67— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) 14 September 2019
Of course, Iron Man came out over a decade ago, and since then, the MCU still hasn't really acknowledged the X-Men universe in any other way. But maybe, just maybe, the band of Mutants was always a part of Marvels' long-term strategy. Given that X-Men fans are baying for a decent film to follow on from Logan, only time will tell if it pans out that way.