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How The Eternals could introduce the X-Men into the MCU

From the early 2000s, 20th Century Fox had been the distributor of the live-action X-Men films. This meant that while Iron Man and Ant-Man, Black Panther and Black Widow, Captain Marvel and Captain America, and so many more Marvel Comics heroes all teamed up to form the juggernaut Marvel Cinematic Universe, those particular mutants were housed in a completely different film studio – despite originating in a Marvel comic book of their own. 

However, that all changed in 2019. Disney, which has owned Marvel Studios since 2009, purchased the majority of 20th Century Fox's assets in a multi-billion-dollar acquisition deal that brought the X-Men film franchise under the control of the MCU and its head honcho Kevin Feige. 2019 also saw the release of the latest X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix, which was intended to be the launch of a reinvigorated franchise. Instead, the film bombed at the box office and with critics, putting a stop to any plans for a sequel.

Now that the previous X-Men movie series is stalled and Marvel once again has some control over the rights to use the X-Men in film, it's inevitable that our favorite mutants will eventually be folded into the MCU. The specifics of such an introduction aren't clear, and while the absurdly interconnected storylines of the various Marvel movie trilogies (and sagas, in Thor's case) will make it difficult to properly incorporate the X-Men, some see a golden opportunity to do just that in the upcoming MCU film The Eternals.

The X-Men will definitely be introduced to the MCU

The seeds for the continuation of the X-Men as a film franchise and their possible connection to the rest of the MCU were planted by the head of Marvel Studios and the chief creative officer of Marvel Entertainment himself, Kevin Feige. At Marvel's panel during 2019's San Diego Comic-Con, the producer extraordinaire gave a rousing speech about the future of the films in the MCU, specifically what the 2020 and 2021 Phase 4 slate would be. What piqued fan interest was a laundry list of films that Feige didn't go into detail about at the presentation — especially his quip, "And there's no time left to talk about mutants" (via IGN). 

Feige is certainly aware of how quick fans are to draw conclusions from the tiniest hints or clues dropped by people involved in the MCU, so it seems extremely unlikely that his mention of mutants — a.k.a. the X-Men — was a mistake. In fact, it's much more likely that he was signaling to fans that there are plans afoot to work the X-Men into the MCU, after previously stating in an April 2019 interview that it would be "a very long time" before they're brought into the sprawling cinematic superhero universe.

It's also likely, as is Marvel's tradition, that whatever new series of X-Men films may be in the hopper will be launched via a backdoor reintroduction in another MCU movie. And that's where The Eternals comes in.

Who are the Eternals?

For the uninitiated, the Eternals are a race of superhumans that were created millions of years ago by the mysterious god-like beings the Celestials, who came to our planet to experiment on early humans. The Celestials' experiments didn't go entirely to plan, and in addition to the Eternals, another race of deformed, evil beings called the Deviants were also created. For thousands of years, the Eternals have been tasked with protecting earth from their malicious brethren.

The Eternals appear to be human, but each possess unique superhuman abilities. Their bodies are made of cells infused with cosmic energy that allows for regeneration, making them nearly immortal. Although the Eternals have a slightly more mystical origin story than the X-Men or other heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in their contemporary timeline, they're living on Earth and presenting themselves as humans.

Plot details for the film — starring Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Selma Hayek, Richard Madden, and more — are scant. However, the official synopsis does specify that the movie will take place in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame. It also clarifies that the Deviants will be introduced as the main antagonists of the film. Although at least some of the film will take place in modern day, Feige has said that the film span across 7,000 years. So it looks likely we'll at least get a glimpse of what these semi-immortal beings have been up to while hiding out on Earth, and possibly even learn about their origins.

How the Eternals and the X-Men could be related

As far as the comics are concerned, there isn't a ton of inter-connectivity between the Eternals and the X-Men. However, similarities between the origin stories of the two groups of superhumans have Marvel scholars drawing connections to see where there might be some overlap.

At ScreenRant, Nicholas Raymond explains an intriguing theory: given the similar creation stories for the Eternals and mutants, it might be possible that the X-Men were also created by the Celestials in an early failed attempt to create the Eternals. Mutants gain their power from a special gene, the X-Gene, which developed in the earliest stages of humanity. The fact that the Eternals and the Deviants were the result of the Celestials' experiments on early humans leaves the door open for the possibility that the mutant X-Gene was also a result of interspecies dabbling.

There are still tons of unanswered questions that will need to be worked out before Marvel can officially bring the X-Men home, but tying them to the creators of the superhumans at the center of their next big MCU franchise would certainly be a start.