Avengers: Endgame shocked fans by taking Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on a journey through time. Marvel’s marketing campaign never clued audiences into the fact they were about to see a time travel movie. And the plot device feels like much more than a gimmick. It’s the ultimate celebration of everything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has achieved.
Yet, as novel as it may seem, Avengers: Endgame isn’t even the first time Marvel superheroes have taken on time travel. 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past took a very different approach to the concept, linking the original Fox trilogy to X-Men: First Class. But here’s why the MCU version of time travel is so much more satisfying.
The MCU and Fox’s ‘X-Men’ handled time travel very differently
Both the MCU and Fox have taken their Marvel characters through time. But there’s a very big distinction between them. The MCU seeded some plot elements early on that it could apply to a time-travel adventure. Meanwhile, Fox’s X-Men franchise dropped the time travel angle out of nowhere.
Avengers: Endgame had the benefit of being the second part of a two-part story arc. But it also had years of groundwork preceding it. Movies like Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and even Thor: The Dark World teased the co-existence of different timelines and dimensions. So when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) suggests time travel, it doesn’t seem like nearly as big a leap.
To the contrary, X-Men: Days of Future Past is much more self-contained. The series had never floated the notion of time travel or anything close to it before or since. For that reason, Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) sudden ability to send Wolverine back to the 1970s can feel a bit forced. It’s no surprise the movie wasn’t always supposed to be a time-travel story.
‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ looked to a beloved classic for inspiration
Likewise, the MCU and Fox’s X-Men also present audiences with completely different takes on how time travel would theoretically be possible. Avengers: Endgame claims traveling through time wouldn’t affect the future but simply create branched alternate timelines. This is actually more scientifically accurate than how time travel is typically depicted on screen.
X-Men: Days of Future Past goes for a more traditional time-travel tale. In the movie, the past can be altered for better or worse. In fact, writer Simon Kinberg has admitted his version of the concept was inspired by Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But he also revealed to IGN how the tonal difference between the X-Men and MCU movies plays a huge role.
What we did with the X-Men movies was try to create something that was a little more… I guess I would call it operatic or dramatic, even bordering on melodramatic, whereas the MCU movies are largely more fun and poppy and playful. … The way they handle time travel feels, to me, in line with the general tonality of their movies. Whereas this fit with the tone of what we do.
Certainly, the MCU and Fox’s X-Men feel very different overall. But their shared origins in Marvel Comics still bear a certain signature. In fact, Avengers: Endgame nearly featured a design that would have made their similarities even more blatant. But is there a better, more obvious way to bridge the two film series?
The multiverse could revive Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine one last time
Now that Disney has purchased Fox, fans are curious how the X-Men will be introduced into the MCU. With all the time travel and multiverse talk involving Marvel’s future, there’s certainly a way in which Fox’s X-Men series could share the same space.
Phase 4 of the MCU will bring the multiverse into the picture. And when it does, it carries with it the potential for the MCU to acknowledge the X-Men’s Fox past. Namely, Hugh Jackman could return as Wolverine one last time, even if it’s just for a cameo.
When the MCU X-Men debut, it will likely be with nearly an entirely new cast. But Jackman’s impact on the franchise — and audiences’ perception of the X-Men — might be too great to simply ignore. Thankfully, the fact that both the MCU and Fox’s X-Men series have toyed with the nature of reality opens the perfect door.