MCU: ‘X-Men First Class’ Could Be the Key to this Iconic Villain’s Future Heroic Turn

In Phase 4 and beyond, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is looking to add a lot more heroes to its roster. Part of this focus is, of course, due to the exits of several team members in Avengers: Endgame. But perhaps more impactful was Disney’s acquisition of Fox, home of the Fantastic Four and X-Men movies.

In particular, the latter superhero team has found success on the big screen. Over the course of nearly two decades, Fox released a dozen X-Men movies, including three Wolverine and two Deadpool films. Now the MCU needs to find a way to refresh the Marvel mutants without alienating existing fans.

While the multiverse may play a role, Marvel Studios is also reportedly planning a big twist on a major X-Men character. If that’s true, the MCU already has a template to draw from for inspiration: 2011’s X-Men: First Class.

Michael Fassbender in 'X-Men: First Class'
Michael Fassbender in ‘X-Men: First Class’ | Murray Close/Getty Images

The MCU X-Men will reportedly offer a different version of Magneto

For its many successes, Fox’s X-Men series also had a few undisputed misfires. Even if they turned a profit in theaters, most fans do not hold X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Dark Phoenix in high regard. And comics fans have a bigger gripe regarding how the movie’s handle Marvel’s mutants.

Despite the wide range of characters in the comics, the Fox movies almost exclusively center on Professor X, Magneto, and Wolverine. The complex dynamic between those first two casts a large shadow over many X-Men stories. But it also feels repetitive after a while, as the X-Men constantly face off against Magneto.

Thus far, the MCU has done a terrific job of upending expectations with its depiction of Spider-Man. And according to reports, it will similarly switch things up for the X-Men. Magneto, the news claims, will only be a villain very briefly — perhaps only in his first appearance — before becoming an ally to the Avengers.

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The villainous Magneto nearly got his very own movie in the late 2000s

This approach certainly diverges from the way both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender played him. In nearly all his appearances, Magneto ultimately wound up facing off against the X-Men, even when a tentative alliance is struck. Perhaps the character may become more of an anti-hero, much like Loki. If that’s the case, it won’t be the first time he does on screen.

After X-Men: The Last Stand completed the initial trilogy, Fox considered making spin-off films featuring individual characters. Two projects were in active development, but only X-Men Origins: Wolverine — the presumed first in an X-Men Origins series — got made. The other would have focused on Magneto himself, with McKellen perhaps opening and closing the film.

Magneto — as others have said — is easily the X-Men villain whose origin story is most deserving of a standalone movie. In the Fox series, he’s a survivor of the Holocaust, and that trauma inevitably informs his character. The MCU may update Magneto’s origin for modern times. But Marvel should still reflect on how X-Men: First Class handled his motivations.

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‘X-Men: First Class’ lays out how to make the iconic villain into a hero

Magneto has seen how humanity treats those who are different. And this shapes his fierce desire to protect mutantkind from suffering. Even though he and Charles Xavier both advocate for mutant rights, Magneto is willing to do whatever is necessary. He may go too far, but his motivation is based on relatable emotion. Just like Black Panther‘s unforgettable Killmonger.

With this in mind, audiences will follow a villain’s journey to redemption and back. After all, Loki shifts alliances with every appearance. The MCU X-Men has an opportunity to do the same with Magneto. In fact, X-Men: First Class — which retains elements of the canceled Magneto solo film — bets heavily on that.

The movie opens on a flashback to World War II and follows Magneto’s quest for revenge. Ultimately, he gives in to his darkness, avenging his mother and waging war against mankind. But just because Magneto is capable of violence doesn’t mean he cannot evolve into something more than a villain.

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Several MCU villains have changed their ways, with Nebula as one of the best examples. And many Marvel heroes, including Avengers like Black Widow, have gone dark at least briefly. X-Men: First Class shows Magneto serving as an architect of the X-Men.

Moreover, its sequels further explore his efforts at suppressing his rage. That’s a compelling story that — if handled right — could be a better take on emotional control than the MCU’s Hulk has been. As X-Men: First Class makes plain, it’s Magneto’s choices that dictate which side he takes.

The MCU X-Men might introduce a Magneto more in line with what we’ve seen before. But the character has enough complexity and humanity to make him much more than a straightforward one-and-done villain. Depending what the franchise does, Magneto could be a driving force for years to come.