Imagine, if you can, this highly titillating bit of fan service occurring in a future Marvel movie: The Avengers are on the ropes against some villain, be it Thanos or Ultron or Brian Michael Bendis (joking, I'll love "New Avengers" until I die), when they're temporarily overcome and can fight no further. And then, from a corner of the screen, a blur shoots across the audience's field of vision and collides with the villain in question, knocking him aback. The blur comes into focus to reveal none other than Wolverine, claws brandished, catchphrase in mouth. The camera zooms out to reveal the rest of the X-Men, and maybe more of the Marvel heroes — Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four — just as Captain America recovers his bearings to bellow "Avengers Assemble!" in all its galvanizing glory.
Cue defeated bad guy. Cue rapturous applause. Cue ecstatic message boards, overflowing with love.
Okay, okay: If a Marvel crossover is indeed to happen, it probably won't go down like that. What's shocking, though, is that it might happen at all.
For years, Marvel's film characters have been kept to their own studios: Spider-Man with Warner Brothers, X-Men with 20th Century Fox, the Avengers with Marvel Studios, and so forth. But speaking to Crave Online, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" producer Lauren Shuler Donner didn't shy away from the possibility of an eventual crossover between the X-Men and the Avengers. “I would love it. I would love it," she said. "I personally have close ties to Marvel because of [Marvel Studios President] Kevin Feige, because Kevin worked for me. But to take our characters and mingle them in the way that they were written, yeah, absolutely.”
Imagine such a possibility, and the forms it could take: the gut-pleasing blowout fantasized above, or something as minor as the audience walking in on Thor and Wolverine having a beer. Such shared continuity would go a long way toward refining one ideal of a film world that mirrors the comic world, best exemplified by "The Avengers."
On the other hand, imagine the drawbacks of such an approach if handled poorly. When I talked to Chris Claremont a few months ago, he mentioned how the superhero crossover was a financial windfall that ended up hurting Marvel in the long run — because, with a clearly defined path toward big money, there didn't seem to be a point in doing anything smaller. (Indeed, look at the glut of crossover events that plague both Marvel and DC every year.) Done big or small, and done well, on-screen continuity would be as crowd-pleasing as anything. But another, more cautionary stance would be that shared continuity represents a Pandora's Box of lazy storytelling and infinite consideration — because, echoing Claremont, why shouldn't it be done every time if it works once?
Making the Marvel world more inclusive might even box in the narrative possibility, and present an increasingly apparent set of plot holes and considerations for new overseers to deal with. If we know that the X-Men are just a phone call away in an Avengers film, then why not give them a call? It's partly why all-powerful characters like the Sentry were frequently and annoyingly dispatched from the team books in which they took part. If Marvel fans had a nickel for every time the Sentry wasn't available to punch a bad guy to the sun in a "New Avengers" comic because he was dealing with some boilerplate mental problems… they'd probably have enough to cover the price jump for an issue. (*snaps fingers*)
Past that quick on-screen cameo, it seems like the most we'd get with an X-Men/Avengers crossover is a line to acknowledge the extant presence while still dismissing it — "Logan and his team are tackling the Ultron horde a few blocks away" — which of course sets the precedent of each subsequent film having to come up with increasingly inventive ways to push the unseen heroes further off-screen. Magneto's attacking New York City! Whoops, the Avengers got stuck diffusing a bomb. (No joke, I think Grant Morrison actually used that one and it sucked as much then as it does to read.) In the end, an X-Men/Avengers crossover might eventually turn problematic and not entirely satisfying.
But would it be cool? Well, yeah.
This Mutant Life explores all corners of the cinematic X-verse, from the kids of "First Class" to the berserker rage of "The Wolverine." Suggest topics for future columns in the comments or on Twitter!
Previously on This Mutant Life: