With Spider-Man: Far From Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seemingly opening up the MCU into something more akin to a Marvel Cinematic Multiverse, now is as good a time as any to revisit the many big-screen Marvel universes we've gotten over the past few decades. After all, before the MCU came about, there were a ton of different universes brought to theaters from Sony, Fox, and others.
Some lasted for a pretty good amount of time, like the original X-Men universe of films. Others managed to make a single appearance before being put off to pasture, like the one that appeared in 2015's Fantastic Four reboot. While we'd like to think all of these films could take place in the same Marvel universe, that is just unrealistic, so let's break down how many Marvel movie universes we have gotten to see since 1998's Blade kicked everything off for the House of Ideas in Hollywood.
- Photo: The Avengers / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Here we have the A-listers. The goliath of goliaths. The cream of the crop. Beginning with 2008's Iron Man and continuing through until Kevin Feige is rolling over in his grave, the Marvel Cinematic Universe initially rounded up all the characters that weren't shilled out to Sony and Fox to rewrite how Hollywood thinks of blockbuster franchises. How big will the MCU get? No one knows, not even Feige himself. Sometime in the near future, we could be calling this franchise the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse for all we know.
With over two dozen films (and counting), numerous television shows, a couple of short films, and upcoming Disney+ series galore, the MCU is here to stay. You cannot overstate just how big of a deal the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. In the age of streaming services, where fewer and fewer people were going to the theaters on a regular basis before the COVID-19 crisis, Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing film of all time, with about $2.8 billion grossed worldwide. Yes, that's billion with a "b."
- Photo: Venom / Sony Pictures Releasing
Don't act like you didn't see this coming. Sony tried to kickstart a Spider-Man-centric connected universe of movies with the Amazing Spider-Man films before that idea flopped when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was met with a collective shrug from fans. They started anew with 2018's Venom and began the "Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters," which really is quite the mouthful.
So far, the only picture we've seen from this franchise is Venom, but both Venom: There Will Be Carnage and the Jared Leto-starring Morbius are coming down the pike sooner rather than later. If Sony gets what they want, the SPUMC will rival the MCU for dominance - at least in the feature film space. They have a ways to go, but with all the various projects they have in production, they certainly are taking a massive swing at it.
- Photo: X2: X-Men United / 20th Century Fox
With all due credit to Blade, the X-Men franchise is what put Marvel properties on the map when it comes to big-screen adaptations. The seven films that make up the initial X-Men films universe, from 2000's X-Men on through to 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, helped prove to Hollywood that superheroes outside of Superman and Batman could headline a massively successful franchise. And they brought Hugh Jackman to the world stage, which is something we should all be thankful for.
Though the films vary wildly in quality - we really don't need to talk about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, do we? - there were plenty of memorable moments along the way. Nightcrawler storming the White House at the beginning of X2: X-Men United. Professor X teaching Magneto to harness his true strength in X-Men: First Class. Quicksilver's awesome action sequence in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It may not have always been perfect, but it certainly was memorable.
- Photo: X-Men: Days of Future Past / 20th Century Fox
The revised X-Men universe of films was Fox's attempt to fix the timeline issues that arose in the original slate of X-Men films by resetting everything with the time-traveling plot of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Initially, this worked swimmingly, as Days of Future Past merged everything back together in a satisfying way and was a fantastic film to boot. And then, they promptly started messing up the timeline yet again, which is fine! These are comic book movies, after all, and we can get on board with loose canonicity if the films are good.
And therein lies the problem. If we discount the Deadpool movies - which are really standalone comedies anyway - then the major films of this revised X-Men universe are X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, and The New Mutants. Only one of those films is generally well-regarded, and it is the one that kicked it all off. Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, and New Mutants all have certain things going for them, but it never really comes together for any of them. And Disney buying Fox makes all of this a moot point, regardless.