There was much rejoicing amongst superhero fans when Disney threw its financial weight across the movie industry and regained the rights to the X-Men and associated mutant characters that had been sold to Fox Studios years ago. Considering most of the X-Men movies produced by Fox weren’t exactly stellar, it was expected that Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, would be able to recreate the highly superior (and successful) movie formula that gave us the Avengers movies, Black Panther, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and so many others.
What many fans don’t consider, however, is that when Marvel won its X-Men characters back, the only things it really gained were the specific characters and names associated with X-Men. They were already able to make movies with mutants… even if they couldn’t actually use the word “mutant” in them… because they had figured out a new way of creating characters with strangely-obtained powers for the MCU.
Consider that when the X-Men were originally created back in 1963, their original sci-fi-ish premise was that unintentional exposure to radiation, mostly from atomic bomb testing post-WWII, had resulted in genetic “mutations” in random members of the population, and later in their children… the so-called “children of the atom.” Today we know more about the effects of radiation exposure, and we know that being exposed to radiation often causes genetic deterioration and health problems in the subjects, but never spawns positive effects. Fortunately, the Marvel movies developed a more modern take on genetic experimentation that works in their universe.
Their new version of mutants mirrors the premise used in Marvel’s Ultimates comics universe, which postulated that mutants had been created, not by random radiation effects, but by direct experimentation by the government. The Marvel movies also borrowed from the comics the evil organization HYDRA, now hiding in plain sight as a shadow organization within the good guy organization of SHIELD. This provided the perfect basis for the new mutants of the cinematic universe.
In one of the post-credit scenes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, after HYDRA had been exposed within SHIELD, viewers were presented with a secret HYDRA installation where it was revealed that human subjects had been experimented upon using secretly-obtained alien-inspired technology. The viewers see two survivors of the tests: Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, who are sent against the Avengers in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but eventually end up fighting alongside them against the genocidal super-robot Ultron.
Two other important pieces of information are given to the viewers in that post-credit scene: One, that there have been many other subjects; and Two, that there are other hidden HYDRA facilities. The first reveal suggested there have been subject failures, but it leaves open a hint that there may have been other successes. The second point leaves open the possibility that some of the other facilities may have also experimented on super-powered humans, with their own implied successes and failures.
With this information, we have a lot of possibilities to consider. One possibility is that there may be other super-powered humans created by HYDRA, some that may honor the mission of HYDRA (and would therefore be considered super-villains) and some that may have broken away from the collapsed HYDRA. That, alone, could provide plenty of story and character possibilities.
And even in HYDRA’s supposed failures, there are possibilities, mostly centered around two questions: Exactly what did HYDRA do with its failures; and did they always know when they had a failure? If subjects were experimented upon within HYDRA installations, and did not work out, they were probably executed (as the post-credit scene suggests). But HYDRA may have been more inventive about its experiments, and if so, their collapse could have kept them from continuing their experiments.
Suppose, for instance, that one or more of the HYDRA facilities secretly experimented on unknowing human populations, with the idea of monitoring them until stories of “strange children” or odd happenings started to surface, at which point they would come forward and take the children to be indoctrinated into HYDRA. Now suppose that the experiment had resulted in some super-powered children, but the exposure of HYDRA in The Winter Soldier meant the unintended abandonment of the program. There’s also the possibility that HYDRA didn’t find out about some results, maybe because the parents made an effort to hide their children’s abilities, or because the children themselves didn’t develop until much later. These all point to the possibility of super-powered adults and children hidden all over the country and even around the world.
Now suppose a genetics expert, originally a HYDRA experimental subject who managed to extricate or hide himself from HYDRA, who discovers the existence of other subjects like himself. He has the means to find these people and bring them to a facility where they can be trained to use their powers, hide them when necessary, and be encouraged to use their powers for good. Maybe he develops a mutant task force intended to infiltrate the last of the HYDRA facilities and free the remaining subjects. Maybe they even take the responsibility for finding and stopping other, already-freed experimental subjects who use their powers to rob from or hurt others, or who seek to strike back at governments for experimenting on them, with the hope of rehabilitating them.
Presto: You’ve just re-created the X-Men for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now that Marvel has the rights to the X-Men back in the MCU, they can use their already-formed premises as a guide to create a new series of movies about mutants, centered around ex-experimental subject Charles Xavier who uses his mental powers and the ability to detect mutants to find and recruit others into his circle, train them to work as teams to protect other mutants and stop those who seek to hurt others. As well as the established characters of the X-Men, the MCU can use other related characters, create new characters, or pit them against other established characters in the MCU for some great, original and compelling stories about people who don’t fit in, organizations that take advantage of citizens and individuals, and learning to use their unique skills, for others, and for good.