Wednesday has been a hit for Netflix, and it shows the potential for a different type of X-Men story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.
The success of Netflix’s Wednesday series is a huge boost to the MCU’s X-Men plans. The latest Addams Family spinoff, Tim Burton’s Wednesday has proved a tremendous success. Netflix’s TV show plays fast and loose with the Addams Family mythology, placing its protagonist – Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday Addams – in Nevermore Academy, a school for Outcasts. There, she learns of a prophecy that effectively makes her the show’s “Chosen One,” the being who will decide the entire school’s fate.
It’s a familiar formula, popularized through the Harry Potter books and films. A new generation of writers, screenwriters, filmmakers, and showrunners have emerged in Hollywood, people who grew up thrilling to Harry Potter’s adventures in Hogwarts. They’re creating films and TV shows like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, The School for Good and Evil, and Fate: The Wynx Saga, all of which employ exactly the same tropes. Granted, none have done so as effectively as Tim Burton’s Wednesday, but the pattern is clear.
The MCU’s X-Men Fit All The Wednesday Tropes
Marvel Studios is currently reinventing the X-Men for the MCU, and the timing couldn’t be more opportune. Fox’s movies have tended to focus on the X-Men as a typical superhero team, meaning it’s easy to forget Stan Lee envisioned them based in a school environment. This is because he imagined most mutant powers activating at puberty, thus requiring the nascent superheroes to be trained at “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.” Lee was never particularly interested in the school itself, of course, focusing instead on the superhero action. Later writers have used the idea of a mutant school as the foundation of their stories, thoug; these have included popular runs such as New Mutants, Generation X, and New X-Men.
Mutants are already officially part of the MCU. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever confirmed they have been part of this shared universe for centuries, introducing Namor the Sub-Mariner – a mutant born in 1571. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law featured a Wolverine Easter egg, with a reference to a bar-room brawler with metal claws; in the comics, Wolverine is another mutant who ages at an unusually slow rate, born in the late 1880s. But Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel is the most interesting example, simply because she is a character who fits Stan Lee’s original X-Men design. She is a teenager who suddenly develops super-powers, finds herself hated and feared by those who do not understand her, but who becomes a superhero nonetheless. She fits the X-Men tropes perfectly, which probably explains why Marvel Studios decided to make Kamala Khan a mutant in the MCU (Ms. Marvel is an Inhuman in the comics, something completely different).
Marvel Should Capitalize On Wednesday’s Success
The MCU has already riffed on the Harry Potter franchise; Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has openly talked about the importance of Peter Parker’s school environment and classmates being something of a homage. But the X-Men allow Marvel to draw on the same tropes much more effectively, because Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters can become Marvel’s version of Hogwarts or Nevermore Academy. Rather than focus only on the X-Men as a superhero team, Marvel should instead explore mutants as a community, with the school at the heart of it. Mirroring Harry Potter, Wednesday, and most of these other films and shows, they could begin with the emergence of a new mutant – someone whose powers generate spontaneously, who soon learns what it means to be a mutant. Fox’s X-Men films never capitalized on Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, so this would be a smart reinvention of the franchise.
It’s amusing to note that Marvel’s school-based stories have often riffed on supernatural themes. The first generation of “New Mutants” included a literal sorceress called Magik, a mutant lycanthrope, and a Native America plagued by a Demon Bear who wound up becoming a Valkyrie. Marvel is sadly unlikely to tell this particular story – a version has already been told, in Fox’s New Mutants film – but the example nonetheless serves to indicate just how closely the ideas can be drawn. Generation X, for example, featured a villain named Emplate who was essentially a vampire, preying on other mutants, while another generation of young X-Men included the prophetic Blindfold. Marvel has often blurred the line between mutants and magic quite effectively, meaning Wednesday really could show Marvel how to make the X-Men a hit.