Avengers 4 Theory Explains How to Include X-Men and Fantastic Four

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Ever since Disney announced its plans to buy out 21st Century Fox for the staggering sum of $71.3 billion, three questions have been on everyone's mind: What will happen to the notoriously right-wing Fox News division? Does this signify a huge step forward in Disney's seemingly inevitable consolidation of all of media under its mouse-eared banner? And does this mean the X-Men and Fantastic Four are coming to the ​MCU?

Marvel sold the ​film rights to some of its most popular franchises, including the mutant team and their first family, back in the 1990s after facing bankruptcy. While Sony and Universal seem to be happy to share their rights to characters like the Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man, Fox has until now been steadfast in its refusal to sell or share their portion of Marvel's IPs.

And now that the idea of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a definite possibility, fans have been brainstorming how their favorite characters might be included in an already-established world. With most of the theories hinging on the anticipated and untitled Avengers 4, ideas have ranged from time-travel shenanigans to alternate universe displacement.

One recent theory that gained some traction is that the characters we know and love are already in the ​MCU, but haven't developed their powers yet. In the case of the Fantastic Four, the theory posits that Reed Richards and Susan Storm will appear in Avengers 4 as scientists studying the phenomenon of Thanos's mass murdering snap from Avengers: Infinity War.

The idea is that they believe Thanos's victims are not dead, but rather transported into the recently discovered Negative Zone. They will attempt a rescue mission to the alternate dimension, which will include Ben Grimm as their pilot and Susan's brother Johnny as a stowaway on their ship.

However, in the middle of their mission, Thanos will be defeated by the Avengers and a "reverse-snap" will shock them back to the MCU reality, exposing them to cosmic energy rays and giving them their superpowers in the process. This will turn them into ​Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Thing, and the Human Torch, respectively.

The theory's explanation for the existence/nonexistence of the X-Men is equally as plausible but much more convoluted, borrowing slightly from the X-Men's origin via the now-defunct "Ultimate" universe in the Marvel comics. Apparently, in the 1950s and '60s, at the height of the Cold War, the American government was desperate to remake the super soldier serum they'd previously used to create Captain America.

But since they had no viable samples of Dr. Erskine's formula, they resorted to new methods of human enhancements, involving a dirty bomb that was dropped (either intentionally or by accident) on a civilian population. While the bomb thankfully had no visible effect, it did release a surge of invisible, gene-altering radiation across the planet.

Of those affected, only a very small number immediately developed mutant powers, making it easy for them to hide on the fringes of society, undetected by major spy agencies like S.H.I.E.L.D. However, thousands of people across the globe now carry an unactivated X-gene and could give birth to an entire generation with the same potential.

The theorized "reverse-snap" to bring back all those who had died in Infinity War would also release an energy wave which would activate all latent X-genes and reveal the mutant population to the world. This would inspire the appropriate fear and distrust of mutants which has formed the thematic basis of the ​X-Men since its inception.

In the chaos, mutant leaders like Professor X and Magneto would rise to prominence, having already amassed mutant followers in secret to follow their respective ideologies. Obviously, these theories are unsubstantiated by virtue of being just that—theories—but they are cool little thought experiments about where the franchise could go now that it has virtually unlimited resources, and characters.

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The Many Lives of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Leonard Cohen sat down to write a song about god, sex, love, and other mysteries of human existence that bring us to our knees for one reason or another. The legendary singer-songwriter, who was in his early forties at the time, knew how to write a hit: He had penned "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire," "Lover, Lover, Lover," and dozens of other songs for both himself and other popular artists of the time. But from the very beginning, there was something different about what would become "Hallelujah"—a song that took five years and an estimated 80 drafts for Cohen to complete.

In the 35 years since it was originally released, "Hallelujah" has been covered by more than 300 other artists in virtually every genre. Willie Nelson, k.d. lang, Justin Timberlake, Bono, Brandi Carlile, Bon Jovi, Susan Boyle, Pentatonix, and Alexandra Burke—the 2008 winner of the UK version of The X Factor—are just a few of the individuals who have attempted to put their own stamp on the song. After Burke’s soulful version was downloaded 105,000 times in its first day, setting a new European record, “Hallelujah” soon became a staple of TV singing shows.

It's an impressive feat by any standard, but even more so when you consider that "Hallelujah"—one of the most critically acclaimed and frequently covered songs of the modern era—was originally stuck on side two of 1984’s Various Positions, an album that Cohen’s American record label deemed unfit for release.

“Leonard, we know you’re great,” Cohen recalled CBS Records boss Walter Yetnikoff telling him, “but we don’t know if you’re any good.”

 

Yetnikoff wasn’t totally off-base. With its synth-heavy ’80s production, Cohen’s version of “Hallelujah” doesn’t announce itself as the chill-inducing secular hymn it’s now understood to be. (Various Positions was finally released in America on the indie label Passport in 1985.) Part of why it took Cohen five years to write the song was that he couldn’t decide how much of the Old Testament stuff to include.

“It had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from the beginning to the end,” Cohen said. “Finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore. And I rewrote this song; this is the ‘secular’ ‘Hallelujah.’”

The first two verses introduce King David—the skilled harp player and great uniter of Israel—and the Nazarite strongman Samson. In the scriptures, both David and Samson are adulterous poets whose ill-advised romances (with Bathsheba and Delilah, respectively) lead to some big problems.

In the third verse of his 1984 studio version, Cohen grapples with the question of spirituality. When he’s accused of taking the Lord’s name in vain, Cohen responds, hilariously, “What’s it to ya?” He insists there’s “a blaze of light in every word”—every perception of the divine, perhaps—and declares there to be no difference between “the holy or the broken Hallelujah.” Both have value.

“I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world,” Cohen once said. “The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

 

Amazingly, Cohen's original "Hallelujah" pales in comparison to Velvet Underground founder John Cale’s five-verse rendition for the 1991 Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan. Cale had seen Cohen perform the song live, and when he asked the Canadian singer-songwriter to fax over the lyrics, he received 15 pages. “I went through and just picked out the cheeky verses,” Cale said.

Cale’s pared down piano-and-vocals arrangement inspired Jeff Buckley to record what is arguably the definitive “Hallelujah,” a haunting, seductive performance found on the late singer-songwriter’s one and only studio album, 1994’s Grace. Buckley’s death in 1997 only heightened the power of his recording, and within a few years, “Hallelujah” was everywhere. Cale’s version turned up in the 2001 animated film Shrek, and the soundtrack features an equally gorgeous version by Rufus Wainwright.

In 2009, after the song appeared in Zack Snyder's Watchmen, Cohen agreed with a critic who called for a moratorium on covers. “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told The Guardian. “But too many people sing it.”

Except “Hallelujah” is a song that urges everyone to sing. That’s kind of the point. The title is from a compound Hebrew word comprising hallelu, to praise joyously, and yah, the name of god. As writer Alan Light explains in his 2013 book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah,” the word hallelujah was originally an imperative—a command to praise the Lord. In the Christian tradition, it’s less an imperative than an expression of joy: “Hallelujah!” Cohen seemingly plays on both meanings.

 

Cohen’s 1984 recording ends with a verse that begins, “I did my best / It wasn’t much.” It’s the humble shrug of a mortal man and the sly admission of an ambitious songwriter trying to capture the essence of humanity in a pop song. By the final lines, Cohen concedes “it all went wrong,” but promises to have nothing but gratitude and joy for everything he has experienced.

Putting aside all the biblical allusions and poetic language, “Hallelujah” is a pretty simple song about loving life despite—or because of—its harshness and disappointments. That message is even clearer in Cale’s five-verse rendition, the guidepost for all subsequent covers, which features the line, “Love is not a victory march.” Cale also adds in Cohen’s verse about sex, and how every breath can be a Hallelujah. Buckley, in particular, realized the carnal aspect of the song, calling his version “a Hallelujah to the orgasm.”

“Hallelujah” can be applied to virtually any situation. It’s great for weddings, funerals, TV talent shows, and cartoons about ogres. Although Cohen’s lyrics don’t exactly profess religious devotion, “Hallelujah” has become a popular Christmas song that’s sometimes rewritten with more pious lyrics. Agnostics and atheists can also find plenty to love about “Hallelujah.” It’s been covered more than 300 times because it’s a song for everyone.

When Cohen died on November 7, 2016, at the age of 82, renewed interest in “Hallelujah” vaulted Cohen's version of the song onto the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. Despite its decades of pop culture ubiquity, it took more than 30 years and Cohen's passing for “Hallelujah”—the very essence of which is about finding beauty amid immense sadness and resolving to move forward—to officially become a hit song.

“There’s no solution to this mess,” Cohen once said, describing the human comedy at the heart of “Hallelujah. “The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say 'Look, I don't understand a f***ing thing at all—Hallelujah! That's the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.”

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