First, Spider-Man. Soon, the Fantastic Four. And eventually, the X-Men. One by one, the various Sony and 20th Century Foxes of the world are coming to the conclusion that “if you can’t beat ‘em, at least enter into a shared-revenue licensing deal with ‘em.” The rival studios are all slowly realizing that not only can they just not do these stories as well as Marvel, but the epic nature of the films is damned expensive to produce. The upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse flick is make-or-break. And realistically, even if it DOES make money, is it worth it to the studio? Or is the smart move to just go halfsies with the big boys and reap all of the profit with zero risk?
But when that day comes, Marvel has a bit of a problem on its hands: how to explain all of these mutants suddenly appearing in the same universe that has slowly expanded from one guy in a suit of mechanized armor into, well…Age of Ultron?
Fear not, Marvel. I’ve got you covered. Here’s the scene that makes the transition, and I don’t even want any money. I just want a screenwriting credit. Deal? Good.
INT: AN UPSCALE RESTAURANT IN MANHATTAN
TONY STARK is already seated as his friend DR. BRUCE BANNER slides into the seat opposite him. The contrast is painfully obvious. TONY is dressed in a $3000 sharkskin suit. BANNER wears what looks like an un-pressed corduroy blazer over a white cotton shirt, no tie.
BANNER: Impressive. Really, I can never get a table anywhere in this town.
TONY: (Checking the wine list, distracted) Hmm? Oh. Yeah, no problem.
BANNER: So, what is the problem?
TONY: Did I say there was a problem?
BANNER: I don’t hear from you in like ten weeks and all of a sudden you’re flying me here to New York. That’s…forgive me for sounding paranoid, but I know you.
TONY: Can’t I simply have a friend over for dinner?
BANNER: (Picking up a menu) You fly all your friends halfway across the world for steaks?
TONY: It’s Wagyu. And I don’t have a lot of friends.
BANNER: Excellent point.
A BEAT as the two regard each other, neither speaking.
TONY: God, you know me so well. Okay, I wanted to get your take on something.
BANNER: There it is.
TONY: You got me. So, here’s the thing—
BANNER: Wait, so, is this work stuff? We’re not at your place. I’m guessing that’s by design. Where’s the rest of the team? Is this SHIELD?
TONY: It’s not like that. I just, I need someone smart to run this by.
BANNER: What about Richards? Didn’t they move into the Baxter Building? That’s right up the street.
TONY: Okay, first, Reed creeps me out a little bit. He’s…arrogant.
BANNER: Oh, he’s arrogant?
TONY: Plus, all that stretchy stuff. I can’t help but hear “Rubber Band Man” in my head every time he opens his mouth. But no, he’s not a geneticist, and—
BANNER: Neither am I. But you know that.
TONY: Would you just shut up for a second? Please. This has been…it’s been driving me nuts.
BANNER: Okay. Sorry. Not sure what I can offer, but I’m here now, so go ahead. Lay it on me.
TONY: Thank you. Seriously, because—okay. Anything strike you as odd about the spider kid?
BANNER: You mean Spider-Man?
TONY: Man? Really? He won’t even shave for another three years. That’s what he’s calling himself?
BANNER: That’s what the press is calling him.
TONY: We’ve gotta get ahead of that, nip it in the bud. But what do you know about him?
BANNER: I hear he’s smart. And, ability-wise, I understand he’s strong. Sticks to walls? Shoots webs?
TONY: He’s incredibly smart. He made those shooters, did you know that? Came up with his own formula. I’m going to hire him, he’ll be an asset to Stark Industries. But yeah, the crawling stuff. Strength, too. He’s not as strong as Thor, or…you know, Jolly Green Giant…but he’s way past normal human parameters.
BANNER: And so far he’s using these abilities for good. So…what’s the issue?
TONY: The issue is “how?” “Why?” Where did this all come from? Supposedly he got bitten by a magic spider or something.
BANNER: Magic spider?
TONY: I don’t know, like radioactive or genetically enhanced. But see, that’s what got me thinking.
BANNER: Go on.
TONY: What if he already had these…abilities. What if he were sort of waiting to manifest. And then, bam! Something happens. Maybe a spider bite. And sure, let’s say it’s radioactive or bears some sort of unknown toxin. Suppose his body’s way of responding to the threat is to mimic the attacker?
BANNER: So you’re saying we could’ve had the Sensational Snake-Man? Rat-Boy?
TONY: Yeah! Maybe! In other words, the bite just released what was already there. Inside. Waiting.
BANNER: I could see that. So…
TONY: So, why? What’s so special about this kid? What caused his body to do that? Everyone else that runs in our little circle, there’s a perfectly rational explanation. I built a suit. You altered your body’s chemistry with questionable gamma radiation exposure.
BANNER: I’d say it was more than questionable. So, take this to its logical conclusion: a couple of assassins, an AI that we created, a eugenics experiment gone right, and an extraterrestrial superman…sure, okay. But the twins were, what…some HYDRA experiment?
TONY: Ah, now we’re getting there. What if they weren’t? I mean, what if HYDRA twisted them a bit, poked ‘em, prodded them. The Avengers started an arms race. Now the bad guys need bigger guns. Granted. But what if the same thing happened to those two? The same thing that this Parker kid experienced when he got bitten or stabbed or whatever really happened?
BANNER: You’re saying that they were…predisposed? That all they needed was a trigger, some sort of trauma? To release their abilities?
TONY Exactly. I heard about a girl in Chicago who just started walking through things, walls, the ceiling, like a ghost. Roughly the same age as Spider-Boy.
TONY: Whatever. So take it further…what if there are more? What if we’re seeing something unprecedented? What if we’re witnessing the dawn of a new species?
BANNER: Whoa, hang on…like evolution? That happens over millions of years, and—
TONY: Climate change. Climate change happens. Historically, geologically, we know that it goes in waves. Millions of years of change, from swamps to ice age and back.
TONY: Human behavior has accelerated it. Pushed the clock forward.
BANNER: And you think we’re doing the same thing with evolution. Huh.
TONY: Think about all the above-ground nuclear testing we’ve done, as a species, since World War Two. All the genetically-modified crops. Growth hormones in the food. Pesticides. All of that has to have a cumulative effect, right? What if this is it?
BANNER: Mutations. You’re saying that humanity has started a chain-reaction of mutations, altering our very DNA. That’s a lot to take in.
TONY: But it’s possible.
BANNER: Well, it’s certainly not impossible.
TONY: Bruce, maybe that’s why we’re here. To help, I don’t know, usher in a new age. Or, you know…keep things from getting crazy.
BANNER: Crazier than dropping cities out of the sky? Or alien invasions?
TONY: You know what I mean.
BANNER: Huh. It’s noble to want to keep a lid on the bad stuff, Tony, but we’re all just tired. And it hasn’t exactly worked the way we wanted it to every time. I figured you’d be tired, too. Done with the police bit.
TONY: Look, I don’t want any more fighting. But I’m also tired of getting caught with my pants down.
ANOTHER BEAT as the pair look at their hands and fidget wordlessly.
BONUS AFTER-CREDITS SCENE!!
FADE IN on TONY STARK sitting in a darkened office. It isn’t his; it’s an old, opulent-looking office straight out of Cambridge (actually, Oxford.)
We HEAR a door open, and light slashes across TONY as he raises a hand to shield his eyes. Suddenly the LIGHTS come on. From OFF-SCREEN we HEAR…
PROFESSOR X: What the devil are you doing? How did you get in here?
TONY: (standing) Sorry, didn’t mean to freak you out. Apologies. I just didn’t want a lot of attention.
PROFESSOR X wheels his chair into frame.
PROFESSOR X: Tony Stark! I recognize you! To what do I owe the pleasure?
TONY: I have a proposition for you.
PROFESSOR X: Yes. Yes, I imagine you do.