The big news for the past week has been about Disney in talks with 21st Century Fox to buy a bulk of its film studios and its intellectual properties. While the initial news had it that talks have stopped the possibility remains that both parties will resume negotiations. What is driving Disney’s desire to expand its entertainment empire is the need to bolster its upcoming streaming service when it is available in 2019. The film studio 20th Century Fox has a huge film library with many viable franchises such as the Alien films, Avatar, and Planet of the Apes. But more importantly, Fox still has the rights to the original Star Wars films and the missing pieces in Disney’s Marvel films: the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
The following I wrote back in September 23, 2017 for another site that is going defunct soon. It’s related to the current situation and illustrates how wildly things have changed from just a few weeks ago. I decided to repost it here and will add some final thoughts afterwards.
What rankles many fans of Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is that two of Marvel Comics’ top properties, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are not part of it.
The obvious reason for this is because the film rights for both properties are being held by 20th Century Fox, who is determined to hold onto them. Long before The Walt Disney Company brought Marvel Comics, the comic book company sold the film rights of its characters to many film studios, including Fox. Over the years, even before the success of the MCU, Marvel Studios sought to regain the rights to its characters. For the most part they have succeeded and the top prize for the studio was getting to share the film rights to Marvel’s top character, Spider-Man.
But the only major hold outs were the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Fox has had great success with their X-Men films even though some of them were reviled by fans and critics for not being faithful to the source material and being downright terrible. Meanwhile, their efforts with the Fantastic Four never took off. The most recent failure being the DOA 2015 reboot that buried director Josh Trank’s career.
Given the poor track record with their Fantastic Four films, one has to wonder why Fox would want to continue making them. Despite the negative reaction from their reboot, the film studio is still trying to develop more films based on the superhero team and even spinoffs featuring Dr. Doom and the children of Reed and Sue Richards. Naturally the reaction to the news is one of despair and anger. Most fans see that the Fantastic Four would fit naturally into the MCU and their villains are some of Marvel’s greatest. Marvel Studios cannot use Galactus in their films because he is a Fantastic Four villain, the same thing goes for Magneto. While the X-Men films did a terrific job with their presentation of Magneto the same cannot be said for Dr. Doom and Galactus. In fact, in his onscreen debut, Galactus was just a giant space cloud!
There were rumors that after the reboot debacle, Fox was ready to sell back the rights to Disney/Marvel but a snag in negotiations derailed that idea. Many were hopeful that after Marvel allowed Fox to start making TV shows based on the X-Men properties that perhaps the deal was that the Fantastic Four would go back to Marvel. But that does not appear to be the case.
Right now, there are only vague allusions to Marvel being allowed to use the two properties but in far off terms. One curious thing is that Marvel Studios still has not announced what the Phase 4 MCU films will be. This gives hope that maybe the Fantastic Four could make a splashy debut. It is possible; when Spider-Man joined the MCU it was a surprise.
What it took for Spider-Man to join the MCU was the failure of his recent films and the shaky status of Sony Pictures. Fox does not have the same financial problems of Sony, so they can afford to weather out the storm of bad films until they strike gold. This almost happened with their attempt to reboot Daredevil, but the rights lapsed and Marvel regained him. From there, Marvel saw great success with their Netflix version of Daredevil. Perhaps Fox executives feel that they can find the right formula and are more patient. At that rate, it will be quite some time before Marvel Studios regains the Fantastic Four. That and an insane amount of money.
With the X-Men films doing so well, it is ridiculous to think that Fox would ever relinquish the rights to Marvel. For this to happen, fans would have to vigorously boycott all X-Men-related films and TV shows. The property has to be seen as too unprofitable for Fox to want to keep, but this scenario may not happen. Look at what is going on with the Fantastic Four, their films are poorly received and the property is not as popular as the X-Men yet Fox still won’t let them go.
So, is it just a pipe dream? Are the Fantastic Four and X-Men doomed to never join the MCU? Well, it can happen but be prepared to wait and protest.
It turned out that the idea of these properties joining the MCU is not necessarily a pipe dream for fans. Things may be quiet now, but do not be surprised when the Fox sale or some variant of it is announced anytime between now to next year’s Comic-Con to beyond.
While we comic book geeks are just giddy over the idea of Wolverine popping up in an Avengers film or the Human Torch and Spidey together onscreen trading barbs, some are rightly sounding a cautionary note. The idea of Disney growing even more as an entertainment behemoth is disconcerting when you consider how much power and influence the company will have. To many critics, the company already has too much power right now. Will this cause other film companies to merge and become mega studios just to compete? How will that affect prices for tickets, merchandising and everything else since there will be less competition? Will this create more limits and strangle creativity and independent thought? What about employment opportunities in the industry? There are many hard questions that must be addressed. Thankfully, by law, Disney is not allowed to buy the Fox network since they already own ABC. Plus, Fox still wants to retain its news and sports divisions in order to concentrate on them. Also, Disney will likely come under intense federal scrutiny since this brings the company close to becoming a monopoly.
All this could be some kind of ploy for all we know. Perhaps in the end, Disney may just buy the rights to their errant Marvel properties and call it a day. Honestly, what will Disney do with the R-rated Alien franchise? They could sell it and other properties to another studio and recoup the costs. All this is just speculation, but just anticipating a properly done FF or recasting the X-Men is exciting. Stay tuned…
Thinking more about the potential Disney/Fox deal and I’m actually starting to think that it’s not all that good an idea. Disney are becoming far too powerful as it is and the deal would give them a larger monopoly of the entertainment industry which really and fairly, should thrive on competition.
I certainly feel that returning the Fantastic Four rights to Marvel could be a good thing (then again there are talks of a ‘Doom’ movie, which if it were ‘R’ rated has a lot of potential) but Fox’s X-Men stuff has, at least in my opinion, been more good than not-so-good (there’s little chance Logan and Deadpool would happen under Disney).
So, there are pluses but some questionable aspects as well which your post details brilliantly.
Disney may not be allowed by to the government to purchase most of Fox even in this day and age. It would make the company too powerful in the entertainment industry, and the excuse that they want to bolster their media library for their coming streaming service does not hold weight.
Disney has a substantial film/TV library as it is and own the hottest properties like Marvel and Star Wars. Just the idea of a live-action Star Wars TV show will get throngs of subscribers just like with the flawed CBS AllAccess did with Star Trek: Discovery.
Then there are other properties Disney can exploit like Pirates of the Caribbean and their princesses.
But getting the rights for X-Men and FF is a certainly attainable though as you bring up Fox did things with the properties that Disney would never do. Not having access to all their Marvel characters forced Disney and Marvel Studios to develop lesser known properties to great success. The best example is Guardians of the Galaxy. Would the Guardians have had a chance at their own film if Disney owned the X-Men film rights? Not likely. The same goes with R-rated versions of Logan and Deadpool. Still, it would be interesting to see what Disney will do with the X-Men and FF.
This would be a good deal if it happens I think, especially with the success of Spider-Man Homecoming ect. I expect we will see the X-Men and Fantastic Four return to the MCU at some point, I hope so 🙂
The best thing about this potential deal is getting X-Men and the FF. The X-Men films have largely run their course (spinoff films like Deadpool and Logan aside) and it would be terrific to see the mutants truly unleashed.
The hurdle will be integrating them into the MCU, and the best option would have them be new arrivals in the scene who are few and remained hidden during most of the MCU events.
As for the FF, well anything Disney/Marvel Studios does will be better than the abominations Fox has done so far.
I agree, Deadpool and Logan films aside, that would be a good way to reintroduce the X-Men and Fantastic Four back into the fold of the MCU. Perhaps after Avengers Infinity War there will be a reboot / universe restructuring that will make this more plausible story wise maybe? One thing’s for sure, it can only be a positive move and I certainly hope it happens.