Thursday, December 14, 2017, was a very busy day and one of the stories responsible for that was announced that morning as Disney and Fox officially closed a deal allowing Disney to own and take control of the majority of Fox’s assets. One of the driving forces behind the deal (if not the sole motivator from Disney’s perspective) was the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties that Marvel originally licensed to Fox decades ago. Disney and Marvel have long sought to regain control of these characters for film and television purposes. Fox didn’t seem willing to sell. So, Disney bought them.
In the few days since the announcement, people have essentially lost their minds. Yes, I’m excited at the prospects, too. I’m at least as excited as you are, I promise you. But many are getting way ahead of themselves with their expectations and even demands without taking the bigger picture into consideration or pausing for even one moment to consider the implications of the requests they’re making. So, here’s a list of things that should and should not be expected should the deal go through to the end. These are not guarantees. But they are educated guesses based on how the film industry and Marvel/Disney have done business in the past.
- You SHOULD expect . . . some repurposed villains.
Pretty much the only Marvel villain that Fox consistently presented effectively was Magneto. Doctor Doom never attained the level of status, power, regality, and presence that he has always deserved. Galactus was represented as a nebulous cloud. Juggernaut was a puny punchline who was taken out by Kitty Pryde. Even Mystique – who started out well enough – eventually betrayed her own principles in order to take center stage and make full use of Jennifer Lawrence’s brightening star power. Expect to see these villains at their best and brightest. People claim that Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has a “villain problem”. That’s not really the case as the villains aren’t the attraction, nor are they in the titles of the films, but many of Marvel’s best villains were also owned by Fox (or Sony). That’s no longer an issue.
- You SHOULD NOT expect . . . any X-Men to appear in the fourth Avengers film.
Obviously, I’m not working behind the scenes on any of these projects, so I’m not in the know in any way, but logic dictates that automatically assuming that any Fox characters will appear in 2019’s still-untitled Avengers film is quite presumptuous. For starters, that film is already shooting and the Fox deal is not yet finalized. It’s being challenged by many politicians as being dangerously close to a monopoly and we seemingly have some time before Disney is in the clear to begin using these characters. Besides that, however, cramming any of these characters into the final culmination of a storyline that has been running for eleven years (by that point) is hasty and narratively irresponsible. The fourth Avengers film is a conclusion. This Fox deal is a beginning. So many people harshly criticize Warner Brothers for impatiently rushing their DCEU and now those same people turn around and beg Marvel to do a similar thing with the Fox characters. It might happen, if Marvel suddenly values a quick buck over artistic integrity. But Marvel isn’t hurting for money and they’ve made so much of it by crafting a long-term plan and sticking to it. Yes, they inserted Spider-Man into Civil War but they apparently had more lead time on that to plan for it, as well as no issues working out the legalities of it. It’s always possible that somebody pops up in the fourth Avengers film, but I wouldn’t count on it and, if someone does appear, it will likely only be as a post-credits teaser.
- You SHOULD expect . . . more of what you like.
Despite many people’s irrational fears, Disney is not going to drastically alter what you’ve come to expect from these properties. People freaked out when Disney bought Marvel Comics and those fears amounted to nothing. Disney has owned Touchstone Pictures since its creation and has had no issues releasing R-rated films under that umbrella with great success. Disney has many different divisions and many different audiences and is only as successful as they are because they have always understood how to service them all. I can understand wondering if Deadpool would remain R-rated, as releasing an R-rated MCU film might be a little nerve-wracking if Disney and Marvel are afraid it might change audiences’ perception of the brand. But Disney CEO Bob Iger has already stated that Disney is open to the idea of allowing it to continue in that vein. They know what works. And so they’ll do what works.
- You SHOULD NOT expect . . . Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
Okay, so Jackman himself recently stated that he isn’t coming back to the character, regardless of the Disney-Fox deal, so that should put an end to speculation. But what should be understood is that, even if he wanted to come back, Marvel shouldn’t bring him back. Bringing Jackman (or any of the other actors who previously played Marvel characters in Fox films) back would be extremely confusing and would severely muddy the waters of the MCU. If Jackman were to pop up in an MCU film as Wolverine, that would automatically raise the question as to whether or not all of the previous X-Men films had then been absorbed into the MCU, as well. And, trust me, Marvel doesn’t want the burden of having to deal with the stories of those movies within their own carefully crafted continuity. Due to the nature of the character, only Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool could potentially work without resorting some sort of alternate universe explanation. And that is much too convoluted for general audiences to be worth the time or money.
- You SHOULD expect . . . more carefully constructed crossovers.
Marvel has done something that no one had ever done before them (and others have unsuccessfully tried to do after them) by crafting a far-reaching, cross-pollenating Cinematic Universe. It has been wildly successful both financially and critically. But as it’s continued, it’s become increasingly difficult to make the films (at least the so-called “mythology” episodes) accessible for those who haven’t seen the others. Captain America: Civil War, for example, required knowledge of not only the two previous Captain America films, but also the two previous Avengers films, the three Iron Man films, and even Ant-Man in order to have a full understanding of all of the moving parts. In the future, I would expect more crossovers of the Thor: Ragnarok sort – where only being aware of the guest character and not needing much information about their previous exploits – to be the norm following the fourth Avengers film and the Fox acquisition. Many are already crying for an Avengers vs. X-Men film. I’d say there’s a strong likelihood of that happening, but the narrative from the comic book series of the same name would be too complicated. Any film of this type would likely be more of a one-off story that doesn’t demand a thorough knowledge of umpteen other movies.
- You SHOULD NOT expect . . . a Fantastic Four movie anytime soon.
Fox did not do well by the Fantastic Four. Many don’t realize that the Fantastic Four is responsible for everything we have today in the realm of superheroes. If not for the resounding success of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four comic book back in 1961, Marvel would not have been launched. There would have been no Spider-Man, no Hulk, no Avengers, no Daredevil, and no X-Men. Captain America (created decades earlier by Kirby and Joe Simon) would not have been resurrected. And DC’s superhero comics would have likely become a fad and faded away. But for a while, now, the FF haven’t been considered “cool” enough by today’s audiences, lacking the edge of characters like Wolverine and Iron Man. Fox’s films did nothing to change people’s opinions. The first film performed well enough – and the second was a step in the right direction creatively – but the third film (which I look at here) was a disaster and Fox has completely damaged the property in the eyes of the general public. Marvel and Disney know this. We will unquestionably see the FF again, but Marvel will need to rebuild the FF’s reputation in the way that they’ve done for the Hulk after his poorly-received Ang Lee film. Marvel is just now building towards relaunching the FF’s comic after it has been MIA for a few years, now. It will take more time to do the same for the film versions.
- You SHOULD expect . . . it to be worth the wait.
For the first time since live action Marvel films have been in production, Marvel themselves has control over their entire library of characters (though Spider-Man is still shared with Sony, distribution rights for the Hulk are still at Universal, production rights for the Fantastic Four are still reportedly with Constantin, and nobody seems to really know what’s happening with Namor). The possibilities are endless. And none of it is as easy to do as one would think. There are both hardcore and general audiences to serve. Tough decisions need to be made regarding what stories are adapted and what changes need to be made for them to work. But Marvel has shown that they care about entertaining their fans and that that is their primary goal. They don’t need to focus on money first because they have learned that the money comes if they deliver the entertainment. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his crew are as excited about this as anyone and they want it all to be great. So just sit back, put entitlement aside, be patient, and – most of all – be reasonable with your expectations and let’s see what they serve up. Just be a fan! Excelsior!
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