Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige recently stated in an interview that he would like to see all of the Marvel Comics characters who are owned by other studios come back under the fold of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This could include characters like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and X-Men, who are currently owned by FOX and Sony. Marvel originally sold the rights to these characters back in the 90’s to stave off bankruptcy and have since reacquired many of them. In order for Disney and Marvel to get all of their characters back, they would either have to pay a substantial fee or hope that the current owners’ rights lapse. Such a move would ultimately come at the expense of consumers, however, which I will explain fully in this article. Since Marvel Studios and FOX are cranking out properties with reckless abandon, I believe that if all these characters were under one roof instead of three or four, that fans would end up suffering because one studio alone would be ill-equipped to handle the load. Before I get into my reasoning, listen to Feige’s interview with Perception co-founder with Jeremy Lasky. Perception is the company who creates Marvel’s nifty opening credits. Feige’s interview with them is below:
Would Star-Lord Exist?
But even in their failures there lies a truth that goes unspoken so long as FOX and Sony retain the rights to their respective properties. That truth is that Marvel having every one of their characters back is probably not in the best interest of the fans. If Marvel had X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four from the get-go, would the world even know Chris Pratt as Star-Lord? Would James Gunn even be relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? And most importantly, is this a trade you would want to make for a couple of stories we’ve already seen on the big screen, even if they were done in an iffy manner?
Marvel is currently churning out three films a year. This comes after the 10-year model releasing two films a year. Marvel may not be totally strapped for time or money, but there comes a point where movie studios say “enough is enough” on a number of projects they can greenlight at once. Nobody wants to have too much of their money tied up in a bubble, so that means decisions have to be made and those decisions come in the form of which movies see the light of day and which films are left on the backburner.
The thing about X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man is that all three of these properties would demand serious attention from Marvel Studios. Iron Man was chosen in some part because he was one of the biggest characters they hadn’t sold off. Granted, he was an original Avenger, but their options for characters were pretty limited at that time and Stark offered quite a bit in relation to financials, the size of his character in the Marvel multiverse, and as a way to cast a more mature actor to headline the franchise
I’m trying to find a world in which Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange get made if Marvel Studios had the rights to the Big Three (X-Men, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four). As it stands, FOX has made ten X-Men-related films. They made the original three, the First Class reboots, Deadpool and the Wolverine trilogy. Marvel have also stated they would not be making R-rated films, so we know Deadpool would’ve never seen the light of day, as well as Logan. Both movies cleaned up at the box office, even if they divided opinions among fans. Logan was the highest grossing of the Wolverine series and the fourth highest grossing X-Men movie, per Box Office Mojo. Deadpool is the ninth highest grossing comic book movie and the highest-ranking X-Men property, per Box Office Mojo. Clearly, FOX is making the right choices with these films.
Spider-Man is quite simply a cash-heavy ATM. As a superhero, he rakes in more money than any other franchise or did as late as 2015, per USA Today. So, with just X-Men and Spider-Man, Marvel would have two of the highest earning superhero franchises of all time. This all but negates the need for paltry teams like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man and Wasp. Perhaps they get made, but it doesn’t likely happen until Phase 4 or Phase 5 at the earliest. There is simply too much money to be made going another direction, even with the money those movies hauled in.
Fantastic Four & FOX
FOX may not be everyone’s favorite studio. They may have more misfires than hits, depending on who you ask, but they also have movies like Logan which are critically hailed, even if I didn’t find it to be my cup of tea. The movie sold, critics felt it was extraordinary, and everyone went home with a lot of money. Fantastic Four is really the one thing they can’t seem to get right.
While getting the rights back to X-Men seems like an impossibility, FOX has had massive problems getting the Fantastic Four off the ground. This has led some to believe that FOX may let the Fantastic Four rights lapse or that they may sell the characters back to Marvel. Simply stated, it’s believed that people will no longer see anything related to the Fantastic Four so long as FOX is involved with the project. I know one of those people, because I am one. It’s almost unbelievable how FOX can have Doctor Doom, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four and Galactus in their chamber and still misfire repeatedly.
Who knows why it’s Fantastic Four that FOX can’t get off the ground. Perhaps another angle is required of Marvel’s first family of heroes. It certainly has nothing to do with the characters, as they are beloved and some of the actors who’ve played them are raging successes. Way before Chris Evans was Captain America, he was Johnny Storm. FOX had good actors in those films, the scripts just didn’t deliver.
This is where the MCU shines. Their scripts are often poignant and powerful. The job the Russo Brothers have done with Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War is unimpeachable. Anthony and Joe Russo have earned every bit of their success with the Captain America films and James Gunn has stormed onto the scene with his Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. These aren’t just fun films, they’re well-written and thought out far in advance. It’s easy to see one of these two grabbing a project like Fantastic Four and delivering a raging hit, it’s what they do.
What About Marvel Television?
As it currently stands, Marvel Studios doesn’t have the greatest connection with their television wing. Packing in more characters for them to fight over seems like a less than appealing option. When Marvel first began Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was under the premise that everything was connected and it was all gonna be one big universe. Since then, we have only seen the show casually mention movie events with very loose tie-ins to the films. Marvel Television also has a fantastic group of characters on Netflix that don’t seem well connected to either the MCU or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s all disconnected.
The number of superhero movies, shows, and related projects has only increased in the last couple of years because companies have the ability to churn out these movies. They bought the rights off of Marvel at a time when Marvel did what they had to do to stay open. But these films don’t need to be under the MCU to be successful and it’s far better for fans if they remain separate from the MCU. It keeps FOX and Sony making films so they don’t lose the rights and that frees up Marvel to tell alternative stories that we may never have seen otherwise. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Better for Everyone
That’s precisely why it’s best that Marvel do not regain control of all their properties. The fact that fans have a choice of which type of film they want to see — mature versus family oriented — is a boon to consumers. I rate Deadpool as one of the best superhero movies I have ever seen and it would’ve never been made at Disney. At least not the version we know and love. The X-Men films tried something ambitious by merging two timelines and it didn’t quite hit the way they wanted, but Legion and The Gifted look to be fantastic television offerings and the cast of New Mutants is shaping up just perfectly.
There may come a time when Marvel is finally able to get everything back, but I will hold out hope that FOX is smart enough to realize they have no need to ever sell the X-Men back to Marvel Studios, regardless of the price. It’s an eternal cash cow and unlike the Fantastic Four, the comics sell too well for Marvel to kill off the mutants out of spite. There is no reason to sell and FOX execs likely understand this, which is why Disney and FOX refuse to even entertain the idea of sitting down with one another in a deal similar to the one struck with Sony. At one point, Feige even called it an “impossibility,” acknowledging that FOX is doing quite well with the products they have.
Life is just better when you have choices and right now it’s a glorious time to a comic book fan. Movies, books and television shows are popping up everywhere. There are options for every age range and every type of movie-goer. There truly is greatness in having myriad options. It’s totally understandable why Marvel Studios wants back all their characters, but there simply isn’t a need for that to happen right now.
Do you think Marvel Studios should get all of their characters back? Do you like what FOX is doing with the X-Men unvierse? Let me know in the comments below.
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