When Marvel Comics was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 90s, their salvation came from licensing their characters for use in movies, starting with New Line who took obscure hero ‘Blade’ and made a trilogy of hit films based on him. 20th Century Fox followed with the hit ‘X-Men’ series which is still going strong– in fact, better than ever after the studio diversified with the R-rated hits ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’. Fox decided to try again with a different Marvel property, the ‘Fantastic Four’. Unfortunately, the two ‘FF’ movies were only modest successes and the studio chose not to go ahead with a third. Instead, they waited until their rights were about to expire and cranked out the 2015 reboot, which had no connection to their first two. Though this movie flopped and the studio once again abandoned plans for sequels, the fact that they made and released it was good enough for them to retain the rights to the characters.
This is bad news for fans who want to see the FF introduced as part of Marvel Studios’ Cinematic Universe alongside the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and all related characters. Even Spider-Man is now part of the MCU thanks to a compromise made with Sony who licensed the character back in the early 2000s. But for the time being, it appears that the ‘X-Men’ and ‘Fantastic Four’ concepts will remain at Fox.
But one person is quite confident that the day will come when those characters will actually inhabit the MCU– their co-creator Stan Lee.
“Sooner or later, they’re going to get the rights back to all our characters. They’re working on it, and they’re still making X-Men movies and stuff. Don’t worry about it. You’ll get more Marvel superheroes than you’ll have time to look at in the next few years.”
Is he correct or is that just wishful thinking? It would seem that after the dismal failure of the 2015 ‘FF’, that Fox would simply allow Marvel to reclaim control of the property, but the latest word is that they may take a chance on a juvenile film focusing on Franklin and Valeria Richards, the children of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. That would buy Fox a few years worth of time during which hopefully the memory of the 2015 flop would fade from memory.
But it would take a string of dreadful flops to sink the ‘X-Men’ brand. Sure there have been ups and downs over the years, but the series manages to course correct with the proper care.
Perhaps a better question is, should Marvel (and its fans) even want the rights to these characters? ‘X-Men’ was the second major superhero film franchise of the modern era, existing years before ‘Iron Man’ et. al. There have been ten movies over seventeen years. They’re kind of already their own institution. IF either side wanted to merge these continuities, they’d essentially have to scrap everything and start from scratch. While it might be neat to have them interact with the Marvel characters, would it really be that beneficial?
It doesn’t seem that Fox has any intention of slowing down. There are three mutant movies due in theaters next year, ‘Deadpool 2’, ‘X-Men: New Mutants’ and ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’, plus a third ‘Deadpool’, ‘X-Force’ and ‘Gambit’ in the planning stages.
While there have been fewer ‘Fantastic Four’ movies, audiences haven’t forgotten them. Part of the reason that the 2015 film did so poorly (in addition to being a mess) was that people still remembered the first two and failed to realize that this was a complete do-over. Once again, who would it really serve (other than die-hard fanboys) to go to the effort of trying to wedge these two together?
Do you want to see the ‘X-Men’ and ‘Fantastic Four’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Or are these properties just fine staying separate?