Ever since the rumors (and now the fact) of the pending merger between Disney and 21st Century Fox entered the public consciousness back in November, fans and commentators alike have been trying to parse what this all means for the myriad franchises that Fox either owns outright or to which they currently hold the rights. Certainly, a lot of ink has been devoted over the last two months to the prospect of the Fantastic Four returning to Marvel and the presumed fate of the ‘X-Men’ films. But what sometimes gets lost in those conversations is the implications of the merger for specific projects.
Case in point, it was announced over the summer that ‘Fargo’ and ‘Legion’ showrunner Noah Hawley was in the process of developing a Doctor Doom movie for Fox. Now, we should note that this is a character that Fox has twice tried and failed to translate to the screen (to say nothing of their wildly uneven handling of ‘Fantastic Four’ films generally). With all that in mind, and acknowledging that Hawley may well turn in a film worthy of the Latverian tyrant, it’s likely that the project existed at least in part as a way to prevent the ‘Fantastic Four’ rights from reverting to Marvel Studios (which would happen if Fox went a specified amount of time without a ‘Fantastic Four’ film in development). Even setting aside the prospect of the Four being integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that motive would disappear the minute the rival studios merged.
So just what is going on with ‘Doom’? At a recent Television Critics Association panel, Hawley took the opportunity to answer exactly that question:
“I haven’t had a single conversation yet about ‘Doom’ in the context of the merger. On some level, we’re still looking at a period of time – probably a year, at the least – for this whole thing to go through. Who knows what, corporately, what conversations will be had, but certainly, until it goes through, it’s not a legal thing. I don’t know. I’ve been waiting for the phone to ring to see if anyone is gonna have an opinion. Otherwise it’s just business as usual for me.”
So for all intents and purposes, ‘Doom’ will be on the slate until it isn’t. That’s sort of a non-answer, but clearly the man developing the project has no more certainty on the matter than we do. These are the sorts of questions that are going to have to be sorted out sooner rather than later, assuming the merger passes regulatory muster. After all, it would be one thing to can a ‘Fantastic Four’ spinoff that is still in the early stages of development. After all, Fox has never quite been able to get that property off the ground. But the ‘X-Men’ on the other hand? That series has been going for nearly twenty years, and any changes to the studio’s ambitious slate of ‘X-Men’ films would affect years of release schedules.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on the Fox/Disney merger, including the implications for both studios’ release slates, as it becomes available.