The Eternals

At long last, 21st Century Fox and its assets, including 20th Century Fox, belong to Disney.  Unfortunately, a merger of this magnitude is messy, and on Wednesday, when the buyout was sealed, industry trade publications lit up with news of multiple Fox executives being let go and entire divisions shut down.  So while fans are eager to see what Disney can do with some of the intellectual properties that it has now acquired, it’s going to be some time before this much larger bloodbath washes away and the House of Mouse can even get to that part.

Some of Fox’s IPs that have shifted to Disney include ‘Alien’, ‘Predator’ and ‘Avatar’, but the real prizes are the film rights to the ‘X-Men’ and ‘Fantastic Four’.  Fans are salivating to see what the hit factory Marvel Studios can do with these two brands once they are integrated into the record-breaking Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Get comfy.

Those expecting Wolverine and The Thing to pop up in an ‘Avengers: Endgame’ post-credits stinger are in for a disappointment.  According to experts, the absolute earliest that a mutant or irradiated rock monster might appear onscreen under Disney’s banner is 2021 and that’s a conservative estimate.

For starters, there are the executives that are already contractually bound to the ‘X-Men’ brand.  (The ‘Fantastic Four’ franchise has been far less active and probably a bit easier to sort out.)  For instance, producer Lauren Schuler Donner, who has been attached since the first ‘X-Men’ movie in 2000, has a contract that gives her a credit– and more importantly a paycheck– as executive producer on any ‘X-Men’ movie, whether she actually works on it or not.  The Hollywood Reporter stated that another longtime producer and ‘Dark Phoenix’ director Simon Kinberg may have a similar contingency in place.  So Disney needs to figure out if they want to keep them around, if there is a way to buy them out, or if it wants to keep paying them, even if they don’t do anything.  It’s nearly impossible to imagine they’d go with the last option.

Beyond the legal issues that look as convoluted as the ‘X-Men’ films’ timeline, there is the fact that the Fox buyout was just finalized on Wednesday.  Up to that point, it was not a done deal, and Disney and its subsidiaries, including Marvel Studios, had to carry on with business as usual, on the off-chance that this deal did NOT go through.

For story reasons, the only Marvel movie revealed to be arriving after ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (co-produced with Sony).  However, it is known that a few other movies are in the works, including ‘Black Widow’, directed by Cate Shortland, which is expected to begin filming this year and might arrive in theaters on May 1, 2020.  Chloé Zhao is attached to direct, ‘The Eternals’, based on characters created by Jack Kirby.  This film is also expected to begin filming this year, to potentially arrive next year.  Marvel has also fast-tracked ‘Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu’, to be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, but that is still in pre-production.

On top of that, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’ and sequels to ‘Doctor Strange’, and ‘Black Panther’ are known to be on their way, with a fourth ‘Thor’ also looking likely.  (It would also be safe to assume that there will be a third ‘Spider-Man’, more ‘Avengers’ in some form, and a ‘Captain Marvel 2’.)

As it stands, Marvel has two movies locked in for 2020, and three for 2021.  Obviously, that could change, but considering the projects in the pipeline, shoehorning in an ‘X-Men’ or ‘Fantastic Four’ feature in the next three years looks unlikely.