Who needs the failed Fantastic Four when you have access to the entire X-Men library of Marvel Comics stories and characters? That’s the position Twentieth Century Fox is in and the answer is Marvel Studios does! That reality, where Marvel very much desires access to many of the alien races and other-worldly characters that Fox currently holds the license to came to a head in 2012 when Fox’s hold over the Daredevil property was coming to an end. Marvel reportedly attempted to work out a deal that would allow Fox to keep Daredevil in exchange for the rights for Marvel to use Fantastic Four characters Silver Surfer and Galactus. It was a no-go.
Since then, Marvel has made efforts to push the Fantastic Four out of the spotlight in every possible way. Fantastic Four is not allowed to be licensed out, their two comic series no longer exist, posters and art were taken down inside of Marvel HQ, and they’ve even been removed from the latest official Marvel Encyclopedias. Any relationship between Fox and Marvel that previously saw Fox’s Marvel-branded movies promoted on Marvel.com, and Marvel employees on the sets of X-Men movies was seemingly in the pits. That all changed recently though.
Even though Fox holds the live-action rights to the Fantastic Four and X-Men libraries, they still included Marvel Entertainment in their dealings for the rights to make a pair of live-action X-Men TV series. Given the abysmal failure that was Josh Trank and Simon Kinberg’s Fantastic Four reboot this summer, speculation pointed to the obvious: Marvel and Fox could feasibly engage in a partnership that would allow Fox the ability to make X-Men TV shows and Marvel could finally make use of the Fantastic Four property. There was one big report that made headlines saying exactly that had happened after Marvel and Fox announced a partnership for Legion and Hellfire (around the same time Marvel added new release dates in 2020 no less) but it was denied on all fronts.
Meanwhile, producer Simon Kinberg – who’s the boss and planner of Fox’s own Marvel Cinematic Universe – continued to say that Fox is still interested in the Fantastic Four characters and that he’s still planning away at some sort of Fantastic Four sequel. We posed the question of why since in the grand scheme of things, the Fantastic Four restricted to a universe of characters that Fox has the rights to can never be as interesting or successful as the Fantastic Four as they would exist in the actual Marvel-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the likes of Reed Richards can interact with Tony Stark, Black Panther, etc. And no one wants to see another rushed reboot, so that’s not even an option for Fox.
Fox now sits in a very similar position to that of Sony Pictures with the Spider-Man franchise. After The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to meet its exceedingly high expectations critically and financially in Sony’s rushed effort to create a little movie universe with spinoffs of their own, and after leaked Sony emails revealed that they had been in talks with Marvel over sharing Spider-Man, they fell into a trap. Continue to make Spider-Man in isolation, or work with Marvel to let him exist in a world with other superheroes as he does in Marvel Comics. They chose the latter and now Spider-Man is going to become a face of the MCU beginning next year in Captain America: Civil War.
The Fantastic Four absolutely need something similar since the brand has been systematically crushed. Fox will never have Marvel’s backing on future Fantastic Four movies or spinoffs so the only way FF movies reach “event” status is by working with Marvel, to let those characters exist in the larger, established universe, and to have Marvel start to push merchandise, comics, and tie-ins once again. All of this is especially interesting now since yesterday it was revealed that Fantastic Four 2 no longer has a release date.
Fox shifted dates for several movies according to Box Office Mojo, and Fantastic Four 2 is not sitting in its prematurely announced June 9, 2017 date.
Remember Fantastic Four 2's release date? pic.twitter.com/sTScSonGf8— Rob Keyes (@rob_keyes) November 24, 2015
Paramount’s World War Z 2 now has that weekend date all to itself where it would have beaten the Fantastic Four followup anyway, and the following weekend, Fox has the much more exciting and worthy sequel in Kingsman 2 scheduled for release.
What Does It Mean?
Fox is back to the drawing board with the Fantastic Four, but to assume they’ve not been having meetings about what to do with the property since that disastrous opening weekend would be crazy. They have to do something since just sitting on the rights until they expire would be a wasted opportunity, financially speaking. At least now we know for certain, even if it was expected, that there’s zero chance of another Fantastic Four movie entering production next year for release in 2017.
And if Fox was in negotiations with Marvel, is it possible that the Fantastic Four never came up? Unlikely. Seeing the two Fox X-Men TV shows announced on Marvel.com and Marvel TV people involved with them is a big step, and marks the beginning of a new relationship between Fox and Marvel.
The tricky element and the biggest obstacle to any movie-side sharing of assets though – in this case, the license to characters and aliens – is that it’s not just about the Fantastic Four and their arch-nemesis in Doctor Doom. Both studios have a vested interestes in the supporting libraries. We have a feeling Marvel Studios would rather have the Shi’ar Empire, Skrulls, Badoon, Silver Surfer, and Galactus more than the actual Fantastic Four heroes at this point in time, but Fox may want some of those too if they’re planning to take the X-Men franchise cosmic after X-Men: Apocalypse.
As we learned with Spider-Man, anything is possible, especially when there’s money to be made. The Fantastic Four are too tarnished to even consider including in future X-Men movies so Fox’s only way out might be to work with Marvel so they can keep the rights, while having a fan-approved way to re-rebooting them with a brighter future. Fox is already relaunching the X-Men universe and Marvel needs new characters after Phase 3. The solution is right there.
But if Fantastic Four is going to eventually get a direct sequel at Fox, Tommy Wiseau is ready to direct.
Deadpool opens in theaters February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; Fantastic Four 2 on June 9, 2017; and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.
Source: Box Office Mojo