In years past, the world of Marvel Comics-based films seemed worlds apart from itself. 20th Century Fox clung tightly to their popular X-Men franchise (including Deadpool), while Sony had its Spider-Man corner of the Marvel world, and Namor and Man-Thing floated out in film limbo at Universal and Lionsgate respectively. Everything began to change, though, when Sony made a deal with Disney which allowed Spidey to swing into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One little crack in the floodgates does not a flood make, but eroding the barriers between studios is a major step in reuniting the disparate elements of the MCU. If two major studios can work together (for the sake of money, of course), what’s to say other favorite heroes from Marvel’s comic book stable can’t coexist in the film world? When rumors began to circulate about Fox’s willingness to open their characters up for use in the MCU, it pushed hope (if skeptical hope) for a reconciliation into the stratosphere.
Naturally, any deals wouldn’t be resolved until well in the future, if at all, but there are a lot of blank release dates in Phase 4 of the MCU. At the same time, assuming things go well in the board room, Fox and Sony’s involvement with Disney/Marvel will change everything in the superhero shared universe. A Fox-Disney collaboration would mean some major changes in the MCU. Here's a look at things that would come, should it happen.
The Fantastic Four Return to Their Roots
Where things stand:
Let's face it, a quality Fantastic Four film simply doesn't exist. Every attempt to adapt Marvel’s First Family has met with underwhelming results at best. At worst, the film became a cinematic Titanic – although rumor has it Josh Trank’s director’s cut far exceeds its theatrical release. At the same time, putting the superhero squad on screen does take a bit of effort.
Tagging the right actors, creating a functional and enjoyable Mr. Fantastic, a well-rounded Sue Richards, and balancing the camp and cool quotients for the Thing and Johnny Storm is a major undertaking. It’s no wonder that even the arguably preferable 2005 adaption earned (at best) a lukewarm reception from fans and critics alike.
As things are, the Fantastic Four property is currently all but dead in the water. With the family’s flagging comic book temporarily discontinued and the reboots and sequels off the table, the chances of a successful return for the Invisible Woman and family rest somewhere between unlikely and ain't-gonna-happen. Unless…
What could happen:
Despite the idle chatter about upcoming reboots and revamps, the best hope for Marvel’s First Family is an in-house return. Thus far, Marvel Studios' casting choices have been spot on for the most part. The studio’s choices in story arc creation, in addition to their ability to snag writers and directors who add their own seasoning to the stew (at least along company lines), helped the MCU become the powerhouse it is today.
The key to making things right for the Fantastic Four lies with Marvel Studios' ability to channel their comic book magic into cinema gold. An appropriately adventurous MCU debut, one that’s well cast and true to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original vision (re-imagining hasn’t set well with audiences thus far), could put the team back on the map. With a few choice cameos – say from the Hulk, Black Widow, Cap, Scarlet Witch, and/or Spider-Man — the team should finally receive the worthy studio outing they deserve.
In addition, they now have the full breadth of Marvel characters at their behest. Fantastic Four meets the Avengers? Done. Trouble with Victor Von Doom? Reed Richards and the Guardians of the Galaxy are on the way. Galactus is threatening the cosmos as we know it (as per usual)? Assemble the entire Marvel superhero posse. Wait, but what about the X-Men? Oh yeah…
Where things stand:
Fox's X-Men franchise certainly has done brisk business in spite of Marvel's alleged disenfranchisement. Although the rebooted First Class-flagship foundered a bit after X-Men: Apocalypse's middling box office, the franchise sallies forth. Plus, the little-Deadpool-that-could destroyed all expectations for R-rated superhero films and launched a new pop-cultural phenomenon.
Still, Fox's answer to Kevin Feige, Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer, have taken a lot of guff for their adaptions and tweaking of the X-Men comic book mythos – despite the fact that comic book fans have Singer to thank for kick-starting the modern superhero craze. The studio’s branch of Marvel has suffered primarily due to lack of a coherent whole. In addition, the X-team’s de-emphasis in the sequential art realm has been detrimental to the popular mutant band. A company divided is never at its best.
As is the case with two popular on-again off-again X-characters, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the rift between studios has taken its toll on the X-Men. Aside from making Wanda and Pietro Maximoff feel more whole (and maybe getting their father, Magneto, and their mutant status back), rumblings of a move towards inter-company unity would mean a big shift in the overall coherence and interconnectedness of Marvel's mutant squad. Not to mention the team up and crossover potential for the MCU.
What could happen:
If the X-Men fall under the MCU's banner again, there’s no end of possibilities. For starters, Marvel would likely put more gusto into their once-best-selling X-Men comic books (even though they still have a full run of titles), to the delight of fans who've felt mutant-slighted. The next major move would be integrating the X-Men into the overall MCU. Although The Avengers proved extremely successful without several of their members, the team as a whole would only benefit from full inclusiveness (more on that later).
As a part of the overall shared universe, the X-Men could once again interact with – and battle – their inter-company cohorts like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. The MCU would also be a great place to delve into new projects, such as expanding the New Mutants, opening up X-Factor or Excalibur, and bringing the Inhumans further into the fold (maybe even Alpha Flight, eh). Time-traveling and reality-bending mutants like Cable, Bishop, Jean Grey, and Wanda Maximoff could also crisscross time and space, bringing new realms of possibility for the X-Men and the overall MCU.
Most of all, imagine the fun Marvel could have if Wolverine joins the Avengers (as he did in the comics). And speaking of which...
Refilling the Avengers’ Ranks
Where things stand:
Despite the X-Men launching the shared universe phenomenon, The Avengers are without a doubt the team to beat in the cinematic realm. What Justice League and the X-Men both aspire to, Marvel's superhero-collaboration has achieved. Each subsequent Avengers film, despite some hiccups during Age of Ultron, has continued their successful run. However, after the major schism of Captain America: Civil War, the team is left licking their wounds.
Of course, the only thing Disney and Marvel are lapping up right now is the spillover from the gravy train. The super-team is poised to assemble in a new major way in the forthcoming Infinity War saga. As it stands, though, several prominent members of their team from over the years anyway are missing from their ranks.
While Beast is an X-Men staple now, the (usually) furry blue mutant had a long run with the Avengers during the '70s and '80s. In addition, Quicksilver, who began life as a villain, was a long-running Avenger as well as a mutant (or not). He's also the only Marvel character to toe the line between Fox and Disney's shared universes. An agreement between the two major Marvel IP holders would greatly benefit the future of the franchise, as well as ending the tug-of-war for the poor Maximoff siblings.
What could happen:
Sure, the Avengers are kicking butt and taking names, but imagine how amazing a Phase 4 uber-clash could be with Marvel's entire superheroe staff available. A deal brokered between the two competing shared universes opens up the entire catalogue, as well as broadening the scope of their available cinematic stable. Joint Avengers and X-Men team-ups and clashes – such as their 2012 AVX event (which brought the Phoenix Force back into the mix) or the "Fear Itself" story arc – are just the beginning.
The Infinity War two-parter is already complicated enough as it is with its numerous characters. Just imagine how impressive a full-blown Marvel event, such as the first (or second) Secret Wars, the House of M, the popular Onslaught saga (which didn’t end well for our heroes), or even Secret Invasion would be with everyone on board. With the bulk of the MCU’s forces in action, Phase 4 could hold one heck of a event-to-end-all-events party.
Beyond the macro level, small-scale Marvel opportunities also abound from a FOX-Disney agreement. Popular character crossovers won’t be limited to whoever fits into the current Avenger/X-Men box. If teams like X-Force and the Great Lakes Avengers (don’t ask why) want to collaborate, it could happen. The limitations on Easter eggs and obligatory cameos end now: Sabretooth could join the Avengers (this is a good idea?); She-Hulk could sign on with the rebooted Fantastic Four; and Deadpool can irritate the heck out of everyone across the board.
Added Bonus: Deadpool Can Now Kill Everyone
Where things stand:
Deadpool, an underdog antihero favorite among comic book superfans, just went from being a relative unknown to being a smash hit in the mainstream film world. The Merc with a Mouth’s on-screen antics rocketed him to the top of the box office, as his film became the highest-grossing R-rated superhero movie, even weighing in heavier on the scales than DC behemoth Batman V Superman. His blend of charm, smarm, and fourth-wall-breaking talent gives him a vast array of crossover appeal.
With an upcoming Cable team-up inevitable (who, interestingly enough, was the only member of the X-Men featured in this falls Divided We Stand promo) for Deadpool numero dos, Wade Wilson could become the Singerverse’s golden boy. At this point, Marvel’s probably kicking themselves for not ex-ing him out of the X-Men. But to no avail, assuming a Fox-Marvel deal can be brokered.
What could happen:
If things go well in negotiations, Deadpool – who’s a much better fit for the wisecracking Avengers than the overly serious X-Men – might just get his chance to shine in the MCU. Now that Spider-Man can come out and play, the possibility of a superfan dream team-up, like Spidey, Deadpool, and Cable, might actually happen.
While Deadpool has dozens of fun crossover possibilities, he could also sign up with the Avengers (as he recently did during Uncanny Avengers), the Fantastic Four, or work alongside a coalition of heroes in another Infinity War-type major event. In the most amusing scenario, Marvel could enact the ultimate universal reboot: They could recreate the events from the non-canon Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe and start the MCU from scratch.
A reboot like that, to Kevin Feige’s dismay, would probably require an R-rating though.
Could X-Marvel Happen?
Everything in our experiences with the studios which own our beloved comic properties tells us: not bloody likely. On the other hand, the optimists who held out hope for Spider-Man's entry into the MCU were dead on. Yet with miles of red tape and enough legalese to stretch to the moon and back twice, a Fox-Disney Marvel reunion still sounds like a pipe dream.
At the same time, the superhero ducks aren't that far out of alignment. Simon Kinberg has mentioned having a friendly relationship with Kevin Feige. The Marvel big cheese himself is undoubtedly interested in restoring Marvel's full ranks to his storytelling group if possible. With the nebulous rights to several other properties floating about in the corporate ether (just within reach) and a Sony Pictures usage agreement for Spidey, Fox's band of crusaders are the last major missing piece in the overall shared universe puzzle.
At this point, even the dourest, bottom-line-hugging studio exec has to realize the potential rewards of combining Marvel’s massive comic book character collection under a unified front. The potential rewards for crossover movies like The Avengers meet the X-Men, in addition to the added bonus of dropping popular MCU heroes into other films (i.e., Wolverine fighting with/alongside Cable and Deadpool or The Thing joining up with Guardians of the Galaxy) are huge and very lucrative.
In the long run, it’s in Fox, Sony, and Disney’s best interest to combine and conquer. If the studios continue to make mutually beneficial endeavors, all that remains is for the legal eagles to work thing out. While Marvel devotees and cinemagoers shouldn't take in too deep of a breath awaiting an announcement, there's nothing wrong with holding out a little extra hope – because a unified MCU has so much potential.
Doctor Strange opens in U.S. theaters on November 4, 2016, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.
Wolverine 3 opens in U.S. theaters on March 3rd, 2017, followed by unannounced X-Men films on October 6th, 2017 (possibly Gambit), March 2nd, 2018 (possibly Deadpool 2), and June 29th, 2018 (possibly New Mutants). X-Force is also in development.