UPDATE: Disney's purchase of Fox has been made official. The original article follows.
Disney and Marvel Studios acquiring the rights to X-Men from 20th Century Fox would be bad for fans of either cinematic universe. The last decade has seen a massive rise in popularity for superheroes, both in film and on TV, due in no small part part to the success of Fox's X-Men franchise and Marvel Studios' Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, as fans may already know, the movie rights for various Marvel characters are split among three major Hollywood studios. Fox owns the X-Men and Fantastic Four, while Sony holds the rights to Spider-Man and the web-slinging superhero's stable of connected characters; the remaining characters (like The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc) remain with Marvel Studios.
The distribution of Marvel character movie rights among Fox, Sony and Marvel Studios is a complicated matter, made all the more confusing by certain anomalies - like Fox and Marvel each including Quicksilver in their respective universes, or Sony attempting to launch a Spider-Man franchise without Peter Parker. Of course, Sony's deal with Marvel to bring Spider-Man into the MCU was major because it was the first instance of two studios working together to form a more cohesive cinematic world - one that more resembles the comics. Now, with recent news that Disney was in talks to acquire Fox, it seemed Marvel Studios was one step closer to uniting all its characters in one cinematic universe (even though those talks have since ceased).
Unlike the deal between Sony and Marvel Studios, in which the former retains the rights to Spider-Man and the hero's stable of characters, if Disney were to acquire Fox, then the rights to all X-Men characters would be under the same umbrella as The Avengers. While that means Wolverine could finally suit up with The Avengers - one of many crossovers fans have dreamed about for a number of years - Disney and Marvel acquiring the X-Men movie rights would actually be bad for fans.
What Happens to the X-Men Franchise?
Of course, the particulars of the Disney/Fox deal, while it was still being discussed, are unknown at this point. What we do know is that Fox's X-Men franchise has been, on the whole, a success - especially in recent years. Fox's first R-rated X-Men movie, Deadpool, was a massive hit in all corners; the studio followed it up with this year's Logan, another R-rated superhero outing (this time with a Western influence) not connected to the main series of X-Men movies. As a result of the franchise's recent successes, Fox has lined up three outings for 2018: Deadpool 2, a continuation of the main series in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and the horror flick New Mutants.
Beyond these titles, Fox is also working on an X-Force film, a Gambit solo movie, and Deadpool 3 - not to mention they could be looking to continue the main series with another installment following Dark Phoenix. Plus, New Mutants director Josh Boone pitched a trilogy when he signed on for his own X-Men movie. While Fox's exact slate beyond 2018 is unconfirmed, they have quite a few movies in the works and, given the success they've seen with their releases in recent years, no real reason NOT to continue developing their X-Men franchise. Unlike the failures of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that inspired Sony to strike their deal with Marvel Studios, Fox's recent superhero offerings have reinvigorated its X-Men franchise more than anything else.
So then, if Fox were to be acquired by Disney, what would happen to this X-Men franchise? Well, the 2018 movies would likely be released, since a deal of this magnitude would take time to finalize, but the fates of the other films would be in question. Marvel Studios may choose to scrap everything in development so as to bring the X-Men into the MCU - though that wouldn't happen until Phase 4 launches in 2019 since their movies up to that point are all planned and in various stages of development.
Of course, if the deal had gone through, Marvel may have also chosen to continue on with Fox's Deadpool-starring films (Deadpool 3 & X-Force) considering the character's popularity, perhaps keeping it separate. But whether Marvel were to pick and choose which elements of the X-Men movies they wanted to continue, or scrap Fox's superhero universe entirely in favor of starting fresh (the latter of which seems more likely considering that's what Marvel did with Spider-Man), either way the landscape of superhero movies over the next decade would be changed.
- New Mutants (2019) release date: Aug 02, 2019
- Deadpool 2 (2018) release date: May 18, 2018
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019