UPDATE: This article was originally written a couple of weeks ago when Disney and Fox were still in talks. But the contents of this piece is relevant, now more than ever.
A few hours ago, Disney released a press release stating that they have purchased 21st Century Fox. This deal includes 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000, 20th Century Fox Television, FX Productions, Fox21, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Sky, and Endemol Shine Group.
This deal DOES NOT include a few other branches of Fox, including Fox Sports and Fox News, but Disney does own everything movie related.
Now that the Mouse has reacquired all the Marvel comic properties that they initially sold off to Fox many years ago, how different would our lives be going forward? Would it lead to a zombie apocalypse or worse yet, would the senile orange man be re-elected as president? Let’s find out.
First of all, …
WTF is Disney, Marvel, Sony, DC, Fox??!! SO CONFUSINGGG!!
Relax, I got your back.
There are two major comic book companies that everyone is familiar with. One is DC and the other is Marvel. There are also independent comic book companies like Dark Horse, which gave us Hellboy and Icon Comics, which published Kingsman. But let’s forget about the independent, smaller publications, for now, and focus on the 2 behemoths.
Warner Bros owns the film rights to the entirety of DC comics, whether it’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Joker, Cyborg and even Goddamn Egghead. Which means, if Warner Bros decides to make a movie titled “Batman & Robin jerkoff Condiment King” they can. Simple, right?
However, if Marvel Studios want to make “Wolverine & Iron Man: A trip to Brokeback Mountain” they can’t, despite both Wolverine and Iron Man, being Marvel comic characters. What about the much dreamed of “X-Men VS The Avengers”? Nope.
There is a lengthy, complex story here involving a crap ton of business-y terms that would make you feel stupid – it made me feel stupid. But here are the interesting gist:
- Marvel Studios is owned by Disney, just like how Lucasfilm (Star Wars) is owned by Disney, too.
- Back in the early 90s, because of financial issues and whatnot, Marvel sold the film rights of many of their popular characters to other major Hollywood studios. Notably, 20th Century Fox acquired X-Men (which includes Deadpool) and Fantastic Four, while Sony acquired Spider-Man.
This means, that while it is possible for you to see X-Men, Spider-Man and Avengers participate in an orgy in the COMICS, it isn’t possible on the BIG SCREEN, unless there is some sorta renewed agreement between the major studios that own these rights.
Disney-Marvel Studios have come a long way since their humble days. Despite being left with B-grade superheroes like Iron Man and obscure ones like Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney remained relentless. With Kevin Feige in the captain’s chair, Disney created a cinematic universe that has changed the landscape of cinema and pop culture. The fact that Disney took a bland character in Iron Man, who was once known as just a Batman rip off and turned him into the coolest shit ever, speaks volumes of their accomplishments.
Recently, Sony and Marvel revisited their contract and added a clause which allowed Spider-Man to be shared between Marvel Studios and Sony. Which is why we see Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man in the MCU.
When reports came out that Disney was in talks with 20th Century Fox to acquire some of their entertainment properties, many got excited. Could this mean that we would finally get to see X-Men VS The Avengers?! While that does sound like a boner-inducing idea, it would not be the best course of action in the long run.
The part where I actually get to the point.
From the year 2000 to 2014, the X-Men film franchise has been largely hit or miss. For every “Days of Future Past” there is an “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. The “Fantastic Four” movies have all been futile, with each attempt being a bigger shit storm than the previous. But, over the past couple of years, Fox’s comic book universe has seen a renaissance.
“Deadpool” should have failed at the box office. I mean, who would actually pay top dollar to watch an unknown comic book character in a violent, R-rated, COMEDY? Only, it didn’t fail. Crass, bloody and most importantly, different, “Deadpool” turned out to be exactly the film we didn’t know we needed. It even managed to get a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy/musical and there was serious buzz surrounding the film during Oscar season. But pleasing critics and film buffs is one thing, making waves at the box office is something else entirely. Well, “Deadpool” didn’t just make a profit at the box office, grossing US$783 million worldwide with a US$58 million budget, it shattered records, too.
Earlier this year, Fox produced “Logan”, another R-rated comic book movie. This time, a powerful drama about family and sacrifice. It is perhaps the most realistic comic book movie to date, even more so than Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”. “Logan” isn’t interested in being quick-paced and rushing to the large action set pieces. It is a slow character study. In fact, there isn’t a bombastic action sequence in this film at all. Plus, the lead character, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) actually DIED in this movie. A ballsy move for a comic book film.
A few weeks ago, 20th Century Fox released the trailer for another movie that is a part of the X-Men franchise, titled “New Mutants”. Once again, the film looks distinctly different and mature. Instead of marketing the movie as a colourful, larger than life blast, featuring young mutants, Fox is marketing this film as a claustrophobic horror set in a single location.
Fox is able to do this with its comic book movies because they’re not tied to a larger cinematic universe. And even when it comes to sequels and prequels, Fox has made it clear from the start that they do not give two hoots about continuity. This opens the door for directors to be true blue auteurs and make a movie they want to make without worrying about restrictions. It allows creative freedom and experimentation.
Over at Disney-Marvel Studios, things are completely different. Since 2008, Kevin Feige and gang have built the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the ground up and made sure that every single one of their comic book movies fit into this universe. This universe works like a TV series: The tone is set in the pilot and no matter the director, no matter the episode, the tone will remain the same. Whenever the MCU does try something completely different, like with Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok”, it feels jarring and out of place. Imagine turning on HBO one day and finding the latest episode of “Game of Thrones” to be a colourful comedy. There is no room for error in the MCU because each movie is affected by the movie that comes before it and will affect the movie that comes after it.
Disney-Marvel Studios will also not make an R-rated comic book movie, understandably so. It is the house of Mickey Mouse, after all. As reported by Daniel Miller of LA Times, Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger has confirmed this:
“We don’t have any plans to make R-rated Marvel movies.”
But after acquiring all the comic book properties under the Fox banner (which includes Deadpool) Bob Iger had this to say:
(Deadpool) clearly has been and will be Marvel branded. But we think there might be an opportunity for a Marvel-R brand for something like Deadpool. As long as we let the audiences know what’s coming, we think we can manage that fine.
That sounds like a response one can expect from a politician. Iger’s statement doesn’t outright confirm that the “Deadpool” franchise will remain R-rated.
Look, not every comic book movie needs to be R-rated. We don’t need to see Black Panther decapitating people with his claws. But some characters, like Deadpool and Wolverine, work best with the R-rating. I’m not just talking about blood, guts and curse words, either. Remember the scene at the end of “Deadpool”, where Deadpool chooses to shoot Ajax at point blank, despite Colossus’ pleads? We will never see a scene like that over at Disney, bloody or not.
This formulaic, by the numbers approach that’s taken by Disney, doesn’t just stop at the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even over at Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy puts her foot down the moment she feels a director is stepping out of line. Most recently, she parted ways with the pairing of Lord and Miller after 4 months of shooting “Solo: A Star Wars Story” because the film they were making felt too comedic and didn’t belong in the Star Wars universe.
I love this about Disney. I want my favourite universes and franchises to have a consistent tone throughout. I want each movie to feel like chapters in a book. Which is why I’m not a fan of “Thor: Ragnarok”. But I also want variation. I don’t want every single comic book movie I watch to be part of a larger universe.
This is why studios like Fox are important. Fox’s comic book movies can be the counterculture to the gigantic universes over at Warner Bros and Disney. Fox can be the studio that gives us darker more mature themes as compared to the more family-friendly approach taken by Disney and Warner Bros.
Most importantly, Fox can give us Morena Baccarin pegging Ryan Reynolds. I think we all need a little bit of that in our life.