Today the first salvos of what could be the biggest news in the history of the MCU began. CNBC is reporting that Fox is interested in divesting itself of most or all of its non-news, non-sports entities, including specifically its entertainment and film side. Here are a few burning questions that come to a head as the possibility floats through our heads, here at MCUExchange.
Q: Is this actually going to happen?
A: No one knows for sure. The CNBC report suggests that the talks are early and that Disney and Fox are not currently talking. (Presumably, then the “talks” are internal within Fox.) This doesn’t mean much. Fox wouldn’t broach it with Disney before they knew where they wanted to go. Also, it seems unlikely they’d have Disney identified as the buyer unless they had an inkling of the interest being existent. (One also wonders how many other companies have the cash or financing to make such a purchase.) These things have fallen apart, such as the rumors a while back that Disney was circling a Netflix purchase. Since then, Disney has moved forward with plans for their own SVOD service. The reason this sounds reasonable is that the logic behind the move is strong. Fox is currently going through an acquisition of Sky. That news might mean little to our American audience, but Sky is a major player in news and TV around the globe. CNBC is saying that Fox is wanting to tighten their focus in on news and sports and the execs struggle to see how to grow the film side. Given the aggressive nature of streaming companies like Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon and Disney’s film hegemony at the Box Office, such concerns are understandable. The deal makes a lot of sense, more so than some other pipe dream rumors about Netflix getting gobbled up or Apple buying everything in the world with their billions in cash. (Edit: Apparently Bloomberg has said the CNBC report is about discussions from weeks ago and the deal is dead. If that’s the case, it seems as if someone wanted to rekindle them by leaking this information.)
Q: How and when would the X-Men and Fantastic Four meld into the MCU?
A: This is a really fascinating question. Unlike the Spider-Man deal, this would not be a deal that Feige is actively making. He may be in on the conversation, but this is a much larger deal made by people above him on the corporate ladder. Most likely, Marvel Studios isn’t really ready to suddenly have all these properties available. Remember that Fox is currently in some stage of production on Deadpool 2, X-Force, New Mutants, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, as well as having some level of development on Doctor Doom, X-23, and a child-centric Fantastic Four, if all the rumors are true. This is a lot of stuff already in the works. What projects would Marvel can? Which would they continue? Would they try immediate crossover, or might there be non-MCU Marvel Studios films for a period of time, to allow the Deadpool-verse to play out as is, not weighed down by sudden continuity issues? (Imagine James Brolin‘s Cable and Thanos facing each other!) An early guess (and nothing more) is that the entry of new Fox-owned characters would be slow and deliberate. Some fan faves, like Deadpool, could still be a decade or two from entering the MCU. It just wouldn’t be fair to fans to cut short the current run on properties like the Merc with the Mouth, just because of a corporate change.
Q: Would Marvel Studios expand production?
A: Currently Marvel Studios is doing three films a year and Fox is releasing 1-3 films a year. If combined, there would certainly be enough intellectual property to run five or six movies each year, without really changing what is available to consumers. Would it feel different if it were all from one studio? Would there be more quality control concerns, trying to uphold the Marvel Studios brand? This is a huge questions mark that can’t really be answered today.
Q: What would be the most immediate change?
A: Probably two things. One, the Fantastic Four would debut in the MCU. Many folks already are suspicious that Marvel is working on this for the end of Phase 3. Those dreams (conspiracy theories?) are not yet realized. But given how shaky that franchise has been for Fox, one would think the Fantastic Four contingency plan is far more developed than, say, the Wolverine contingency plan. Second, and possibly the biggest deal of all, a new group of villains would become open to Marvel Studios. Once Thanos is in the rearview mirror, the next big-bad has been a problem fans have debated. Certainly infusing Doctor Doom, Galactus, Kang, and Annihilus (to name a few) into the mix would be helpful. And then there are all the opportunities for Magneto, Apocalypse, and the X-Villains. Just the idea of Galactus in James Gunn‘s control is mouthwatering.
Q: Would there be television effects?
A: Not immediately. Already Jeph Loeb is part of Legion and The Gifted because TV rights are a bit wonky. But remember that Disney’s streaming service (which I continue to call Mouseflix) is coming. We already don’t know how that will effect MCU TV shows and this adds another layer. Imagine if that service opened with not only some MCU properties but also had access to a Jubilee lead Generation X or a gritty drama about Wolverine‘s origins.
Q: This could allow incredible crossovers, right?
A: Absolutely. Imagine if Storm could appear in Black Panther 2 or Wolverine joining the Avengers or a full Illuminati, complete with Professor X and Reed Richards. This paragraph could literally go on for days and days and days, but the opportunities are so exciting.
Q: Who would get fired and who would stay on?
A: Remember that this would lead to a massive creative shakeup. One assumes that Feige would get the keys to the new Marvel properties, as well as some decisions about what creative folks to keep on board. Who has proven themselves in the X-Men films that would be integrated into Marvel Studios? Who would be shown the door? With all the wheeling and dealing that definitely has happened between the two studios (i.e. Negasonic Teenage Warhead/Ego the Living Planet) and that has been rumored, might some old scores be settled in a particularly spectacular way? How Disney and Marvel absorb a rival production team would be fascinating.
Q: Would this have a knock-on effect for Spider-Man?
A: Probably? On the one hand, it might make acquisition of that IP, or of Sony Pictures in total, less likely. Disney doesn’t have infinite money on hand, as much as it seems they do. Their big purchases of Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm have been separated a bit over the years. They seem to buy one and then wait until the absorption of that company is settled before getting a new toy. So maybe it would delay any further purchases. On the other hand, it would make full reclamation of Marvel film rights close to finished. Spider-Man and the distribution rights to Hulk are the only major obstacles left. Might there be a temptation to finish the job and give Feige a full toolbox with which to work?
Q: Big picture, what does it all mean?
A: Glory. This deal immediately extends the expiration date on the MCU, even though that seemed far in the future anyway. Fantastic Four and X-Men would be obvious new franchises, but smaller characters like Namor and Silver Surfer also become a distinct possibility. Who doesn’t want to see a Feige produced Wolverine film? As stated above, the villains would also be a huge addition. Doctor Doom in the MCU is about the best idea humanity has ever come up with. The future was already sunny, but this would blow the roof off of what is possible.