The pros and cons of 20th Century Fox's Marvel properties joining the MCU

Ben Bussey
UK Movies Writer

Comic book movie fandom is currently going bananas at the prospect of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four potentially joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Marvel parent company Disney looks poised to purchase the film/TV end of Fox.

While we’re almost certainly getting ahead of ourselves assuming this to be a done deal, it’s easy to see why fans are excited. The past decade has seen Marvel slowly but surely re-obtain the film rights to the vast majority of the properties originating from their flagship comics line, with most notable absentees being the two aforementioned titles still owned by Fox.

However, if all pans out the way fans are now hoping and Marvel find themselves with the film rights to the X-Men universe and the Fantastic Four, is this all necessarily for the best? Let’s consider some key pros and cons.

Pro: An Avengers/X-Men crossover is what the fans – and the filmmakers – have always wanted

In the comics, all the Marvel characters have always existed in the same fictional universe. This decades-spanning narrative web on the printed page was the key inspiration for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hoping to provide a fan-pleasing spectacle by allowing their beloved characters to interact on screen.

Given how successfully Marvel Studios have pulled this off in the nine years since the MCU began with ‘Iron Man,’ the idea of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four being given similar treatment – as well as being able to appear alongside the Avengers – is clearly a tantalising prospect.

However, this does underline a key potential problem…

Con: Marvel Studios already has a lot on its plate

Next April’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is set to be the biggest MCU entry to date, encompassing every key character. It’s been estimated that around 62 Marvel characters will appear in the Joe and Anthony Russo-directed film, and reportedly one scene will see 30 of them appear side-by-side.

Given just how expansive the MCU already is, might it be in danger of biting off more than it can chew by adding the Fox-owned characters – in particular the already sizeable X-Men universe?

With Marvel, Warner Bros/DC, Fox and Sony all producing competing comic book movies, there have been a great many grumblings in recent years about ‘superhero fatigue,’ and audiences struggling to keep up with all the intertwining plot threads and massive ensembles. With that in mind, enlarging the MCU ensemble even further might not be the best move.

That having been said…

Pro: It already worked with Spider-Man

Much of the current fan optimism around the potential Disney/Fox deal is no doubt rooted in the deal struck earlier by Marvel and Sony over the rights to Spider-Man; an agreement which, not so long ago, had seemed every bit as unlikely as Marvel getting back their characters from Fox.

However, while the precise terms and duration of the Spidey deal are not entirely clear, fans and critics tend to agree that Tom Holland’s take on Marvel’s best-loved character in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ was a roaring success.

Even so, it was also widely agreed when the Marvel/Sony deal was made that the Spider-Man series was in dire need of rescuing, following the mismanaged ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ movies. Do all the Fox-owned properties need that same kind of help?

Con: It could mean the end of the X-Men as we know it

Marvel Studios may have established itself as the master of the superhero movie, but it was Fox’s ‘X-Men’ that got the ball rolling back in 2000. In the years since, the series has developed a fan following comparable to that of the MCU.

Merging the existing X-Men universe with the MCU would seem a challenging prospect, and given how many of the existing X-Men actors seem likely to be on their way out following next year’s ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix,’ this may mean a full reboot is more likely.

While the ‘X-Men’ series has produced a few undeniable duds (‘X-Men: The Last Stand,’ ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine,’ ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’), it’s fair to say the bulk of the franchise stands up well, and as such not all fans might be happy to see Marvel rip it all up and start again.

However, the same is less likely to be said of the other Fox-owned Marvel title…

Pro: We could finally see the Fantastic Four done right

This, for many fans, would be the main highlight of a Disney/Fox deal. Marvel’s ‘first family’ was the comic that really kickstarted the company’s reign way back in 1961, and are held dear to the hearts of many; but both the duo of overly cartoonish ‘Fantastic Four’ movies made by Fox in the 2000s, and the misguidedly dark 2015 reboot, are widely held in contempt.

While Fox may have nailed some aspects of the ‘X-Men,’ there can be little debate it hasn’t come close to getting the ‘Fantastic Four’ right. It’s hard to imagine Marvel couldn’t manage that; but whatever happens, it surely couldn’t do any worse.

It’s known that Marvel Studios has long been particularly eager to get the ‘Fantastic Four’ back, at one point reportedly having offered to let Fox keep the rights to ‘Daredevil’ in exchange. Had this deal been met, it seems feasible the upcoming ‘Infinity War’ might have included the formidable F4 villain Galactus, rather than (or in addition to?) Thanos.

Con: Will Disney accommodate the darker direction of ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan?’ 

Fox upped its game considerably with ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan,’ daring to take a chance on superhero movies geared specifically toward mature audiences, with restrictive ratings. This approach has proved hugely successful, with both films being among the highest-grossing and best reviewed entries in the ‘X-Men’ franchise.

Fox is continuing down that path with next year’s ‘Deadpool 2,’ and as ‘The New Mutants’ trailer suggests something closer to a horror movie than a superhero movie, it wouldn’t be surprising if that too winds up an R/15. It’s widely expected the future X-movie ‘X-Force’ will be similarly adult-themed.

This is an approach that Marvel Studios has expressed reluctance to embrace, preferring to keep things family-friendly for the most part. If Marvel Studios regains control of these properties, might this mean an end to the R-rated comic book action?

This is something which ‘Deadpool’ star Ryan Reynolds has already expressed some concern about, in his usual light-hearted manner.

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