If the current mega-rumor making the rounds is true, Fox is in the VERY early stages of striking a deal with Marvel Studios to enter a partnership similar to the latter’s with Sony (involving Spider-Man) and return the Fantastic Four (and all that comes with them) to the Marvel fold. Don’t get excited just yet, however. Again, things are in the VERY early stages and while it is unlikely that the deal will fall apart (we’ll get to the why in a minute), it may take some time for all of the details to be ironed out.
It comes as no surprise that Fox has little desire to continue making Fantastic Four films on their own after the face-planting that their latest attempt made at the box office back in August. Their reboot only managed to pull in $166.6 million worldwide off of a budget consisting of at least $120 million. That’s pretty embarrassing, given that their initial duology in the ’00s both managed almost twice that across the globe.
Even moreso than Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man duology, Fox’s attempted Fantastic Four revival (spearheaded by Josh Trank) was a massive miscalculation and one that proved fatal for any franchise prospect that they had for the rebooted property. It’s goose was effectively cooked. Even so, many…myself included…suspected that Fox might hold onto the rights out of sheer spite until they expired in another seven years. After all, why give you rival more ammunition and risk being embarrassed by possibly being showed up on something you have failed at twice now?
The answer, of course, is because you want to expand the Marvel superhero brand that you ARE successful with, the X-Men, over to television. While Fox is free to make as many X-Men or X-Men-related films as they want, any live action shows have to be legally=approved through Marvel Studios first, as the latter still retains partial rights in that field. Yesterday, Fox announced the development of the first two (of likely many) TV show spin-offs of their popular X-Men films: “Legion” and “Hellfire“.
How do you grease the wheels of your TV shows that need approval when the “okay” needs to come from your rival? By making a trade. In exchange for a Sony-esque deal where Marvel gets creative control over the Fantastic Four (and all that comes with them) and folding them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe at their leisure, Fox will presumably get carte blanche to develop whatever X-Men stuff they want for television. Live action television, mind you. Marvel still retains full animated rights for all of their characters.
Some sites are guessing that Marvel is already planning to add their superhero First Family to the MCU as one of those untitled three 2020 films that were recently announced. Others are getting ballsier and suggesting that the characters could arrive before or during Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1&2. Don’t bet on either happening, especially the latter. Again, this deal is in the early stages and while a Phase Four debut for Mister Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Thing, and The Human Torch is very likely, it is not a certainty. Because of this, Marvel isn’t going to already be plugging them into a release slot.
Should we be excited over all of this? Of course, albeit with a fair amount of patience. Not only is Marvel regaining their famous quartet, but they also gain the ability to use Doctor Doom, Galactus, The Silver Surfer, Kang the Conqueror, and a boatload of alien beings and species. James Gunn in particular should be happy, as he could finally be able to utilize the Badoon come Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. More than anything though, it’s the villains that free things up. Many have wonder how Marvel might go on from Loki, Ultron, and Thanos as big baddies for their Avengers films. While there are still some great options on the table from what they already hold, the potential use of Doctor Doom, Galactus, and Kang certainly widens the spectrum of villains to chose from for their big team-up pictures.
Or it could all fall apart and we once again go back to waiting for the rights to lapse. Only time will tell.