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Across the Universe: Marvel vs. Marvel

Will 20th Century FOX create its own Marvel Universe on film?

By Parallel Universe on MSN Nov 21, 2012 12:15PM
'X-Men: First Class'/20th Century FOX
20th Century FOX has showed to some degree in the past year or two that it was finally getting serious about its movies based on Marvel Comics, after the back-to-back-to-back disappointments of "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." While all three did decent box office business ("The Last Stand" was a tremendous hit, actually), they left such a bad taste in fans' mouths that the appetite for further Marvel entries from Fox was drastically reduced.

Bing: More about 'X-Men: First Class' | More about Marvel

Fast forward to now. "X-Men: First Class" came out last year to very positive buzz -- if not the biggest box office -- with many fans calling it the finest "X-Men" since the original. The upcoming "Wolverine" promises a return to form for that iconic character, and "Chronicle" director Josh Trank was put in charge of rebooting the Fantastic Four. To top it off, comics writer Mark Millar -- creator of "Kick-Ass" and "Wanted," writer of epic Marvel tales like "The Ultimates" and "Civil War" -- was hired by Fox to oversee future adaptations of its Marvel properties.

Related: Television superheroes A-Z

After Marvel Studios itself, FOX probably owns the most Marvel characters. Columbia Pictures still owns Spider-Man and Ghost Rider, but aside from being forced to give Daredevil back to Marvel this year after its rights lapsed, Fox is still holding onto two of the most prized franchises in Marvel history: the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. And it's not just the two superhero teams, but all the characters and villains that have found their way into those lines. That includes one hell of a lot of X-Men mutants, as well as several major villains associated with the Four (such as the popular aliens the Skrulls, which is one reason why you saw the Chitauri and not them invading New York at the end of "The Avengers").

Now, Millar has a reputation for making a lot of big announcements that, shall we say, somehow fail to materialize (although he practically willed the "Kick-Ass" sequel, which is filming now, into existence after talking about it for two years). But in discussing his Fox agenda with Comic Book Resources not long ago, he made it pretty clear what the goal was: "What I'm doing is building a plan kind of like what Joss (Whedon) is doing with the 'Avengers' movies ... a broad, overall strategy for what Fox Marvel can do to feel like Disney Marvel where they've done such a nice job of building a world where these characters can live together."

So what other Marvel movies could FOX conceivably make going forward? Well, with "The Wolverine" coming out and Bryan Singer returning to direct "X-Men: Days of Future Past," there are two cornerstones right there. After that might presumably be Trank's "Fantastic Four," with a whole new cast and revamped story line to separate it from the two disastrous films released in 2005 and 2007. Where does Fox Marvel go from there?

A Deadpool movie is probably one of the likeliest candidates. The disfigured, snarky yet deadly mercenary is enormously popular with readers and made a short-lived and poorly received appearance (played by Ryan Reynolds) in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," but reports have persisted about the character getting his own film. A script has been written, and special effects whiz Tim Miller was slated to make it his feature directing debut, but for now the project seems to have stalled. Millar seems keen on reviving it, though.

Deadpool has often teamed with Cable, the immensely powerful mutant son of X-Men leader Scott "Cyclops" Summers and Madelyne Pryor. In addition to his own books and the "Cable & Deadpool" title, Cable has played an important role in a number of "X-Men" books and spin-offs, including the recent "Messiah Complex," "Messiah War" and "Avengers: X-Sanction" (he's scheduled to return to the comics soon in "Cable and X-Force"). Strangely, it's not clear who owns the rights to Cable, but it seems clear that as an "X-Men"-related character, his corporate home may still be Fox.

As for "X-Force," that X-Men spin-off has been through several incarnations, including one led by Cable in the '90s, and a more recent one, which started in 2008 and went through a few different permutations up until now, featured Wolverine leading a team that included Cable, Psylocke, Archangel and others at various stages. A more aggressive, sort of "black-ops" offshoot of the X-Men, the X-Force could either be incorporated into a future "X-Men" movie or even get their own film -- although having Wolverine be a part of it would be a big help in getting it off the launch pad.

And what about the Silver Surfer? After his appearance in the disastrous second "Fantastic Four" film, a good, long break has been in order. But the character is so legendary in the Marvel cosmos, and so beloved by fans, that it seems a reboot would not just be inevitable but necessary to remove the bad memories of his screen debut, the same way that Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy has erased the legacy of the nightmarish mid-'90s Batman movies.

So with the Fantastic Four, Wolverine, the X-Men, the Surfer, and possible other offshoots like Deadpool, X-Force, Cable and tons of other characters that Fox potentially owns, could the stage be set for one side of the Marvel Universe to compete against the other?

Millar, who envisions 10 possible films, doesn't see it that way, telling Comic Book Resources, "People keep saying that they want to see all of the Marvel Universe in one place, but what I try to explain to them is that if Marvel Studios had the rights to all the stuff set up at other studios, they wouldn't have the money to make all the other movies they're making. You wouldn't be getting 'Guardians of the Galaxy' or 'Ant-Man' because those slots would be filled up with a Wolverine movie or a Fantastic Four movie. There's only a finite amount of movies they can make."

That's certainly true. And movie studios are notoriously competitive with one another. Certainly with "Wolverine" and "Iron Man 3" both coming out next summer, the former from Fox and the latter from Disney, we'll see Phase Two of both Marvel universes go head to head at multiplexes everywhere.

And who knows? In some not-too-distant future, perhaps Marvel/Disney and Fox will decide to join forces for one spectacular Marvel Universe blowout ... and then we'd get the ultimate fan fantasy: "Avengers vs. X-Men."



3Comments
Dec 1, 2012 11:11AM
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But the real question is...who owns Captain Marvel?? :)

 

This was a very interesting and informative article; I've always wondered who owned what in the Marvel Universe. The only major downfall is that so many characters cross over.

Nov 28, 2012 9:10AM
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Why do you insist on deeming the Fantastic Four films as "disastrous".  Neither film was "disastrous".  Both opened with about 60 million in box office revenues and closed out in the 130-160 million domestic lifetime gross (300 million plus worldwide gross). In relation, The Incredible Hulk (Nortons version) opened 5 years later  with a comparable lifetime gross and opening weekend.  The absolute kicker here is how you deem the Fantastic Four "disastrous" and yet, Xmen: First Class had a LOWER domestic gross (146 million 7 years AFTER the initial FF film), a comparable worldwide gross and a much higher production budget of 160 million.  In the future a bit of real research might be in line here.  And you know, Box Office Mojo is your friend, especially when talking about film performance.
Nov 28, 2012 1:06AM
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The Chitauri *are* the Skrulls, so those rights wonks are clearly not too quick on the uptake.
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