- The Disney-Fox merger closed on Wednesday, and Disney now owns the film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four.
- Fox made three “Fantastic Four” movies in the last fifteen years, and none were resounding successes. The 2015 reboot is an infamous disaster.
- Disney should not rush the characters to the big screen, and instead utilize its upcoming streaming service, Disney+.
With Disney’s acquisition of Fox, which closed on Wednesday, Disney now owns Fox’s film studio, many of its television assets (minus its news and sports networks), its 30% stake in Hulu, and its popular movie franchises, including “Avatar,” “Alien,” “Planet of the Apes,” and Marvel’s “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four.”
Disney taking ownership of Fox’s Marvel properties could mean big things for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will enter a new era after “Avengers: Endgame,” when veteran actors like Chris Evans will likely retire and a new franchise beyond “Avengers” will be tested.
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It’s unknown how Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige plans to utilize the characters, but after several theatrical disappointments over a 15-year period, the Fantastic Four could be difficult to sell to audiences.
Feige will be tasked with rebooting an “X-Men” franchise that has sustained box-office success at Fox for nearly two decades (the final “X-Men” movie developed by Fox, “Dark Phoenix,” comes to theaters in June, and is expected to conclude Fox’s longrunning series).
While that’s a daunting responsibility, at least “X-Men” — and its self-aware spin-off “Deadpool” — has been lucrative. “Fantastic Four” is a different story.
‘Fantastic Four’ movies have failed to generate excitement with audiences
Created in 1961 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Fantastic Four are regarded as “Marvel’s First Family.” The team includes Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic), his wife Susan Storm (Invisible Woman), her brother Johnny (Human Torch), and Reed’s best friend Ben Grimm (The Thing), who are given superpowers after being exposed to cosmic radiation.
Despite the team’s respected history in the comic books, it has failed to translate well to the screen.
Fox has made three “Fantastic Four” movies since 2005, none of which were resounding success stories. Meanwhile, Fox’s “X-Men” franchise went through some very low lows (“X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), but it also hit some epic highs (“X2” and “Logan”), and ushered in the modern age of superhero movies back in 2000.
2005’s “Fantastic Four” and its 2007 sequel, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” with Jessica Alba and Chris Evans among the cast, grossed a combined $620 million worldwide (before inflation) and were lampooned by critics. The first movie has a 27% Rotten Tomatoes critic score, and the sequel has 37%.
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Fox rebooted the series in 2015 with director Josh Trank, who had just come hot off of the acclaimed “Chronicle.” The reboot, again titled “Fantastic Four,” performed even more poorly. It received an abysmal 9% Rotten Tomatoes critic score, and made just $167 million worldwide (only $56 million of which was in the US).
The reboot was plagued by production issues and behind-the-scenes drama. Reports indicated that Trank was erratic on set (which he has denied) and that Fox demanded reshoots that significantly altered the film’s final act.
Disney would be wise not to rush the characters to the big screen
If any studio can turn the “Fantastic Four” franchise around, its Marvel Studios.
It did the same for Spider-Man with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” after Sony struck a deal to allow the character to be used in the MCU while it retained distribution rights and creative control. And it has introduced little-known comics characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy and turned them into global hits.
But Spider-Man was already proven to be a hit with audiences before “Homecoming.” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was a box-office and critical disappointment, but Sam Raimi’s original trilogy made $2.5 billion worldwide.
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Anticipation is high for how the MCU might introduce Fox’s Marvel characters, but it would be wise for Disney to not rush the Fantastic Four to the big screen given that there is a worthy alternative on the horizon.
Disney is launching its streaming platform, Disney+, by year’s end, and is already developing Marvel TV shows that spin out of the MCU, including one starring Tom Hiddleston as Loki. The service could be the perfect launching pad for Fox’s Marvel characters, particularly the Fantastic Four, if Marvel Studios wants to test the waters before diving in.
A “Fantastic Four” TV series could be a less risky substitute to a big-screen movie. If the TV series will be as connected to the MCU as Feige has said they will be, then the characters could still eventually be featured in theaters. The same can be said of the X-Men; a Scarlet Witch TV series is also reportedly in development, and in the comics, Scarlet Witch is a mutant like the X-Men.
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