An argument that I often fought against until recently was that Fox Studios doesn’t know what to do with the film rights to the X-Men. A portion of comic fans are convinced that the X-films are a travesty and Fox should give up the film rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four to Marvel. After the disappointing and appropriately titled X-Men: Apocalypse, I may not be in full agreement with those fans but must now admit Fox is looking mostly bad for their recent results.
One point I will continue to debate is “Fox should gave back their film rights to Marvel”. This is an idiotic, oversimplification of the situation between the rival studios. Marvel sold off a majority of its film rights in 1999 to starve off bankruptcy. They made a long sequence of risky and poor business decisions, and so they did the only thing possible to keep from going under. Fox legally bought film rights from Marvel before the superhero genre took off. We all experience buyer’s remorse, but when you’re talking about multi-billion dollar companies deals have to be made. Imagine you have this ratty, old comic book in your closet and someone offers you $5 for it. You, seeing little to no value in keeping it, sell gladly for that $5 that you wouldn’t have before. Now, let’s say that buyer learns the comic is actually worth $1,000 despite its ratty condition, does that mean that you have any claim to that comic or $1,000? No, you sold it fair and square to a new owner who got incredibly lucky.
Fox, on their part, did lose the rights to Daredevil after a poor theatrical outing and failure to make a sequel (which is the loophole to these film rights, use em or lose em). Smartly, Marvel turned Daredevil into a Netflix TV show that impressed everyone and became their Iron Man for the Defenders. If that plays into Fox’s reticence to work with Marvel, I can’t say for sure but I imagine they’re very reluctant to lose out again. Both Columbia and Universal lost the films rights they had for the same reason as Fox, Ghost Rider and the Hulk respectively and Marvel has made decent use of the former in the MCU. Nonetheless, Fox doesn’t seem to want to give up either X-Men or Fantastic Four and that is entirely fair since they have the rights to them (for movies), however if they’re going to keep them then they should really try to utilize them better.
Fan4stic was an unmitigated bomb and X-Men Apocalypse reminds viewers all too much of the pit director Bryan Singer had to pull the franchise he started out of. Too many characters, poor motivations, an underwhelming villain (this failure could almost be forgiven, even the MCU is prey to this on a few occasions), plot developments to poorly reference the comics/past films, ugly CGI, really a list of things that the worst X-films did. Now, X-Men Apocalypse isn’t as bad as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I would rank it below The Last Stand and that is unacceptable. It’s such a low bar to surpass, but I can’t shake the feeling that The Last Stand was just a better example of the X-Men teaming up and past plots coming to a head like Jean’s psychic powers manifesting, Ice Man finally stepping up, even Storm becoming the head of the Xavier School. X-Men Apocalypse had that cool Quicksilver scene like the last film and showed how Xavier lost all his hair. It’s not bad necessarily, but it is disappointing.
One theory I had for some time was that if the films would use a different villain besides Magneto, they would find new ground to use and really show why these characters work. After seeing General Stryker, Bolivar Trask and now Apocalypse share the antagonist role with Magneto, I think that ship has sunk. The movies can’t help but put Magneto through his dickhead phase and try to screw everyone. For a Holocaust survivor, he is surprisingly comfortable with killing off a large portion of people based on their genetics. It still saddens me to hear that Mr.Sinister will likely be the villain for Wolverine 3 instead of X-Men 9, why can’t both use him? Wouldn’t it be cool to see Professor X and Magneto fight side by side against a common enemy without Magneto betraying anyone at the last minute like a douche?
One interesting proposal I saw online was for the X-Men franchise to reboot, but then wasn’t the point of First Class and Days of Future Past to put these characters and Universe in a place where we could start again and not worry so much about the past failures? A total reboot seems unlikely and a stop-gap if they don’t know where to go from here. That is the main problem, with X-Men and Fox, is there is a total lack of vision for their properties. Marvel Studios has a plan for their Universe, DC/WB is following something close to that, why is Fox taking this one step at a time? Perfect example, after the massive success of Deadpool there were rumors that Fox would divert their focus more on him and less on X-Men which sounds like such a knee-jerk reaction. In spite of the same interference that ruined Fan4stic, Deadpool worked because the whole film seemed like a passion project from the lead to the writers to the director.
This to me is where Fox needs to go from here, finding people that WANT to work on these characters and make them successful. They’re some of the biggest Marvel characters known to fans and the public, there’s gotta be people besides Singer and Kinberg who can produce films based on the X-Men.
Once you have someone who’s actually excited for the chance to work on these characters, that will get the cast excited, and that will produce a much better product. Now for some reason, a Gambit movie is supposed to happen at some point but an X-Men related show sounds more likely. The only way either of those could possibly happen is genuine enthusiasm from the teams involved to make them happen. That’s what Fox needs while also thinking outside the box a little.
Frankly, a Gambit movie sounds really dumb considering he isn’t in any of the actual X-Men movies, much less on the team and he only appeared in the worst Wolverine movie for ten minutes. Then again, maybe that will work in the film’s favor, having so much distance from the rest of the franchise that it can find its own way. If nothing else, it shows that Fox believes that they don’t need Hugh Jackman’s acclaimed role to carry the weight of several films.
The final reason I’m against Fox relinquishing the film rights to X-Men and FF to Marvel Studios, is quite simply I don’t think Marvel needs them. Marvel has plenty of great characters already, they just need to dig a bit deeper than looking at what they don’t have. They don’t need Galactus or Silver Surfer, they have Red Skull, Baron Zemo and Guardians of the Galaxy. Look how quickly Black Panther and Captain Marvel got pushed back when Sony made a deal to share Spider-Man, the same thing would happen with X-Men. Once they get their heavy hitters back, Marvel won’t try to make a GotG or Ant-Man. We definitely wouldn’t have a Deadpool movie if Disney was attached to it. Sure it might have been funny and made lots of money, but would it have gore, swearing or a sex montage? Having a portion of Marvel’s catalog at another studio is good for them and us, it means more (comic book) movies with the two Studios experimenting to compete with each other.
Fox’s failures likely outnumber their successes, but their successes keep us coming back for more (Deadpool 2 FTW). Some better writing, some newer voices behind the camera and we could have a X-Universe to be proud of. Fox just needs to step up their game.
Fantastic Four though, I got nothing. That franchise needs a long rest and a flipping miracle…