5 Ways the Disney-FOX Deal Could Inject New Life into the MCU Post-Infinity War
So, maybe we’re a bit late to the party when it comes to getting sweaty on the Disney-FOX merger. I say let the government and whatever shadowy, almost definitely evil corporations are at play figure out the big picture when it comes to monopoly laws, rollout strategies, streaming services, etc.
We’re here to get weird. We’re here to get freaky … particularly where this Disney-FOX merger concerns the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which just so happens to be the best high-budget TV series on the go.
Don’t think for a second I haven’t been holed up in some dark room, whispering Scarlet Witch reality-bending theories into the ether these last few weeks. I have been. Now, it’s time to come into the light … and tell you, in nerd terms, why things are about to get even cooler for MCU fans post Infinity War.
(Side note: Isn’t it disgusting how spoiled we are as comic book fans these days? We’re already looking past Infinity War, which is a movie we don’t deserve. An epic, incredible-looking behemoth hurtling toward us on the back of a decade of earned, character-based storytelling.)
1. Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four
Yes, I’ve separated Reed Richards from the team and franchise he represents for a reason.
First, this is cool because, in this world of ever-present and always-encroaching darkness, sometimes things just work out that make you sit back and go, “huh, that’s sorta neat.” Take, for instance, the very real possibility that Marvel’s official “Phase 4” could and in all likelihood will prominently feature the imprint’s first family, the Fantastic Four. (Now do you believe in String Theory?)
Anyway, while the FF have a long and storied fictional history, almost none of that has translated to big screen success. FOX swung (twice) and failed miserably (twice) to bring Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, the Thing, and Sue Storm into the hearts and minds of millennials (and anyone else, for that matter). If we’re going to give any credit in the attempt, it probably belongs with Chris Evans. After all, the man who would one day go on to play Steve Rogers aka. Captain America as if he was made for the role didn’t do a half-bad job of making playboy Johnny Storm likable and fun to watch.
Anyway, not only are the Fantastic Four a fun team that hasn’t had their proper day in the sun (deep cut), but they would also fit seamlessly into the MCU as it currently stands, especially if we consider Reed Richards.
As one of the smartest men in the world, Richards would mark an instant shift in a world that has considered Tony Stark and Bruce Banner its patron PHDs. Now, we have no idea if one or even either of those men will survive long enough to meet him, but even if they don’t, we can bet that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker will be around, and Richards and Parker have one of the most interesting master-apprentice dynamics of any two heroes in the Marvel Universe.
Do you guys think it’s a coincidence that Tony Stark sold Stark/Avengers Tower at the end of Civil War? Baxter Building, anyone?
(Bonus: Imagine the Fantastic Four cavorting around the galaxy with its Guardians. Do they even make enough colors for that?)
2. Mutants (Yes, and the X-Men, too.)
Not trying to bury the lede here, but most of the headlines surrounding the Disney-FOX merger in nerd circles have featured the X-Men, one of the most storied and longest-running teams in all of comicbookdom, and for good reason.
That said, what makes the X-Men so compelling—and what FOX actually did a pretty good job with, all things considered—is what the mutant metaphor can and often does say about the modern world. The X-Men are fun to watch because they have adamantium claws and shoot optic blasts. They’re compelling to watch because of what they’re fighting for, who they’re fighting for, and what they’re up against.
The Avengers protect the world from outside threats. The X-Men, by and large, are unconcerned with what the rest of the world is doing, unless it concerns them. This is both a fault and a point of distinction for them. The X-Men don’t fight to protect. They fight to change, and what they hope to change, on the whole, are the hearts and minds of the humans who fear and loath them, or the mutants who feel the same toward their homosapien oppressors.
Some would argue that it might be tricky to get that sort of nuance into the MCU. Not because the audience can’t handle it or the creatives involved aren’t capable, but rather because mutants have not existed in the MCU to this point, and introducing them now—along with the sociopolitical issues they raise—wouldn’t make sense without the long comic book history of mutant struggle to back it up.
Hogwash. With one wave of Scarlet Witch’s magical, Universe-bending wand, the MCU could be teeming with powerful entities. Rather than having two dozen super-powered heroes and their respective villains running around, every fifth house on the block might feature a telepath, or a Juggernaut, or a cosmic-level threat. That’s fertile ground for tension, and tension often builds the best stories.
Which leads us to our next point.
3. True Crossovers
Bringing Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the scrubs (sorry) together to form the Avengers was a monumental task of script and movie-making virtuosity. That said, let’s not pretend it qualifies as a true crossover.
The Avengers is a team. It’s a team comprised of largely B-rate heroes (in terms of mainstream recognition,) made compelling because of the stellar job Marvel Studios did in the casting and hiring phases.
Avengers and X-Men? That’s a crossover. Two teams comprised of compelling, unique individuals, each with at times flawed and at other times shining ideologies, coming together to face a common threat … or being split apart due to a failure to communicate, an inability to compromise, and—perhaps most of all—an overabundance of ego built on the back of success, recognition and triumph in the face of adversity.
What happens when Earth’s mightiest heroes comes up against its mightiest mutants? Who wins? More importantly, who does the audience want to win?
If Marvel does its job as well as they already have with Civil War, the audience should be split going into the theater, and fractured coming out of it. That’s the power of a true crossover, and with all banners rallied under the House of Ideas once more, it’s finally possible to achieve.
(Avengers crossing over with the Guardians in the upcoming Infinity War will be a treat to see, and deserves mention. But the X-Men, in terms of pre-film recognition and cultural identity, are in another league.)
4. Marvel MAX
While it’s been largely smooth sailing in the MCU to date—sure, there have been some ‘meh’ entries in the canon, but nothing approaching the steaming pile of trash that was X-Men 3—FOX has gone through its various ups and downs with its comic book property.
Often, studios get burned by experimental high-budget moviemaking and switch to micromanage mode (*cough* Warner Bros.,) wherein creativity suffers and, ultimately, consumers suffer too. Audiences will always tell studios what they need to hear. It’s up to the suits whether or not they listen.
And in this one area above all others, I can give FOX major props. When the X-Men franchise fell on relative hard times, they started doing the unthinkable in major tentpole filmmaking.
They. Took. Risks.
It started out subtly enough. X-Men: First Class took the titular team back to its roots, starting with a younger generation, and focusing on youthful versions of Magneto and Professor X. The devil was in the details, and the film successfully injected new life into a franchise that had begun to grow stale.
But it was in 2014 where the studio really took a risk, albeit a modestly-budgeted one.
The unbridled, unadulterated (in more ways than one) success of Deadpool, a hard R, vile and volatile, charming and hilarious, heartfelt and tragic mercenary tale, quite literally changed the genre in a weekend, and the effects of it haven’t even begun to play themselves out to completion. In the place of tiny ripples in a clear pond, Deadpool was a hurled boulder, and Logan followed it up to resounding—and Oscar buzz-generating—effect.
One of the major fears heading into this Disney-FOX merger is where the more risky tonal material from the X-Men franchise will land in the relatively fluffier MCU. But these seriel worriers have forgotten one cold, hard fact: big business likes big money, and Disney is big business incarnate.
Marvel will follow FOX’s lead in this, even if FOX should have followed Marvel’s lead in so many other areas. Deadpool will survive. Blood and guts and gore and cuss words will have a place in the Marvel canon … as long as the material demands it and the audience pays to see it.
5. Villains. Villains.
If you don’t have a compelling villain, you can often make up for it by having a likable and compelling hero.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has managed to survive and even to thrive for a decade while largely holding to a villain-of-the-week pattern throughout its run. Sure, we got Loki (really more of an antihero these days,) and Baron Zemo was interesting in his own way, but most Marvel villains serve as glorified story beats. Walking exposition boxes or flashing signs that mark catalysts for needed character development.
If Marvel is to continue churning out good—and not just entertaining—content in the coming years, then they must embrace more complex villains. They look to be doing it with Thanos in Infinity War, and here’s to hoping. But after that, the Marvel Universe will need more than heroes. It will need villains to challenge them, and in the physical realm least of all.
Luckily, FOX has been holding on to some of the best villains in the Marvel canon, including Magneto, Galactus, and, perhaps most importantly, Doctor Doom.
It is my firm belief that following up Infinity War with something bigger in a literal sense could be a mistake. Instead, Marvel should follow it up with something more sinister. Something closer to home.
Something very much like a power-hungry super genius that controls his own country. Doom plays Go when others play chess, and watching him match wits, and ultimately, fists with Reed Richards and whichever Avengers are left standing at the start of Phase 4 would be a true treat for longtime fans.
Infinity War might prove to be Marvel’s finest hour, even if its story trolls its darkest depth, but the future is full of possibility.