Imagine you’re 20th Century Fox. You have been watching Marvel Studios grow exponentially to the point where they have set the tone for how comic book movies should be made and, more importantly, how a shared universe should function. Now look back at what you have to work with; X-Men and the Fantastic Four. How do you make those continue to work?
You’ve been seeing steady diminishing returns from the X-Men franchise. X-Men: Days of Future Past was a success at $747 million on a $200 million budget, but X-Men: Apocalypse brought in over $200 million less than the previous film and was panned by both critics and audiences. The along comes Deadpool. You didn’t even want to make the movie, but if you were going to, you were damn sure going to make sure it was cost efficient. So you gave them $58 million to make it and you stepped back. Best decision you could have made at the time because the movie is a hit at over $783 million at the box office.
(Unfortunately, this means you’re going to double down on Deadpool like you already seem to be doing, but that’s a story for another day.)
So you have Deadpool and Logan (another hit) and you feel invigorated. You have the ability to course correct and do something different going forward. Unfortunately, you still have Fantastic Four hanging around your neck like a dead albatross. What do you do with a universe you’ve tried three times to bring to the screen and failed at?
Lo and behold, here comes Sony.
While you’re trying to get your X-Ducks in a row, Sony has made a deal with their failing Spider-Man franchise with Marvel Studios. Sony gets the prestige and built-in audience of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Studios gets their flagship character back in a deal that brings audiences Spider-Man: Homecoming. You watch the film break huge with audiences and despite some bumps in the road (Amy Pascal), both sides seem to be working and playing well with others. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that same kind of commercial and financial success? Of course it would be.
So what do you do?
You can’t give Marvel Studios back the rights to Fantastic Four. Doing that takes you out of the loop financially and they don’t seem to be actively pursuing the IP anyway. You stand there watching the prettiest girl in school (Marvel Studios) dancing with the Homecoming King (Sony) and you want to find a way to get her attention.
(Meanwhile Warner Brothers is in the dark under the bleachers in full emo complaining about how lame the whole dance is.) If you want to get Marvel Studios attention, you’re going to need to offer them something that they want.
One of the complaints that Marvel Studios has been getting in regards to the aliens that they use in their movies and TV shows is that they have not used the fan favorite villains; The Skrulls. These shape-shifting aliens have been a thorn in the side of Marvel’s heroes for years and to many the Chitauri and Kree are poor substitutes. In this instance, you have the advantage because you share the Skrulls in your FF deal. So being the smart studio that you are, you offer to let Marvel Studios have the Skrulls for their upcoming Captain Marvel film with no complaints from your end.
Maybe this opens the doors to a dialogue between you and Marvel Studios. Maybe you even start having some backdoor convos like Sony did with Spider-Man. (Remember when everything was quiet for a while surrounding Spider-Man? Feels like that again with FF.) So maybe you and Marvel Studios start talking about having a resurgence of the FF in the comics (Marvel Legacy?). Maybe you get Stan Lee himself to talk up Marvel’s interest in getting the Fantastic Four back. Maybe the director of a previous Fox superhero film (X-Men: First Class) and current popular franchise (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) goes out on a limb to discuss his desire to bring Marvel’s first family back to the big screen.
Now this is all conjecture on my part. Everything I stated is to be taken with the finest of grained salt, but the possibility that I could be right exists and frankly, if I were Fox, I would consider finding some way to keep a piece of the Fantastic Four without having to be responsible for the Fantastic Four the way Sony has with Spider-Man because no one really wants a solo Doctor Doom film and we really don’t want to see the FF get younger or deal with a Franklin Richards movie with the team in the background.
Just my two cents.
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