It might not be soon, and might not be in the form we've been expecting, but if Marvel legend Stan Lee is to be believed, that long-awaited epic, multi-studio Marvel movie crossover might actually be (at the very beginnings of being) on its way to our screens.
Which, in turn, means we might, someday soon, actually get the chance to see Spider-Man join The Avengers on screen, and to watch them team up with (or fight) The X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
The big question, though?
How're Marvel Going to Get Spider-Man (and the Rest) Back?
Well, that's where Stan-the-man Lee comes in - or, rather, his recent comments at a Q&A celebrating 75 years of Marvel Comics do, after he was asked the question below:
"Will the Marvel Universe ever be brought back together? I know that Spider-man belongs to Sony, and X-Men to Fox. Is there ever a plan to kind of bring them all back to Marvel? Back home?"
Lee's response was...surprisingly specific.
"It's something that Marvel is very concerned about. It's very difficult to get 'em all together because these characters are so successful and make so much money that the studios that have the rights to any of them don't want to let them go. So that's something that all the lawyers and all the production companies have to work out. Whether they'll ever get it worked out, I don't know."
The key part there? The fact that Marvel is not only "very concerned about" the issue that their characters are split up on screen, but that, from the sounds of it, there are lawyers working on it as we speak.
So, the question is...
How Hard Would It Be to Re-Unite the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Well, at first glance, it'd be incredibly difficult - if not impossible.
After all, as things stand:
- Sony own the rights to Spider-Man, and his extended universe (including Venom, and possibly Spider-Woman).
- Fox owns the rights to The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, and the extended universe (and villains) that are based around them. With, of course, the exception of Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch, who are shared with Marvel Studios.
- Universal own - from the sounds of it - a small part, but not all, of the rights to Namor, The Sub-Mariner.
Which means, were Marvel to want to bring back every one of their characters, they'd have to commit to negotiate with three separate studios to make that happen.
And, what's more, Marvel and Fox have what is, by all accounts, a fairly rocky relationship - which means the odds of them doing a deal seem... kind of small.
So, is the idea of the rights to those heroes reverting to Marvel - and indeed of a major Marvel movie crossover - just a pipe dream?
There Are Reasons to Be Optimistic
So, sure, Marvel is reportedly doing everything they can to undermine Fox, and Sony has repeatedly said that they have no intention of letting the rights to Spider-Man revert to Marvel - but that doesn't mean that there's no chance of it happening.
As has been argued before, there's a wide-ranging suspicion that Sony is actually more than willing to do a deal with Marvel over the rights to Spider-Man, and that the relative box-office disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 prompted a rethink about the future of the character that could end up with him partly returning to the Marvel fold.
Similarly, the imminent return of The Fantastic Four to the big screen might seem to suggest that Fox has no interest in letting anyone else get their hands on them. But, if the movie under-performs, it's entirely possible that Fox would be willing to cut their losses, and sell them back to Marvel for a large fee.
Alternatively, if next year The Fantastic Four join the X-Men as a hugely successful (and profitable) franchise in their own right, they may well collectively prove an incredibly tempting acquisition for Marvel (and, crucially, Disney) when it comes time to think about their plans for Phase 4.
So, then - let's hypothetically say that Stan Lee - who, despite frequent comments about his age, still knows the business of superheroes as well as anyone alive - is right when he describes Marvel as being "very concerned about" regaining the rights to their characters, and that negotiations of some sort are taking place:
What Would That Mean for the MCU?
Well, that's where that whole Marvel movie crossover thing comes in.
Whether it's the product of a loaning of characters, or of a full-scale purchase of Fox or Sony's superheroes, there's every reason to believe that Marvel's response to gaining any new high profile heroes would take the form of a massive, universe wide crossover. After all, that's exactly what they did at the end of Phase 1 with The Avengers, and what they're set to do in Phases 2 and 3 with The Avengers Age of Ultron and The Avengers: Infinity War.
As Stan himself put it in the same interview:
"It is a shame that Marvel can't distribute every one of them, because then we could put 'em all together...and you could put The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, get every other group together in a movie that would make a hundred trillion dollars."
Which, with a slightly reduced expected box office gross, is completely true.
So, if Stan is right, and Marvel really is pursuing the reclamation of their heroes, then we're almost certainly also one step closer to finally seeing that epic crossover movie...
The big question? What do you guys think?
Will Marvel ever reunite the entire Marvel universe on the big screen?
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