Fox should be happy right now. Very, very happy. Their superhero property, Deadpool, has just surpassed $675 million worldwide and it's only making more money. Following the well documented disaster that was Fantastic Four , Fox’s gamble in a lesser known X-Men property has really paid off.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool hasn’t had a lot of exposure to the general public. By that I mean those that don’t live on the internet or read a whole lot of comics. An internet favorite, Deadpool is the self-aware pop-culture pundit that no one asked for and everyone needed. Well, a few die-hards asked for it. Loudly after the test footage leaked and sent the internet into a frenzy.
Taking stock of the various Marvel properties as it stands right now, Marvel Studios is in pretty good shape. The rights to all the characters they’ve currently got fit neatly into their Avengers ventures. They recently had the rights to Daredevil revert back to them from 20th Century Fox, giving us the superb eponymous Netflix series. The Punisher property has also reverted, and the harsh vigilante will be making his MCU debut in Daredevil’s upcoming second season. Ghost Rider once belonged to Sony/Columbia Pictures, and we all know how that turned out..
The majority of characters they don’t have, however, belong to Fox. The aforementioned Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and The Silver Surfer. The only outlier is Namor, who is currently owned by Universal. I haven’t heard much thought the grapevine of anything in development, it may not even happen.
But the climate of exclusive rights is changing. As Age of Ultron and Days of Future Past taught us, studios can play nice. It gets a little tricky, and there is always fine print. Age of Ultron was allowed the use of two characters from the X-Men universe, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver made an appearance in X-Men's most recent outing. This sharing of property is not without some conditions. Although these characters are staples of the Avengers as far as the comic books go, there are a few caveats. In a Marvel Studios movie, they cannot be referred to either as mutants, or acknowledging the fact that Magneto is their father.
This trend continues in the upcoming Civil War, with Sony ceding to an appearance Spider-Man, yet still retaining the rights and receiving a share of the profits. People are pretty optimistic, at least based on the articles I read. The reason for the optimism is simply because Spider-Man is going home, back to the studio that spawned him.
The point is, when these properties find their way back to Marvel, great things happen. Sony has stumbled with their Amazing Spider-Man franchise. Beyond the Amazing Spider-Man reboot, Sony tried to follow Marvel’s example by creating an interconnected universe. There were plans to make a standalone Venom film, and a film with the Sinister Six, Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, complete with easter eggs throughout the two films. Now that Spidey is returning home fans are, as always, cautiously optimistic. There is little doubt that Marvel can continues it’s stellar example and execute a Spider-Man that is well received.
Much like Sony has struggled finding a place and a universe for its comic book property, so also has Fox with the properties they possess. Following Sony’s aborted attempt at rebooting Spider-Man, so also did Fox with Fantastic Four. The story was fodder for the movie rags throughout 2015, what with Josh Trank’s meltdowns and eventual blacklisting, I won’t get into the specifics here. Needless to say, there have been three failed Fantastic Four movies, including one reboot, that did absolutely nothing for Fox’s credibility. The only piece of that universe that may have legs could be a Silver Surfer standalone film, as impressive as his scenes in Rise of the Silver Surfer were. Fox may need to let that wound heal, though, and the character may fade into obscurity.
But there is a great red hope for Fox. His name is Deadpool. Not only is this a new character, but a new opportunity. With the ushering in of an untested, rare, R-rated superhero property, Fox can become a new contender for the superhero genre.
What Fox has going for it:
Ryan Reynolds is a rarity and a blessing. Rare in that the man is being forgiven for not one, but three abhorred permutations of favorite superheroes. What defies logic, however, is that the man is being given the opportunity to redeem himself for the abomination that was Deadpool in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Literally the same character.
The reason he’s been successful is because he was at the forefront of the campaign to get this movie made. He participated in the test footage that prompted the clamor for the movie we now have and love. He has connected with the fans. He gets the character. He's got the sense humor, ￼he has the skills, and no one can picture anyone else playing him. (Maybe Nolan North)
The world of X-Men is full of rich characters, none of which need a real origin story to depict how they received their powers. You have a world of superhuman only because of the inherent mutations that exist in that universe. They don’t have the issues that the MCU has with explaining the new onset of superpowered humans. This is one of the few and very minor things I struggle with as a more than casual viewer. Superpowered humans have come to be know as “enhanced” in the MCU. It’s a bit of a distraction when the more-than-casual viewers like myself see characters known to be mutants as “enhanced.” I continue to suspend disbelief, however, and am more than happy to see Scarlet Witch in trailers for Captain America: Civil War.
Until now, the only stand-alone, non-ensemble submissions from Fox have all been Wolverine-centric, and they can’t quite seem to get that right. As rich of a character and as loved as he is, Origins was forgettable and regrettable. The Wolverine was a step in the right direction, but still couldn’t quite hit it’s mark. The other X-Men movie that hurt the series was the third installment, The Last Stand. Enough has been said of how Brett Ratner derailed the franchise, but there was a savior in director Matthew Vaughn.
Matthew Vaughn re-introduced us to the universe with the reboot/prequel X-Men: First Class. Taking us back to the days of the Cuban Missile crisis and a nascent mutant population, Vaughn's film stands as a great film on its own. Following no rules but his own (like making Mystique Professor X's foster sister) he set out to re-establish the X-Men as a viable franchise.
I knew with X-Men First Class I could start fresh, get a new piece of canvas and paint what I wanted.
And what a painting he made. Although not on board to direct the sequel, Days of Future Past, he stayed on as producer. Days of Future Past reunited the franchise with original director Bryan Singer, and served to marry the rebooted universe with the old with unbelievable ease and aplomb. Further helping Fox's once struggling franchise was how Singer was able to hit the reset button on the Ratner blunder with some clever time-travel mechanics. Watch the movie to find out how, I'm no temporal physicist.
To wrap things up, what Fox needs to do to move forward is just to cut their losses and concentrate on the already rich universe they’ve had all along. They are the only real contenders in the Marvel superhero arms race, most others have either given up or joined forces with the Almighty MCU.