The Fate of ‘X-Men’ Under Disney
It’s hard to look at any media headline that hasn’t mentioned the recent Disney buyout of 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion. The deal is monumental in both the financial scale and the entertainment world since it sows the seeds for Disney’s possible monopoly on film. With the details of this buyout being finalized, the acquisition will reduce Hollywood’s “Big 6,” which are major studios, down to just five and potentially lend Disney control of 40% of the box office. And while many are concerned about the possible loss of 4,000 jobs under Fox, others are celebrating the inclusion of both the X-Men and Fantastic Four cast to the slate of possible Marvel Studios properties.
Comic book fans have long dreamed for a future in which all of Marvel’s superheroes could come together in a single film. However, the jumbled film rights of multiple characters kept that dream from happening. Sony’s ownership of both Spider-Man and his extended cast kept Marvel’s prodigal son away from its own film’s studio hands. Meanwhile, Universal and its hold on Hulk, She-Hulk, and Namor have prevented Marvel Studios from producing their own standalone films that center around the jolly green giant. However, Universal and Sony sharing their respective central characters instilled hope in audiences everywhere that we were getting closer and closer to a fully formed Marvel Universe. The only thing that remained was Fox’s death grip on their X-Men and Fantastic Four properties, which fans (and one actor) were clamoring for them to share with Marvel Studios. After the trash fire that was 2015s Fantastic Four reboot and 2016s disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse, demand was higher than ever for Fox to either yield their rights or allow Marvel to mutually use their creations. Now with the buyout, it seems like we’re closer than ever to having the fleshed out Marvel Universe that fans have been craving for years. Although, Fox had multiple films in production and development before the merger, and with the Disney acquisition, the fate of those films are left hanging up in the air.
Two films are almost surely going to continue uninhibited: arguably Fox’s most profitable franchise pre-Disney, Deadpool, as well as Dark Phoenix. Any movie studio can see the success that the R-rated action comedy series of films has built up, and Marvel Studios head, Kevin Feige, would be smart to allow the creative heads behind it to continue developing the third film with free reign. The fourth film in the new prequel series of X-Men films, Dark Phoenix, has a release date set for June 7, 2019, and will most likely be the final Marvel film produced by Fox. It’s already been through so much development, filming, production, and marketing to be pulled from the slate now. While the film might not be indicative of the new ownership of the X-Men franchise, Disney understands that not releasing the film will just cost them more money in the long run.
One film whose fate is unsure is The New Mutants, which is Fox’s attempt at breaking the comic book movie mold by introducing a comic book horror movie. The film was originally set to release in theaters on April 23, 2018 before being pushed back to February 22, 2019 due to reshoots that supposedly would have made the film more frightening. However, the film would experience yet another postponement to August 2, 2019 after news of the Disney buyout had only just started to surface. Now that the deal is finalized, fans are left wondering if the film is even still set to release despite the announced release date and initial trailer. Many are speculating that even if the film does end up being released, it may not be released in theaters; instead, it will be sent to its new owner’s streaming service, Disney+, as an exclusive incentive to subscribe. The New Mutants was originally pitched to Fox as a trilogy of horror films where each have their own distinct feel and characters, but it seems like that may no longer happen.
Speaking of films that may no longer happen, let’s get real: Gambit is still never going to happen. The film has been in development hell since 2014, where Fox prematurely announced that it was “definitely” going to make it. They attached Channing Tatum as the star that would bring the character to life, as well as met with several directors to get the project off the ground. They hired three (count ’em, three) directors to lead the film, and all three left; either due to scheduling conflicts or creative differences. The film has been in development for so long that Fox had to renew Tatum’s contract to still star in the film if it eventually got made. I can’t count how many times Fox had announced a release date for Gambit, only for the date to pass and for the film to get pushed back another year. There was already little hope that the film was going to be made under Fox, and now that the rights have changed hands, it doesn’t seem like there’s any hope at all that Disney will allow Tatum’s Gambit character to see the light of day.
Other films in development before the Disney buyout included a solo Kitty Pryde film, a solo Multiple Man film starring James Franco, and a solo film dedicated to Laura Kinney/X-23 introduced in 2017s Wolverine finale, Logan. However, these films had never progressed passed the rumor stage, nor had they even attached any concrete directors or writers to their projects. Any comic book fan that had been looking forward to these films should probably cut their hopes off now, as Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige will most likely set out to produce their own slate of X-Men properties that are unique to what came before.