Friday 15 December 2017

Crazy like a Fox

So, Fox has sold it's huge catalogue of creative properties to Disney, leaving it to focus on sport, news and other propaganda opportunities. This isn't particularly surprising, in some ways. Disney has been hoovering up properties over the last ten years, acquiring Marvel and LucasArts among others, making it the heavyweight in the tentpole blockbuster game. Fox's TV and film output has been increasingly at odds with its far right, conservative news output; The Orville is a good example of a show that doesn't always get it right but at least tries to show strong women, same-sex relationships, interracial relationships and gender fluidity in positive lights. Fox News, on the other hand, is world-famous as the most right-biased news network in the United States and a major factor in the proliferation of homophobic, transphobic, racist and misogynistic opinions held by the contemporary Republican party. There's a weird schism there.

Soon, 20th Century Fox will, bizarrely, no longer be owned by 21st Century Fox, but by the Walt Disney Company. Rupert Murdoch will be another fifty billion dollars richer and Disney's movie empire will stretch even wider. Unsurprisingly, it's genre fans who are talking about this aspect the most, seeing that many of the most popular fantasy franchises will now be owned by Disney. Having already acquired Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Disney now own the Alien and Predator franchises. Most notably for comicbook fans, Marvel studios now have access to all of the properties previously owned by Fox, including the X-Men and all associated characters such as Deadpool and Cable, plus the Fantastic Four and their associated cosmic beings.

Although Fox will be releasing its immediate output including Deadpool 2, New Mutants and X-Men: Dark  Phoenix, any further productions for these characters will involve Disney/Marvel, including around a dozen TV and film productions already in various stages of progress. Fox's plans for the FF have been in stasis since the dreadful 2015 movie, and presumably Marvel will be making the most of having their first family back in their creative hands. Marvel still don't own the screen rights to all their characters. Spider-Man is still owned by Sony and is used by Marvel Studios under agreement, with movies focusing on subsidiary characters, such as the finally-happening Venom movie, wholly under Sony's purview. Marvel will continue to use the Hulk as a supporting character, but a Hulk-focused movie won't happen unless Universal agree to a new deal on the character; currently, Universal hold the distribution rights on any Hulk film and will not let up on this, while Disney will never let another studio distribute one of their tentpole movies. There's been a long interest on both sides in making a movie for Namor, the Sub-Mariner, one of Marvel's oldest properties, but the rights situation there is complicated (and any Namor film now would look like it was ripping off Aquaman anyway). While Marvel own the Malibu comics rights, film rights to Men in Black, their only real hit, still rests with Malibu's former owners, and they're probably not letting them go, although it's easy to see how keen Disney would be to get their mitts on those.

One area of concern amongst fans is that Disney is not known for R-rated movies, but for more family-friendly affairs, which doesn't bode well for the future of the Alien and Predator franchises, nor the more adult-oriented direction that has made such a hit of Deadpool and Logan. This isn't something that I'm too worried about; Disney have already announced that they've no plans to take the R-rated franchises in the other direction, and they're canny enough to make the most of what works, for maximum exposure and profit. We just won't see "Walt Disney" splashed all over these films' posters.

I am, like most Marvel fans, hugely enthused that we might finally get the movie the Fantastic Four deserve. I actually quite like the first two films - they weren't good, by any stretch, but they were fun, goofy movies, and some risible miscasting aside, they were enjoyable. Still, the FF should be getting huge, cosmic crowd pleasers like Guardians of the Galaxy, not small, moody affairs like Fant4stic. No, what I'm not keen on is the idea of the X-Men coming into the MCU.

This might seem odd. This is what every Marvel fan has been dreaming of, right? Wolverine joining the Avengers! Spidey and Deadpool! Iron Man fighting Doctor Doom! The thing is, Marvel's comic universe is hugely overstuffed, with increasingly unwieldy crossover events involving every-single-bloody-title making any series hard to follow and franchise involvement overly expensive. I barely buy Marvel comics anymore because of this. The MCU is already reaching breaking point, and the announcement that the fourth Avengers movie will signal something of a cut-off point for the interconnected approach is no bad thing. The X-Men movie universe has been its own thing for the last seventeen years, playing fast and loose with its own continuity and trying new things. It messed it up as often as it got it right, but at least it's been interesting. Moreover, the X-Men mythos is rich enough and diverse enough to maintain its own universe. Bringing all this into the MCU, recasting most of it again, no doubt, making mutants just another group of super-people like they are in the comics will actually be creatively damaging for the franchise.

Still, it will probably keep Disney off Universal's back for a while

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