Undoubtedly, the biggest entertainment story of the last few weeks has been the potential deal between Fox and Disney.
Reactions have ranged from excitement to disappointment and, as one would expect, a lot of the focus has been on the Marvel properties that would come along with the purchase. There have been rumblings of some sort of deal for years now, perhaps most memorably in a story vehemently denied by both sides in 2015. I don’t doubt that this story had real negotiations behind it, as Disney and Fox most certainly have discussed their shared properties for years. I must say, I am conflicted about the potential of this deal. When speaking about this, one must not get hung up on just the Marvel side, since the deal appears to include the whole of Fox’s film and television properties. This would mean that franchises like Alien, Predator, James Bond and The Simpsons would all, at least in part, reside at Disney. As we did with Justice League, I think it is appropriate to take a look at some of the current possibilities of this massive agreement.
For Disney, more specifically Marvel Studios, the acquisition of the film rights for X-Men and Fantastic Four can’t be seen as anything but a positive. Though they have retained their success, the MCU films are due for a big overhaul, both in style and cast. Both of these franchises provide a plethora of new heroes, unique aesthetic and, perhaps most importantly, new adversaries. If there is a glaring weak spot in the franchise, it has been the villainy. Most antagonists have been a corrupted version of the hero, and though Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming all made the effort to move away from this formula, many of the films are haunted by it. The acquisition of the Fantastic Four’s villains, especially Doctor Doom and Galactus, would allow longer lasting, more complex opponents for the heroes to conquer. These acquisitions could also help Marvel Comics, who have often pushed the two franchises to the side in recent years. Luke-warm reception to their recent Legacy re-launch warrants some more moves, and returning two of the franchises that helped build the company to the forefront might be what the line needs. While the films have maintained momentum, the medium in which they were born has not been as fruitful. Superhero movies and television are at the forefront of pop culture, comic books remain a niche industry and interest. The comic industry is suffering and I think carte blanche on character use for the brand should be encouraged.
Disney would also likely find some extra Star Wars material to use in future releases, and any little pieces of the originals that remain at Fox. I mean, it isn’t all that important, but boy does my brain miss the 20th Century Fox theme before things get rolling. Add in all of Fox’s catalog and the mouse will also have more than enough content for their coming streaming service, another potential game changer in years to come.
For the audience, the situation may not be so decisively great. Fox has taken big risks with their franchises, and though not universally successful, the risks have led to truly innovative films. I can’t imagine that Disney would have allowed Logan, Deadpool or even X-Men:First Class to reach screens in the form they did. Kevin Feige has even expressed an unwillingness to go to an R rating, and though that isn’t a must for innovation, it sure seems to help. I have found myself dreading an MCU X-Men over the last few days. This is not to say that previous Marvel Studios films haven’t found any edge, but they would likely have to start from square one with the mutants if looking to integrate them into their films. The X-Men franchise has come so far and has created such an impressive narrative in the last 17 years that it’s hard to imagine a complete reboot. This worry extends into other franchises, especially Alien and Predator. Fox has been a haven for adult oriented Sci-Fi for many years, that aspect of the company could easily slip away.
No less important, this is also potentially a big moment for the industry and those who work within it. I don’t need to get into the complexities of economics to make this any clearer: more places to work is better than less places to work. I can only hope that if this deal takes place Disney keeps a lot of Fox employees in their jobs. I doubt that will be the case as it is difficult to take on an entire studio without consolidating authority. It would also be interesting to see if any of the teams currently working on Marvel projects are kept on. It is also evident that working under one big banner tends to stunt creative freedom. If you’re making money and have no reason to compete, you’re way less likely to take creative risks. I already addressed this as a concern for the audience, but it might be an even harsher reality for the creators themselves. Disney isn’t known for supporting smaller or riskier projects, and with so many franchises to push, those behind the projects might find their hands tied.
I’m compelled to have a conclusion here, but it’s a loose one. In reality, this deal might not even happen. If it does, it will be significant for the whole of entertainment. Disney is already a monster, they may soon be unrivaled. Warner Brothers and Universal have some killer properties, but a Disney with even more franchises to play with is unprecedented. Entertainment is focused on the promotion of franchises and acquisition of well-known IPs these days, Disney would arguably have more than any company on the planet. I’m compelled to believe that it wouldn’t be a good thing, but art always seems to fight its way back. That relies not only on the actions of Disney, but those outside of it. Even if the company becomes a dominant force, that in itself becomes the impetus for others to innovate and fight for their creations to have a voice. At some point, the rebels always break through. This time, they might have to.