Today, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion. The deal comprises numerous properties, ranging from The Simpsons, to Avatar, but the biggest point of interest for me is that Disney now has the rights to X-Men. The development is now confirmed but this is something that a lot of Marvel fans have been praying for for a long time, if online discussion is any indication. I remember entire threads on the Internet Movie Database’s (IMDB) forums where people would demand that the rights for the X-Men films go back to Marvel. People would argue that the series needed a fresh start under Marvel Studios because the X-Men films mishandled characters like Cyclops (fair enough) or because they didn’t like the buttons on a costume (seems unreasonable). Like I have mentioned before when discussing the DCEU, when people want something to fail they become more sensitive to any perceived shortcomings.
Aside from the fans that have been praying for this, there are more reasonable fans who simply wanted to see the X-Men in the Avengers universe. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to see Wolverine in the Avengers film, which likely will not happen. Hugh Jackman previously said that he would be open to returning in the role if he got to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but he has said more recently that the “ship has sailed” for him. The scripts for Infinity War Part I and II are already written and being filmed, so normally I would say that the ship has sailed for seeing any former Fox properties in Infinity War. However, the rushed introduction of Spider-Man in Civil War does make me wonder if the filmmakers might be willing to squeeze something in for Part II.
One of my biggest worries was that darker and/or R-rated properties like Deadpool would be watered down to suit Disney’s “fun” and family-friendly silver screen image. Fortunately, Disney CEO Bob Iger has stated that Deadpool can remain R-rated at Disney. This is a step in the right direction, but it is still aligned with Marvel President Kevin Feige’s proclamation that the MCU will never be dark.
Deadpool had one noticeably dark segment, namely Wade’s time spent being tortured, but for the most part it still fits in with the “fun” tone that Feige is committed to. In contrast, the X-Men films, especially X1, X2 and Days of Future Past (DOFP), are noticeably much darker than anything in the MCU’s films. The themes of prejudice from the comics are unashamedly fleshed out on screen, showcasing the violence and darkness that mutants experience. The opening scene of X1, where Magneto is separated from his parents in a concentration camp, is still one of my favourite openings in any film. I highly doubt we would see a scene like this if X1 was originally handled by Marvel Studios. Maybe most of the scene would be the same, and then a Stan Lee cameo would be used to alleviate the tension.
Now, the MCU has also given us properties like Jessica Jones and The Punisher, but I am not talking about Netflix here. I am talking about the big screen. When Disney originally acquired Marvel, people argued that imprints such as Touchstone would be used to distribute darker or R-rated material. However, we know now that any R-rated material so far has come from Netflix. Deadpool 3 will likely be the first R-rated X-Men film property that Disney gives us.
I think Disney will be willing to give Deadpool more R-rated sequels because they have already seen how successful his film was. The box office receipts are a testament to people’s love for the character in all his R-rated glory. In contrast, Disney might be more willing to take risks with X-Men since the most recent X-Men film, Apocalypse, underperformed (relative to previous entries) with critics and the box office. Additionally, Logan was a well received R-rated entry but marked the end of the X-Men film universe’s most popular character.
If darkness is viewed as the enemy, then “fun” will be viewed as the saviour. What about the rest of the films? Will X-Men be rebooted to offer more “fun” now? Will the themes of prejudice all be cut in order to make everything more family friendly? Will we get scenes like this one?
Or this one?
I doubt it.