There’s no nice way to say this, the new Fantastic Four movie was a cinematic abomination. No love was felt by critics, and some went as far as to call it ‘The Room of superhero movies’. This failure is especially painful because The Fantastic Four have so much great source material to draw from. For instance, Doctor Doom is easily one of the most sinister and terrifying villains Marvel has to offer. The true failure of this film, and many other superhero movies, is that Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is still fractured.
Fox still owns the Fantastic Four and X-Men. Sony owns Spider-Man. Marvel (and, now, Disney) has the bulk of its own source material, but the absence of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men makes for some convoluted rewriting so as to not step on any copywritten toes. Thanks to some corporate playing nice, Spider-Man will be appearing in some future MCU films (with a big focus being his role in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War).
The world of super hero cinema would be a better place with cooperation.
However, it’s also because of this corporate greed and the way the other studios continue to make movies to avoid losing the rights to those characters, that things get a little more convoluted in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no mention of adamantium, for instance, because it’s trademarked to the X-Men, which –on screen at least- is not a property of Marvel. There can be no mention of mutants or anything related to them, which relegated Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to H.Y.D.R.A. experiments instead of writing them as mutants. It’s easy to speculate how much bigger and better films like Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy could have been, with inclusion of the X-Men or Spider-Man. That, however, is the very heart of comics and their derivative forms: being bigger-than-life and over-the-top. Seriously; Age of Ultron with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver being properly addressed as mutants, fighting Ultron alongside the other X-Men and the Avengers? Be still, rapidly beating nerd-hearts. Blockbuster gold successfully missed out on because of studios behaving like selfish children on a playground.
Now this isn’t necessarily to say that Fox and Sony need to throw in the towel and give the rights back to Marvel/Disney. (Except maybe in the case of Fox and The Fantastic Four– because how many more reboots will there be before it’s universally accepted that Fox simply cannot make a good Fantastic Four movie.) It’s entirely possible, or at least it appears to be entirely possible, for studios to play nice when it comes to overlooking small overlaps between franchises. Imagine a world where major motion picture studios cooperated, with fair levels of give and take, in making their superhero movies. They would still stand to make the profits they’re accustomed to as long as they worked on creating the same quality of film seen in the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and some of the X-Men films. Fans would be happy. Studios would make money. Characters and writing wouldn’t suffer in ways they never should. The world of super hero cinema would be a better place with cooperation.
However, since this is also not very likely given how corporate greed works, it probably is just time for those studios to cut their losses, continue to do what they do best (which, in Sony’s case, appears to be alienating its stars and angering hacker groups as of recent years), and leave the comic-to-film work of Marvel, to Marvel. If nothing else comes of returning the film rights, moviegoers can rest more easily knowing that their beloved characters won’t be getting terrible treatment elsewhere and future MCU films can gel together as intended.
By Phil Gorski