Disney, Fox and MCU

I’m inherently suspicious of anything and everything Rupert Murdoch does. If Murdoch is behind something then it is safe to assume that he wants ordinary people coming out worse in the deal and that somehow he is trying to make the world a shittier place. That doesn’t mean he always succeeds or that everything with “Fox” or even “News Corporation” written on it is cursed like some artefact from an RPG.

In the current Disney/Fox deal, the Murdoch empire is divesting itself of its entertainment properties and retaining its news properties. I don’t know what the full implications of that are but “Murdoch controls less’ sounds partly like good news, whereas “Murdoch ends up as the biggest shareholder in Disney” sounds like bad news. Of course, Disney only sounds good when compared with Rupert Murdoch. The deal is another step in Disney controlling a hefty chunk of IP. It isn’t exactly monopolistic power but it is reasonable to fear one corporation having that much cultural clout.

Given Disney’s chain of acquisitions (Pixar, Marvel, Lucasarts) the move also is of deep interest to multiple fandoms. Some fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are seeing this move primarily in terms of how the move will bring more of Marvel’s characters back under Marvel’s control. Given the success of the MCU, I can see why fans of superhero films (and I would count myself as one) would be excited. Yet, I don’t see it.

The specific result is that Marvel’s beloved X-Men franchise would now be owned by Disney and hence X-Men characters could become part of the MCU. This does not strike me as a good idea.

Within Marvel’s comic book universe, characters have swapped between teams and in and out of comic books. Notably Beast, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are characters who have been players in both The Avengers and X-Men. However, there is nothing particularly essential about those characters in either setting. Further, I just don’t think the premise of the X-Men works in conjunction with the rest of the Marvel Universe. I don’t think it has ever really worked in the comic books and I don’t see how it could work in film.

A comic book universe relies on somehow making superheroes whose basic premise is quite different work together. Marvel has juggled this by having elements that work together and elements that work as given character’s own domain. Thor can be a god-like alien being on Earth and exist side-by-side with Iron Man a human with fancy gadgets but their separate adventures put the characters in quite different worlds. Some suspension of disbelief is required to accept that these characters can have their own stories without every film requiring all the Avengers to turn up to help but the settings help and each character can have separate stories.

Now add the X-men. The X-Men aren’t the X-Men without the key premise that they live in a world in which:

  • Some people get random mutant superpowers.
  • That the wider population knows this.
  • That the mutant population is feared and persecuted and suppressed.

Captain America has to be cool with this. I mean, obviously, he isn’t but for the X-Men to have their stories, basically The Avengers have to not do anything when the US government starts hunting people with giant killer robots. Also, the wider public has to be relatively OK with one bunch of super powered people and raging bigots about a different bunch. It has to be OK to get superpowers from a spider bite but not from a genetic mutation AND people have to believe that story (i.e. people don’t think Spiderman is a dangerous mutant).

Put another way, the X-Men and The Avengers as stories can’t share the same space but there isn’t a simple way of separating those spaces. With other characters (e.g. the Netflix version of Daredevil) local spaces can be created (e.g. a fictional Hell’s Kitchen) and the antagonists can exist in a world where there other kinds of superheroes – Daredevil fighting secret ninjas and/or an evil property developer can happen in a world where off-screen Captain America is fighting Hydra.

The flip side of this is the creativity that arises from restrictions. Marvel has made a success out of its own stable of films but it did so without having access to its biggest properties: X-men and Spiderman. Yes, it was nice for there to be Spiderman films that were not another rehash of his origin story and which give the character a bigger field to play in but it was not having Spiderman that pushed Marvel into the more creative decision – Guardians of the Galaxy for example.

Which brings me back to Disney. It was great seeing another Star Wars film yesterday and yes, I’m looking forward to Avengers: Infinity War but the obvious IP danger in Disney’s accretion disc style of aquistions is that  it will become little more than a strip mine of IP rather than a source of new ideas.

If it avoids that trap then the popularity of its properties will only enable an economic behemoth bully governments and exploit its workers.

10 responses to “Disney, Fox and MCU”

  1. “Which brings me back to Disney. It was great seeing another Star Wars film yesterday and yes, I’m looking forward to Avengers: Infinity War but the obvious IP danger in Disney’s accretion disc style of aquistions is that it will become little more than a strip mine of IP rather than a source of new ideas.”

    1. How is this different than Marvel Comics since 1992? The movies work because they are made from 1980’s comic stories, and the shitheads who run Marvel Comics now aren’t allowed to touch the movies.

    2. How could it possibly be worse than Sony Pictures and whatever idiots made Fantastic Four?

    3. How could it be worse than Just-Us League?

    “If it avoids that trap then the popularity of its properties will only enable an economic behemoth [to] bully governments and exploit its workers.”

    As opposed to the way they bully governments and and exploit workers now, right? Floppy, sometimes you amaze me. FFS man.
    Besides, in twenty years there won’t BE any workers on movies, it’ll all be green-screen, motion capture and CGI. Key Grips and Focus Pullers will take their place on the unemployment line next to all the people presently working at McDonalds who will surely be fired in the next five years.


    • 1. “they are made from 1980’s comic stories” there’s a lot of 1990’s going on in the MCU – that whole Infinity Gauntlet thing for example? Nitpicking aside, I agree to some extent. The assumption with the comic book universe was that they could just keep this whole thing going on forever with big crossovers and new epic plotlines etc etc. Truth was, they can’t. Re-invention requires risk and risk requires failure and without taking risk you end with stagnation and decline. The last great Marvel epic crossover I bought in comic form issue by issue was Age of Apocalypse – and it was great but…the idea of starting all over again afterwards was…well why not just read something else! The narrative version of boom-bust “let’s destroy the status quo” back to “here’s the status quo again” becomes boring at another level even if the fun is still on the page.

      The tragic secret is that at some point narratively, Superman has to die and stay dead or at least stay dead for long enough for it to really matter.

      Put yet another way: the Doctor Who cancellation was a good thing.

      2. It couldn’t be worse but it isn’t likely to be much better. Mind you I think the Fantastic Four are basically not good and that many of the flaws in the movies are inherent ones in the property.

      3. Batman v Superman demonstrates that something CAN be worse than Justice League 🙂 It’s a good example though. Because of how the rights to various characters played out, Marvel couldn’t lead to its most famous character (Spiderman). Instead, they got creative and avoided being precious. They let directors HAVE FUN (e.g. Thor: Ragnarok) and they took risks with characters with little initial public fame (Guardians of the Galaxy). DC want to lead with their holy trinity but it is notable that the one who has had the fewest prior treatments on screen (Wonder Woman) is the one that is working. Bats and Supes can barely move for the baggage they carry with them. The X-men have a hefty amount of baggage also – both from the books and from the movies and the extent to which Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan owned their roles.

      “As opposed to the way they bully governments and and exploit workers now, right? ” – as “opposed to”? You don’t give an obnoxious bully MORE power on the grounds that they are ALREADY an obnoxious bully. Well, unless you are a conservative I suppose…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Several of the storylines in the Marvel movies are also based on post-2000 comics: Civil War, the whole Winter Soldier arc, the Extremis storyline from Iron Man III, the Planet Hulk arc alluded to in Thor: Ragnarok were all post-2000 stories. I think the version of the Guardians of the Galaxy we’ve seen on screen was also post-2000. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miles Morales or Kamala Khan on screen in the next few years. Sam Wilson or Bucky taking over the shield from Captain America may already happen after Infinity War.


  2. I think it could work but they’d have to relaunch it at this point and I don’t know if there needs to be another X-Men re-boot. However I can see that in a universe where there are InHumans that when affected by the Terrigen mist suddenly develop powers out of nowhere due to latent alien genes, mutants from spiderbites or other accidents, those who have them because of experimental testing, aliens, gods who are also really aliens, sentient robots, and recently also magic that maybe the appearance of people who aren’t InHuman, other alien, accidental mutation, experiments, gods, wizards, etc might be the straw that breaks the camels back and drive the world into full on paranoia about how to survive in a world where it’s becoming more and more common for a superpower fight to break out.

    Saying that makes me miss Powerless. I liked it at least.


  3. I am a little surprised that there seems to be a general lack of understanding about the X-Men despite their long running popularity. Done properly they can be a powerful addition to the MCU and give them a chance to tackle one of the most important topics today.

    “…public has to be relatively OK with one bunch of super powered people and raging bigots about a different bunch.”

    Since in real life people are like that over much lesser things such as skin color, religion or even gender it should not be all that difficult to see how mutants could end up being feared and hated. Most prejudices are based on little to nothing but since mutants manifest along with puberty there is actually at least some basis for the fear of what mutation brings to the world. Not to mention that once it is understood that mutants are an evolution of the human species normal humans will have cause to worry on yet another level.

    If I was running Marvel I would make the next phase all about the sudden appearance of the mutants. Prof X and Magneto have been around for a while but there have been very few others. Scott, Jean and the rest are the beginning of a huge new wave of mutations. Outbursts of violence and death begin to become very regular things. Teens who cannot control their powers. Teens who don’t want to contain their powers. It can happen to anyone. There is nothing you can do to stop it. A whole new level of fear for parents that already have a whole full of normal things to worry about.

    Because of all the Fox movies and the fact that the MCU is well along I don’t see how Marvel could tell the X-Men story according to the books. Having a giant roster of mutants and a whole history of events is just too much to say ‘Nobody ever noticed’ But it would not be that hard to start from the beginning in a new way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That makes sense. The arrival of mutants and the mutant-issue would overwhelm the existing universe (or the Earthbound part of it). I guess that could be of benefit for Disney/Marvel to do a soft reboot of the whole MCU at some future point.

      Liked by 1 person

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