You probably know the story by now: Disney is in negotiations with 21st Century Fox to buy the company’s film and television assets. If it comes to fruition, it won’t be just the biggest movie news story of 2017 – it will be the biggest movie news story of the decade. Or more.
If this news fills you with excitement, dread, or something in-between…welcome to the club. The /Film staff has mixed feelings about this development, which could shake Hollywood to its core in ways both exciting and terrifying. So let’s run down the pros and cons of Disney buying Fox and what it means for both companies…and film industry itself.
Positive: X-Men and Fantastic Four Could Join the MCU
When Marvel Comics nearly went bankrupt in the ’90s, they stayed afloat by selling the movie rights to their most popular characters: Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil. And since then, that decision has served to bite them in the butt.
The exclusion of X-Men and Fantastic Four from the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a constant source of frustration for fans who want to see their favorite characters in the comics interact with their favorites in the movies — and of confusion for general audiences who have to deal with multiple versions of Quicksilver. Marvel has to bend over backwards to adapt ambitious crossover storylines like Civil War because they don’t own certain characters. And then there’s the poor Fantastic Four, who have not yet had a good movie — something that could change once Marvel Studios and their stellar track record gets a hold of them.
Could this mean that the Fantastic Four and X-Men enter the MCU? Possibly — and with the convoluted X-Men universe at a crossroads after the stunning Logan and the not-so-stunning Apocalypse, perhaps it’s time to start afresh. Besides, don’t you want to see a grumpy Wolverine bicker and try to lead the Avengers? (Hoai-Tran Bui)
Negative: The R-rated and Audacious Superhero Movie Dies?
Almost every positive argument I’ve seen for the Disney/Fox purchase seems to revolve around superheroes. “Finally!” people have declared. “The Wolverine can hang out with Iron Man!” Look: I get it. People love superhero movies, and they love synergy. They want all their favorites sharing the screen together. That’s fine! But even if your biggest concern is superhero movies, the Disney/Fox deal should give you pause.
Disney’s MCU films have done very well, both with critics and at the box office. Yet it cannot be denied that almost all of these films blend together; they’re supposed to, since they’re all part of the same universe. While Fox has had more duds than hits with their superhero films, they have recently started to take more chances, and with great success. While I’m not a fan of Deadpool, I do recognize that making a full-blown R-rated superhero movie was a risky move, and it paid off for Fox. Deadpool was followed-up with the excellent proto-Western Logan. Dark, violent, and surprisingly mature, Logan is the complete opposite of everything in the MCU – and that’s a good thing.
Disney and the MCU clearly have no interest in going down this road. They want their films to appeal to a wider audience, since that’s going to pull in the most money at the box office. As a result, the Disney-Fox deal might signal the end of more risky superhero movies, right when the sub-genre was beginning to take chances again. (Chris Evanglista)
Positive: Marvel Can Stop Trying to Make the Inhumans a Thing
Okay, this is small potatoes compared to some of the other entries on this list, but it’s a small, geeky point that matters to comic book fans. Over the past few years, Marvel Comics has increasingly cordoned off the X-Men, forcing them into their own corner of the universe they helped build while giving the Inhumans series after series, forcing them into the spotlight at all times. Behind-the-scenes stories explained why the publisher wasn’t highlighting some of its most popular and iconic characters – certain people with their fingers on the purse strings didn’t want to offer free publicity to characters who couldn’t star in lucrative Disney-distributed movies. An X-Men comic was essentially an advertisement for a 20th Century Fox film, at least when seen through certain eyes. So the Inhumans have been taking their place. And it stinks.
The Inhumans push has been underwhelming, to put it lightly. They simply aren’t as interesting as the X-Men and their various series have tended to have uneven launches and vanish before they can find their feet (the recent solo Black Bolt solo series is the exception that proves the rule). It all culminated in that terrible Inhumans TV show no one wants to talk about ever again. The Inhumans aren’t going to happen. They aren’t going to replace the X-Men! (Or the Fantastic Four, who were also shoved to the side in recent years despite being Marvel’s first family.)
With the X-Men movie rights under the same umbrella as the MCU, the need to punish these fictional characters over real world BS comes to an end. The Marvel comic book universe goes back to celebrating all of its characters. And the Inhumans go away for a bit. Comic readers rejoice! (Jacob Hall)
Negative: We Could Lose Edgier, More Mature TV Shows
While specific details are still not a hundred percent clear, early reports suggest that television brands like FX and FXX would be transferred over to Disney in the sale as well. Assuming Disney doesn’t let those branches operate independently and completely free of any corporate oversight, that could result in a number of possible things happening: Disney could move executives from current departments into positions of power overseeing those divisions, which may result in those channels producing less of the brazen and edgy TV shows for which those networks are known. I find it hard to believe a family-friendly company like Disney would be okay with something as twisted as American Horror Story on one of its networks. (Ben Pearson)
Negative: Disney Would Be Giving $60 Billion to Fox to Invest in Fox News
The whole reason Fox is interested in selling off huge percentages of its assets is to focus more on sports and news. Sports? Sure. Fine. No big deal. But news? That’s…not great. Do we really want the company responsible for Fox News to have 60 billion (with a “b”) more dollars in its pocket and a burning desire to actually spend devote those resources to more news content? I’m done playing nice about politics, so you’ll just have to deal with this (obvious) truth bomb – Fox News actively misleads its viewers and purposefully avoids covering relevant news that casts Republican politicians in a negative light. It’s practically state-sponsored media at this point. The thought of the people behind that network dumping more money into its skewed brand of news coverage is, frankly, terrifying; it’d be terrifying at any point, but it’s especially terrifying in light of everything that’s going on right now. (Ben Pearson)
Unclear: Disney Would Gain Majority Ownership of Hulu
Disney owns 30% stake in Hulu, the same amount that Fox owns. So the question is this: what does Disney owning 60% of Hulu mean for the future of Hulu and Disney’s own premium streaming service? You would think that Disney would not have much interest in Hulu as they begin to develop their own walled garden, so my first thought is that maybe they will use the technology for their own service. Remember, Hulu as a platform and infrastructure has been well tested by millions of users, and that might be better than starting from scratch. But I sincerely hope not, as the Hulu platform as is it a horrible user experience.
But with revenues over a billion dollars, does Disney want to pull their content out of the ad and subscription supported service? It’s also possible that Disney would want to keep their latest network shows on Hulu while keeping their older seasons and movies for the more binge-worthy premium service. (Peter Sciretta)
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