Earlier today CNBC reported that Fox was potentially selling its entertainment wing, 21st Century Fox, to Disney in order to focus on news (bleh) and sports. Whilst this harbors some unfortunate possibilities in regards to monopolizing entertainment, nerds couldn’t give a fuck about such things if it means X-Men and Fantastic Four fall under the MCU. It couldn’t be more perfect timing, as Disney and Marvel look to put an end cap of sorts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel. Obviously, this deal (if it even does exist) is in very very early talks, and it sounds like it may even be off the table for the time being. Regardless of whether it’s even financially beneficial to Disney, it’s narratively crucial for Marvel Studios and the future of their franchises.
In 2018, Avengers: Infinity War will release and act as the first part in a grand finale for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a fourth Avengers film in 2019. Whilst Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has stated in earlier interviews that they have plans for the MCU until 2028, it certainly sounds that whatever those eight years holds will be drastically different from what came before. Phase 4 will likely hit the big reset button, and many are hopeful that the X-Men will fill a potential void left by The Avengers if a sale were to happen. However, the team that fits more in line with Marvel’s direction is actually its first family, the Fantastic Four.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown, so has its scope. With Guardians of the Galaxy, the franchise began its foray past Earth and into the cosmos. With Thanos serving as the big baddie to round out Phase 3, that foray is looking more and more like a settlement. This isn’t just an accident. Marvel leaving the heroes on Earth behind and exploring the galaxy is exactly what it needs to do to prevent the formula from becoming stale, something their harshest critics claim has already happened. Whilst the company has already set up the cosmic side of the MCU with Guardians, it would be a smart idea to fully hand the baton over by going back to the beginning: Iron Man.
A few years ago in the comics, Tony Stark realized that much like a bad relationship, he was a toxic element for Earth having put it in jeopardy so many times over. This is a storyline explored time and time again in the films, specifically with the creation of Ultron. Infinity War, and drawing Thanos to Earth, may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A fourth and final Iron Man movie, giving Tony the solo swan song he deserves, that has him exploring space only to return to Earth and actually retire the armor, would be a fitting way to kick off Phase 4.
We know that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. is already in production at Marvel, and with the likely end of the Avengers series, it’s probable that Star-Lord and company will replace Iron Man and friends as the tentpole on which the MCU forms around. However, in order to truly begin anew, Guardians as a series would likely have to end not long afterwards. Phase 4 would also likely explore other cosmic characters such as Nova, with precedent for his appearance set up with the introduction of the Nova Corp back in the first GotG film. Eventually, superhero antics would need to return to Earth, and there is no better team to do that than the Fantastic Four.
For those not in the know, and those fortunate to have not seen Fox’s last two attempts at an FF franchise, the Fantastic Four is the story of Reed Richards, Ben Grimm and Sue and Johnny Storm whom obtain powers whilst on a mission into space. If you want the details, the story is told in a very jovial fashion via the 90’s cartoon theme song. Seriously, they sing about how they got their powers and exactly what each of their powers is. It’s so very 90’s. Ultimately, this could prove to be an important narrative tool for the MCU to not only bring it back to Earth, but have a new flagship series to rally its solo films around.
What Marvel also desperately needs is a compelling villain, and they don’t get much better than Doctor Doom. Victor Von Doom (you’d almost laugh at this name if it weren’t also ironically badass) is the leader of the fictional country of Latveria and has armor permanently grafted to his skin. Believing himself to be every bit Reed Richard’s superior, his vanity leads him to become the Fantastic Four’s primary antagonist. Fortunately, he also happens to be the most compelling villain Marvel has ever written thanks to his tragic story and twisted ideas of heroism: he would likely be the hero if he weren’t such an egotistical narcissist. The MCU is desperately lacking worthy arch nemeses for its heroes, and Doom would be a giant bandaid for that wound. And whilst talking about the X-Men getting caught up in all of this is a conversation for another time, this potential sale would also mean Disney would acquire Magneto who is every bit as awesome as Doom.
Personally, I see no easy way forward for Marvel without the Fantastic Four in their catalogue. The dynamic between its team members and the gravity of having a villain such as Doctor Doom would be a complete reinvention for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something needed after 22 films at the end of Phase 3.