When Marvel Comics opened a film wing (appropriately dubbed “Marvel Studios”) in an effort to grab a slice of the huge profits being made in the then-nascent comic book movie genre it was faced with a few issues. Sure the company has a massive catalogue of characters and stories to draw from to make its films, but the film rights to a number of its most popular heroes had already been sold to other production companies, long before superheroes proved to be box office gold. Twentieth Century Fox in particular had bought up a number of Marvel properties, including the X-Men, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four and a large number of secondary characters important to each franchise.
Now that Marvel Studios has established itself as a major Hollywood player, ready and willing to create huge blockbusters — need we again mention that The Avengers has pulled down almost $1.5 billion at the box office? — it wants those film rights back, if only to have the freedom to use the characters created by Marvel Comics as it sees fit.
This morning word broke that Fox had agreed to give Marvel the rights to Fantastic Four villain Galactus — you’ll remember him as the inexplicable giant purple cloud in Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, or as an apocalyptic villain who eats planets in every other incarnation — as well as the Silver Surfer (pictured above), as part of a deal that would grant Fox the film rights to the Daredevil character for the foreseeable future. Fox has seemingly been planning to reboot its Daredevil film franchise in the wake of the disappointing (yet excellent in its “Director’s Cut” incarnation) 2003 Ben Affleck-starring Daredevil, but those plans have been put on the back burner ever since director David Slade stepped away from the hypothetical project. Joe Carnahan has since expressed interest in creating a Daredevil reboot at Fox, but Deadline believes that Fox’s confidence in Daredevil isn’t as high as it used to be, and that though the studio might agree to co-finance a Daredevil movie with Marvel Studios, it’s unlikely that Fox would mount the production by itself.
More crucially though, Deadline claims that its sources have strongly denied that Marvel and Fox are even having this discussion. Yes Fox is staring down a short timeline in which it must push a Daredevil film into production or forfeit the rights to the character back to Marvel, but as of yet, Deadline states, the two firms have yet to seriously discuss the possibility of swapping any of their respective film rights.
Unfortunately, the real losers in this situation are the fans. One of the cornerstones of Marvel’s popularity has always been that its characters live in a single, unified reality and that any one of them might bump into any other at any given moment. The Avengers was a great flick, but imagine how cool it would have been to see Spider-Man throwing punches alongside Captain America during the climactic fight. While we can’t really fault Marvel for selling off the film rights to its characters — these deals were all made back in the 1990s when Marvel was in very dire financial straits — it’s sad that the newly-minted Marvel Studios is unable to create a movie universe to truly rival its comic book universe simply because the publishing wing of the company needed cash during the Clinton administration.