With the announcement this morning that The Walt Disney Co. plans to buy key assets of 21st Century Fox, a longtime dream of comic book fans is in reach: the consolidation of most of Marvel Comics' most recognizable, and most lucrative, superheroes -- including the X-Men, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four -- in one cinematic universe.
That won't happen overnight, of course, or even over the course of six months. No, the acquisition will require the approval of shareholders and then U.S. government regulators, a process than could take a year or more. It's only sometime after that when we might see the Guardians of the Galaxy and Fantastic Four unite to battle Galactus, or the Avengers face off against the X-Men over the fate of Magneto.
Until then, though, we have five big questions about what the Disney/Fox deal will mean.
What's the deal mean to the future of the X-Men movie franchise?
In its announcement, Disney proclaimed the agreement with 21st Century Fox "will provide the opportunity to reunite the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool with the Marvel family under one roof and create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love." Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger cleared up any potential ambiguity in an early-morning call with investors, when he referred to an expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So the plan, at least at this early point, appears to be to integrate the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the cinematic universe Marvel Studios launched in 2008 with Iron Man. What form that might take remains to be seen; approval of the Disney/Fox deal by federal regulators could take anywhere between 12 to 18 months.
Fox already has three X-Men films -- The New Mutants, Deadpool 2 and X-Men: Dark Phoenix -- targeted for release next year, with Gambit, X-Force, X-23, and a Multiple Man movie in the pipeline, along with assorted sequels. Barring any unexpected behind-the-scenes calamities, those three 2018 movies will be released as planned. The long-discussed Gambit, starring Channing Tatum, could also very well debut in 2019 under the Fox banner. After that, however, the future gets a little hazy.
Dark Phoenix writer/director Simon Kinberg, who's long helped shepherd Fox's X-Men franchise, already has a relationship with Disney; he co-created the animated Star Wars Rebels and is credited as creative consultant on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's possible the global media giant will simply move ahead with his multiyear plan for the franchise, with its assorted spinoffs, but it seems even more likely Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige will be eager to chart a new course for the properties.