Disney is expected to announce a major asset purchase later this week. The seller: 21st Century Fox, owners of coveted Marvel superhero film rights like the X-Men and Fantastic Four. There’s no doubt Disney would pay just about anything (and likely will) to get those characters back in their court after the rights were sold off by Marvel ages ago. A move like that could put Avengers and mutants in the same film, finally. But the sale of Fox’s Marvel assets to Disney could also mean the end of a recent, highly-successful trend -- R-rated superhero movies.
“If they’re actually changing their mandate, if what they’re supposed to do alters, that would be sad to me because it just means less movies,” Logan director James Mangold said in an interview with Deadline of the potential changes to Fox films should Disney end up taking over.
The R-rated superhero movie trend began back in 2016 with the release of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, a raunchy but accurate depiction of the Merc with a Mouth played by Ryan Reynolds. With a budget of $58 million, the film was expected to make its money back, but not necessarily wow. Instead, it did just that, netting $783 million at the global box office when all was said and done. The next R-rated Marvel superhero movie, Mangold’s Logan, cleaned up in a similar fashion, bringing in $617 million on a $97 million budget. Both of those films, and their ratings, were greenlit by 21st Century Fox. Disney has yet to produce a single R-rated Marvel Cinematic Universe title.
Now, with a major sale on the horizon, Mangold is concerned about Disney making Fox's chancy, R-rated movies a thing of the past, superhero films included. According to Mangold, that’s because of the way we’ve come to view movies as products, rather than stories. The success of Logan, though, hinged on the film’s story, which saw major characters killed off and offered a sense of finality. Not exactly family-friendly material.
“The real thing that happens when you make a movie rated R, behind the scenes, is that the studio has to adjust to the reality that there will be no Happy Meals. There will be no action figures,” Mangold said. “The entire merchandising, cross-pollinating side of selling the movie to children is dead before you even start. And when that’s dead, it means you’re making a grown-up movie.”
How exactly the Disney/Fox fallout might shape up remains to be seen, but rumor has it that the terms of sale between the two companies have almost been hammered out. Only time will tell what that means for the R-rated superhero movies in production.