By the time you read this, I think it’s safe to assume that everyone has already seen The Avengers by now. If you’re looking for hyperbole about how awesome it was, you should find no shortage of links this week for that. Instead, I wanted to hopefully getting the ball rolling in convincing Marvel to solve what is going to potentially be the biggest problem for them in the next phase of their movie franchise, the fact that they don’t have full control over their most popular characters.
While trolling around message boards and sites like Reddit this weekend, I’ve noticed a lot of casual fans asking questions about how the Spider-man or X-Men films can intertwine with the set of characters featured in The Avengers. The simple answer is always that they can’t. While hovering dangerously above bankruptcy in the 90’s, Marvel had to raise money by selling the film rights to some of their most popular characters like Wolverine and Spider-man. The X-Men and all mutant properties went to Fox, and Spider-man went to Sony. Marvel controls those characters in all other mediums, but not on film. Therefore, they can’t appear within the Marvel film universe. It took extensive talks and deals just to be able to get The Hulk to appear in it.
But a lot can change in a decade and change. Now, Marvel is a multimedia powerhouse that’s owned and backed by Disney. I’ve gone on record to say that the marriage between Marvel and Disney wasn’t one I initially agreed with, but there’s a chance it could finally pay off now. Now that The Avengers made ridiculous money on its opening weekend, Marvel and Disney now practically have a license to print money with the franchise. With that cash on hand, perhaps it’s time that both parties invested in themselves and brought their most bankable characters home.
It won’t be cheap. Spider-man is a cash cow for Sony, and Fox doesn’t seem intent to let the X-men go anytime soon. But now that The Avengers has increased it’s own lifespan by a ridiculous amount, the series has to move forward somehow. The best way to do that is by adding to the character drama by bringing in geeky Peter Parker to deal with Tony Stark’s ego for example. Or by seeing how Wolverine would respond to similarly old fashioned Steve Rogers. As much as I loved The Avengers, it felt extremely handcuffed to me. The climatic set piece happens in New York City, with buildings being destroyed and civillians in danger. I hate having to partake in the charade of pretending that Spider-man wouldn’t be involved in that in some way. Bringing him in wouldn’t even necessarily require a reboot of those characters. Buying the rights would also mean bringing in the services of Hugh Jackman or Andrew Garfield to share the screen along with Downey, Evans, and Hemsworth.
You can of course bring in a bigger baddie to wreck havoc for our heroes, but the greatest contribution of Joss Wheadon to the Marvel universe was that the focus is on the interaction and dynamic between the characters, not necessarily the good vs. evil challenges that they face. That’s what should build in the continuation of the franchise, and the best way of doing that is by bringing in the most popular and most identifiable characters like Wolverine and Spider-man.
So let’s do it, Marvel and Disney. We all know how deep your pocketbooks really are now, invest in yourself and retcon your movie rights.