Friday, April 25, 2014

Who Framed the Avengers?

For obvious reasons, there is a lot of talk in fandom about the various Marvel properties owned by competing film studios. Fox owns the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Sony owns Spider Man, and of course Marvel itself owns the rest, including the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Ant Man, etc.

Bear in mind that the studios, although rivals, aren't completely against the idea of doing cameos that cross studio lines. Apparently the Oscorp Tower almost made it into The Avengers (it was cut because by the time the building's design was finalized, the Avengers NYC skyline had already been rendered, and there wouldn't be time to include it). And because of a bit of contractual legerdemain, there will be a helping of shawarma relating to X-Men: Days of Future Past after the credits of the Amazing Spider Man II (but that isn't indicative of any coming cross-over between Spidey and the X-Men).

Now, this begs the question, given the multi-billion dollar potentials with the Marvel properties, between Spider Man, X-Men, and the Avengers (not to mention Fantastic Four, etc.), why don't the studios make some sort of deal to cross-pollinate their properties?

There is certainly precedent in Hollywood. Look at 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

In that film, Disney kept control of the project, but arranged deals with the owners of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Felix the Cat, and Betty Boop to bring those characters (and more) in as cameos. In exchange, the owners of those characters got to stipulate how they were used (Bugs and Mickey shared a scene, as did Donald and Daffy), and I'm sure were handsomely paid, and everyone hailed it as a milestone not only of animation but of inter-studio cooperation. They had Steven Spielberg to argue their case, but Joss Whedon might do as well, given his recent track record.

I see no reason the same sort of thing couldn't be done for the Marvel Universe properties. Fox has already said they'd be up for it.

What if the studios who owned the various characters arranged for very strictly controlled, limited, and reciprocal cameo appearances? Simple background stuff should be easy, assuming it can be worked out technically (as with the Oscorp building showing up in Avengers; surely the Avengers tower could show up as Spider Man swings by). It could be more involved than that. Wolverine gets a five-minute scene in Captain America 3 (reminiscing in a bar about World War 2?), and in return X-Men: Apocalypse gets a five-minute segment showing S.H.I.E.L.D. reacting to whatever the heck is going on, helicarriers and Nick Fury and all. If New York gets trashed in the new Fantastic Four movie, there's a quick scene of Spider-Man webbing some debris out of the way before it crushes a baby carriage, and in return Doctor Doom is seen turning down the Sinister Six when they come to him for assistance. The details could be worked out, but it could be done.

The point is that these sorts of crossovers don't have to be huge, multi-movie-spanning deals. Just a couple of minutes here and there, woven in and between the various studios, could not only cement the franchises as belonging to the same larger universe, but would also serve to raise all boats as people who like Spider Man might be a little more inclined to see Fantastic Four, and Avengers will pull in some more X-Men fans.

It worked for Roger Rabbit. It can work for Steve Rogers.

7 comments:

Pierce said...

I totally agree. This stuff should happen, and should happen more. I wish the Avengers got at least mentioned a little more in their separate films. I mean, I know Winter Soldier was Cap's show, but someone could have said "Stark is on his way but won't make it in time." or better yet have the hulk show up and trash some bad guys off camera. The Spider man films should at LEAST reference the alien invasion in passing.

Legion said...

I look forward to all the contracts running out and Marvel being able to do what they want with whom they want when they want.

Joseph Bloch said...

As I understand it, the rights don't revert back to Marvel unless a certain interval goes without them making a movie. That's why they need to reboot Fantastic Four when they are - if they didn't, they'd lose the rights.

Rachel Ghoul said...

That would be awesome, and consequently will probably never happen.

Nathan Irving said...

That's my understanding of the licensing as well; there's no finite duration, more of an abandonment clause.

I think we'll see this sort of thing eventually. As you said, the studios are rivals, not blood enemies. Can you imagine the hullabaloo in the theater if Wolverine cameos in Iron Man or Captain America? The place would explode. :)

I also think it's interesting that Marvel in particular is reinventing or returning to some kind of ... I don't know what to call it. I want to say studio system, but google says that'd be a misuse. A lot of use of the same character and same actor in a variety of films, in both lead and cameo roles. Wolverine and Black Widow being the most obvious. It doesn't seem to be 3 and done anymore. When they get the casting as right as they have with some of these characters, it's in their interest to keep the actors around, and it's cool to see the actors grow into the roles. It's going to be really hard for everyone when there's a new Wolverine. :/

Matt Celis said...

You're confusing "owned" with licensed. Owned is forever or until Disney loses its copyright influence in D.C.; licensed is temporary. Marvel/Disney is sitting and salivating and waiting for those licenses to expire as the Daredevil one did.

Joseph Bloch said...

And you're betraying your ignorance of how modern licensing agreements work. As long as they keep making movies featuring the property, the licensee keeps the license alive.

It's only when they let a property lie fallow for a certain amount of time that the license reverts to Marvel.