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Op-Ed: The Disney & 21st Century Fox Deal is a Perfect Opportunity for New and Diverse Characters in the MCU

It was announced March 20 that Disney and 21st Century Fox struck a $71.3 billion deal that gave Disney’s Marvel Studios the rights to the Fantastic Four and X-Men. This is great for many reasons. For example, we could finally see Spider-Man banter with Deadpool, and no longer have to refer back to X-Men: First Class to get a decent X-Men film. But more than that, this is the perfect opportunity to put new and diverse characters on the big screen.

Now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has put out some films starring minorities, namely Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Black Panther allowed black kids to see a hero that looks like them, and Captain Marvel (the most recent MCU film) was the first to star a solo heroine as the lead. Only second to the big Avengers films that come out in the same year, both films have done extremely well at the box office. Black Panther hit $1.3 billion, and Captain Marvel recently surpassed $1 billion. Diverse characters that have never been in theaters before are popular, and Marvel Studios could keep this trend going with the new deal.

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Dani Moonstar – Art by Mark Brooks and Stephanie Hans (Fearless Defenders Vol. 1 #4)

Due to the X-Men being such an evolving group, Marvel Studios gets the rights to a litany of characters including Psyche/Mirage, Karma, Magik, and Polaris, all of whom are female mutants never before seen on the big screen (although we still have a chance to see Magik if New Mutants is released and Polaris can be seen in live-action on the hit TV series, The Gifted). The Fantastic Four is a much smaller group of characters, but it could still be used to introduce major characters like Namor and Annihilus, who have never been in seen in theaters either.  I’ll be honest with you, aside from Namor, I had to look these characters up because I’ve never heard of them. But to me, that just makes it so much more exciting. We could see diverse characters that we’ve never even heard of. It’s the perfect fresh start!

With all this in play, I think the best Marvel Studios can do to introduce these new characters, is end the current timeline. It spans over a decade with 21 films and counting, so adding these new characters and their mythos to the mix and still maintain the continuity would either be extremely difficult, messy, or just uneventful. We’ve seen a few of these production mishaps with MCU films before which they’ve dealt with through re-characterization and rewriting — Tony Stark creating Ultron because Hank Pym wasn’t introduced yet and Spider-Man being written into Captain America: Civil War because of the deal with Sony — but they’re still noticeable, nonetheless. It’s much easier and freeing to produce a film that has no prerequisites or duty to help fulfill a greater story.

It’s also more profitable as well. It’s expensive to pay well-established actors like Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and many more who become more in-demand with time. Because of their contracts and production time, these actors aren’t available to other studios, so they get less roles. When their contract ends, both Marvel Studios and the actors will get more money because they’ll get new contracts and Marvel can stop paying them for theirs. The current timeline needs these actors. The original Avengers started it all, so it only makes sense. It begins and ends with them, but it doesn’t have to end completely.

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(Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

Audiences are in love with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. These characters can easily keep the momentum and excitement going as planned, especially when characters from the 21st Century Fox deal are introduced. But if there’s going to be a Phase 4, then these stories will be limited as they will be written to serve a greater story rather than their own. If something that happened in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World prevents the next Black Panther film from being all that can be, then Marvel is really only limiting themselves.

Perhaps the most exciting moment in superhero films is when Nick Fury showed up at the end of Iron Man in 2008 and hinted at The Avengers, and ultimately, a shared universe. I remember this vividly. I wasn’t even a part of this team yet, but like everybody else in that theater, I knew something extraordinary would happen – and I wasn’t wrong. However, that was over a decade ago (over 21 films ago, as said previously), and each film invites new fans. These fans shouldn’t have to see a film that was made many years ago just to get the next one. They should be able to experience the same excitement the old fans did when they first saw The Avengers back in 2012. Extraordinary things can still happen, but (in my opinion) a Phase 4 would make it more tedious than extraordinary.

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(Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

This doesn’t mean that each film should be a stand-alone, or that there should be no more sequels – nobody wants that. It’s simply too exciting for audiences to see their favorite characters save the world together in one big film. That can still happen, but it needs to be fresh with new and diverse characters. A new timeline; a Phase Alpha instead of a Phase 4, so to speak.

I adore these films, I really do. But I don’t want more of the MCU. I want something new. What do you think? Let me know in the comments down below!

Nothing but love.

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