Some have questioned whether Disney overpaid when it bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 million. After all, its best known Marvel Comics superhero franchises are parked at other studios, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure is as dominated by Marvel attractions as it is Dr. Seuss.
But one thing to remember about Marvel assets is, they don’t seem to wear out. We’re about to see the second example where successful Marvel movie franchises are going to be reinvented.
20th Century Fox is the latest studio to start the process of overhauling one of its big Marvel Entertainment franchises, “Fantastic Four,” which has already hatched two films. The studio has hired Akiva Goldsman to oversee the re-boot as producer.
New script will be written by Michael Green, the “Heroes” co-executive producer who co-wrote “Green Lantern,” the Martin Campbell-directed Warner Bros. film that will star Ryan Reynolds.
Fox would not comment on its plans, and neither would Columbia Pictures when BFD revealed a couple weeks its plan to potentially re-boot the studio’s most valuable franchise, “Spider-Man.”
With “Spider-Man 4” moving toward an early 2010 production start, the studio recently hired James Vanderbilt to write a fifth and sixth installment of the web-slinger franchise, with the understanding that one or both could give that franchise a makeover with a new director and cast (Daily Variety, Aug. 16, 2009). Whether director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire return or not, Sony smartly has given itself the chance to shorten the gap between its superhero installments.
And with state-of-the-art visual effects on superhero franchises pushing these pictures toward the $250 million-$300 million range, reshuffling the creative cast gives the studio a chance to save money, since actors and directors usually have a pre-negotiated option or two before the studio is held over a barrell by talent and their reps.
Marvel Studios has eliminated that problem by making talent sign as many as nine options, which was the case with the supporting cast of “Iron Man 2.”
The 2005 “Fantastic Four” and 2007 sequel “Rise of the Silver Surfer” were directed by Tim Story, and starred Ioan Gruffud, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis. Since the deals are just getting made, it is unclear at present if any of them will return.
Though Marvel Entertainment owns and finances properties like “Iron Man” and “Thor,” Fox controls “Fantastic Four” in perpetuity—as long as it continues making the films. Fox has the same arrangement on Marvel Comics properties “X-Men,” “Daredevil,” and “Silver Surfer” –which, despite an appearance in the “Fantastic Four” sequel, is still a Fox priority for a solo film.
Marvel is a producer and financial participant through a licensing agreement signed before Marvel franchises had the drawing power they have now. In fact, the original deal was made back when Marvel was struggling to pull itself out of bankruptcy in 1997.
Fox has been extraordarily effective in mining its Marvel franchises. The studio made three “X-Men” films, and then a hit summer spinoff in “Wolverine.” Fox is working on a sequel to that film, and has scripts for “X-Men Origins: Magneto,” and “X-Men Origins: First Class,” the latter of which could bring original “X-Men” helmer Bryan Singer back to the fold. Potential spinoffs for the Gambit and Deadpool characters seen in “Wolverine” have also been discussed.
As producer, Goldsman is involved with several DC Comics transfers, including “Jonah Hex,” “The Losers” and “Teen Titans.” He was also producer on the Will Smith-Charlize Theron-superhero film “Hancock,” a film that has a sequel in development.