Why that new 'Fantastic Four' rumor is complete nonsense
Here's the thing about rumors: the ones that spread the fastest are the ones that people reeeeeeeeeally want to believe.
Fox isn't planning to give it back to Marvel, though. Whether anyone wants to believe it at this point or not, they still have plans for the property. What form those plans will take is still under discussion, but they haven't just given up and thrown in the towel on it. They took a critical beating on the film, they had big problems with the press and with their director, and it's been a financial disappointment, to say the least. Even so, they managed to squeeze about $165 million out of the movie when you factor in the worldwide box-office.
That's not the point, though. There is a rumor that has gone crazy today that Fox has traded Marvel Studios the rights to "Fantastic Four" so that Fox can produce several different "X-Men" based television shows.
The "X-Men" TV shows are true. The thing is, they've been negotiating them for months, and to be clear, Marvel didn't give anything up. They negotiated a deal to co-produce the series, something that's become very lucrative for them. They've got "Agents of SHIELD" and "Agent Carter" on ABC, and they've got the Netflix deal in place for several different series.
One of those, I'd point out, is "Daredevil," a property that was owned for a time by Fox, who produced one film and an "Elektra" spin-off, and they came very close to making another movie as well. They balked at the last moment, though, and lost the rights to the character, also losing the rights to the Kingpin in the process. The Netflix "Daredevil" has become very well regarded among fans of the character, and the second season is going to fold another character that has had a rocky big-screen career, The Punisher, into the series.
Let me ask you this: if you're 20th Century Fox and you traded away "Daredevil" only to watch Marvel knock it out of the park, both creatively and in terms of fan reaction, how eager do you think you're going to be to also hand over "Fantastic Four," which you've fumbled creatively twice now? Do you think Fox is a rush to get shown up again? Or do you think it's more likely they've got something to prove now? Do you think they're going to hand over a potential franchise that exists as a rights package with a number of other characters and ideas bundled into it, or do you think they're going to keep trying to figure it out because they know how much money they've made off of the "X-Men" film series so far?
To be clear, I did my homework today. If Fox did trade away "Fantastic Four," which they did not, they did it without telling anyone involved with the property at all. Because that's the way things work. They wouldn't tell any of the involved parties, and they especially wouldn't tell Constantin Film, the actual rights holder on the property. Oh, wait, what? You mean Fox doesn't own "Fantastic Four" outright? You mean even if they wanted to, they couldn't trade the property for something else? Really? That seems surprising, unless you've paid any attention to the development history of "Fantastic Four" at all.
Like I said… I understand why rumors spread. People want to believe them. But I don't understand how people who write about films for a living routinely will print things that don't even pass a fundamental sniff test because they don't know anything about the way things actually work. More and more these days, so-called "fan press" seems to believe that actual expertise is something that doesn't matter, and so we see entire days or weeks of outright fabrication or faulty games of connect-the-dots, and we watch fandom whip itself into a frenzy over nothing.
Logic and a working knowledge of the business side of our industry… are those things too much too ask?
On days like today, it feels like the answer to that is "yes."