Before ‘The Avengers’, 20th Century Fox Almost Had Their Own Civil War

The Big Picture

  • A big crossover movie featuring X-Men, Daredevil, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four was planned by 20th Century Fox in the early 2010s but never came to fruition.
  • The proposed storyline would have been inspired by the Civil War comics and involved a superhero registration act, factions, and epic battles.
  • The project didn’t move forward possibly due to the lack of precedent for superhero team-up movies before The Avengers and the success of individual solo outings like X-Men: First Class and the 2005 Fantastic Four movie. The loss of Daredevil rights and concerns about Deadpool’s viability also played a role.

For the majority of the time that 20th Century Fox owned various Marvel characters like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, the concept of superheroes from individual franchises crossing over into one big solo movie sounded preposterous. It wouldn’t be until 2012, just five years before it was announced that Disney would be buying Fox, that The Avengers would forever change what people thought was possible in superhero movies. A new world of possibilities had opened up for what these characters could do on the big screen that Fox never fully exploited.

Today, the Marvel Comics characters that 20th Century Fox had the film rights to have been absorbed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look poised to cross over with one another all the time. Daredevil, for instance, has already shown up in Spider-Man: No Way Home and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. But even if such crossovers were never fully realized when 20th Century Fox controlled these figures, that doesn’t mean there weren’t once plans to have the various Fox Marvel superheroes cross over into a big movie. In fact, before Avengers even launched into theaters, Fox planned a big bonanza that would’ve seen the X-Men, Daredevil, Deadpool, and the Fantastic Four all teaming up for a massive blockbuster. It was a project staggering in its ambitions that would never see the light of day.

Fantastic Four (2005) poster
Image via 20th Century Fox

Fantastic Four

A group of astronauts gain superpowers after a cosmic radiation exposure and must use them to oppose the plans of their enemy, Doctor Victor Von Doom.

Release Date
July 8, 2005

Tim Story

Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington

106 minutes

The Basic Facts of This Unseen 20th Century Fox Crossover

In the 1990s, Fox, like many major movie studios, secured the film rights to certain Marvel characters from the then-cash strapped-comics company. At the time, the idea of doing live-action movies based on these characters was an innately risky venture. Enacting a massive crossover between these superheroes, as was the norm in the comics, was preposterous. Fox was solely angling to get characters it thought looked cool or marketable, not necessarily ones that would make for the best crossover. X-Men, for instance, looked like an extra appealing cinematic property thanks to the 1990s cartoon while the enduring status of the Fantastic Four (Marvel’s first family, after all) made them easy candidates to turn into a feature.

All of this is to say that the team assembled in the early 2010s to make a big crossover movie starring these superheroes had their work cut out for them. Among those working on the film in 2010 was screenwriting team Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller. The duo had been working on the script for X-Men: First Class for Fox and now were focusing their sights on getting an even bigger superhero endeavor. The proposed storyline for this crossover extravaganza would’ve taken a cue from the Civil War comics storyline and had a superhero registration act divide various characters like Wolverine and Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic into various factions. Elaborate skirmishes between various mighty crime-fighters would’ve inevitably ensued.

Further details of the project were revealed after Stentz spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the very concept of the movie, with Johnny Storm functioning as the catalyst for why there’s even a superhero registration act in the first place (in a similar part to Wanda Maximoff’s role in Captain America: Civil War). There also would’ve been a graphic duel between Mr. Fantastic and Wolverine as well as a post-credits scene teasing an incoming Skrull army for a potential sequel. On top of everything else, The Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass was the favorite to direct the film. While his experience with the blockbuster Bourne titles makes it clear why Fox would eyeball him for a mammoth tentpole feature, it’s still weird to imagine a director like Greengrass, who emphasizes realism in even his most outlandish projects, handling something this stylized.

Why Didn’t We Get a Crossover Sooner?

Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock and Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios in Daredevil (2003)
Image via 20th Century Fox

If this production had gone forward, it would’ve required some notable recasting. Specifically, it had already been a few years since Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer when this crossover was getting off the ground, and a new cast would’ve almost certainly been assembled to portray the various members of the Fantastic Four. Similarly, Daredevil would need to be recast since Ben Affleck had sworn off reprising the role years earlier. In an ideal world, audiences would love these new versions of these Marvel figures enough to clamor for solo spin-off movies, a win/win in the eyes of Fox.

However, this project ended up dying on the vine, with no concrete reason ever being given for why the production failed to go forward. Part of it may have simply been due to the lack of precedent for superhero team-up movies before The Avengers. Developed between 2010 and 2011, this X-Men/Fantastic Four/Daredevil bonanza could’ve been seen as too risky of a gamble. Fox likely waited to see whether or not The Avengers would work first before getting too cocky about its own crossover ambitions. By the time the Marvel Cinematic Universe proved such crossovers could make big bucks, Fox had gotten the X-Men franchise back on track with X-Men: First Class and was eyeballing Josh Trank to direct a new Fantastic Four movie. Solo outings were back in, while this elaborate crossover movie was put on the back burner.

It didn’t help that by 2012, Fox lost the film rights to Daredevil, thus depriving the studio of one big potential superhero in this movie. Meanwhile, the studio was incredibly nervous about the prospects of turning Deadpool into a motion picture character right up until that famous test footage got leaked to the public. While just a movie focusing on Wolverine and Mr. Fantastic wouldn’t have been innately chopped liver, Fox also clearly didn’t have as many disparate superhero properties at its disposal to cross over into one big tentpole. No wonder it focused on just getting individual sagas off the ground first.

These 20th Century Fox Movie Characters Could Still Play a Part in Future Stories

In the end, there would be no large-scale crossover event involving the various Fox characters. Despite the occasional tease from creative figures behind these movies that the Fantastic Four and X-Men were eventually going to meet, there were never any Easter eggs, let alone concrete plot points, signaling that these two Marvel properties existed in the same universe. The 2015 Fantastic Four debacle pretty much put an end to Fox’s attempts to wring solo movies out of Marvel’s first family and the Disney/Fox merger at the end of the 2010s similarly brought all of Fox’s superhero movie operations to a grinding halt.

This proposed splashy crossover between various Fox Marvel characters was proposed in the very last time this studio would own the film rights to all these characters (including Daredevil). In the years that followed, Fox would either lose individual Marvel Comics characters to Disney or get absorbed entirely by Disney. In the wake of these events, we now live in a world where Kelsey Grammer‘s Hank McCoy/Beast from the X-Men movies can just show up in a credit scene on The Marvels without any legal wrangling. Expect that cameo to be a harbinger of future movies featuring the kind of crossovers 20th Century Fox studio executives once dreamed about. These impending superhero shenanigans may sound enticing to fans, but this unrealized early 2010s crossover still makes for a fun time capsule reflecting a drastically different age of superhero entertainment.

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#Avengers #20th #Century #Fox #Civil #War

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