There’s a lot of moving parts to the impending Disney-Fox merger, yet most people—just like us—are focusing on the reunification of the X-Men with Marvel Studios, under the banner of their family-friendly corporate parent. And while there are many fun possibilities contained in that merger, story-wise, there’s also a lot of worrying issues involving the increasing consolidation of the media landscape, making Disney even more unsettlingly powerful than it already was. Mickey Mouse might start just straight-up guillotining his competition.
And now, Logan director James Mangold has added his voice to those expressing concern about what the merger might mean for future films like his critically acclaimed, R-rated conclusion to Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine. Deadline reports during a post-screening Q&A, Mangold—in a nicely succinct manner—explains the business reasons that the merger might mean fewer movies like his:
“If they’re actually changing their mandate, if what they’re supposed to do alters, that would be sad to me because it just means less movies...The real thing that happens when you make a movie rated R, behind the scenes, is that the studio has to adjust to the reality that there will be no Happy Meals. There will be no action figures. The entire merchandising, cross-pollinating side of selling the movie to children is dead before you even start. And when that’s dead, it means you’re making a grown-up movie.”
And Mangold knows what he’s talking about: The number of movies that have died before even leaving the conceptual phase, simply because the studio couldn’t pair up a corporate synergy deal at Pizza Hut with an R-rated film, is enormous and always growing. Which, of course, is also when green-lit projects suddenly become creatively unencumbered by the weight of such merchandising-related obligations. Once the studio accepts this isn’t going to result in an entire row of products at Toys R Us, Mangold added, “you don’t come under the pressure of how a 12-year-old is going to react to the movie, not just in terms of violence or language but in terms of pace or even the depth of interest in what people are talking about.”
All of which is another way of saying he’s worried Disney is never going to let anyone kill one of its characters again—at least not in any definitive way, à la Logan. (“You can’t kill the characters because they’re worth so much effing money,” Mangold says.) So, if he’s right, you can look forward to many more fake-out, not-really deaths at the end of superhero films. Remember how well that worked for Batman V Superman? And that wasn’t even a particularly egregious case, because, come on, a metaphor for American exceptionalism’s not dying any time soon, at least not when it comes with accompanying KFC Kids Meals.