The issue of character rights is surely the greatest obstacle to a truly complete Marvel film franchise. While the comic books depict a vast realm in which beloved and iconic characters can interact and battle, their screen adaptation counterparts are restricted to particular studios. Thus, we have Marvel movies from 20th Century Fox – such as the Fantastic Four films and the X-Men franchise – and we have the Marvel Cinematic Universe from Disney. While rights deals have been reached before – most notably with Sony for the inclusion of Spider-Man in the MCU – many characters remain out of Disney’s reach, which can be frustrating for filmmakers such as James Gunn.
A recent Facebook Live question-and-answer session with the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director saw him questioned as to which character he would have liked to use, were rights not an issue. Here’s what he had to say:
“I think that there’s a good chance that if we had all of those characters – I really like the character of Annihilus. And there’s a chance that I would have done Annihilus as a villain in one of the movies.”
This is an interesting snippet of information, because it gives an insight into the various ways this filmmaker could have taken his Guardians Of The Galaxy story, but also a glimpse of how similar that might have been to other aspects of the MCU. Annihilus is a Marvel villain most closely associated with the Fantastic Four, having first appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #6 in 1968. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and has also appeared within the pages of Avengers and Thor stories, among others.
Annihilus hails from the Negative Zone, which is an alternate universe – parallel to Earth, and made up entirely of anti-matter. As the sometime ruler of this other dimension, Annihilus is a formidably powerful being, who enhances his influence over others by wielding his Cosmic Control Rod. He’s attempted to invade Earth many times, but been thwarted by various superheroes.
While Annihilus is undoubtedly a great and sinister villain, who would have been a sensational addition to a Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, the presence of other, similar threats in the Marvel Cinematic Universe cannot go unnoticed. To be sure, the franchise is not short on powerfully evil cosmic beings wishing ill on planet Earth. While James Gunn has successfully integrated Marvel cosmic beings such as the Celestials, the Kree, the Nova Corps, the Elders Of The Universe and even the Watchers into the MCU, it’s elsewhere in that universe that the Annihilus ground has been otherwise covered. For example, the Titanian mutant-Eternal, Thanos, has been the ‘Big Bad’ of the MCU since 2012’s The Avengers, while the ancient, mystical and demonic being, Dormammu appeared from the Dark Dimension in 2016’s Doctor Strange.
So, with the ‘evil cosmic being’ dance-card of the Marvel Cinematic Universe already looking very full, it is no great loss to have Annihilus out of reach and over at 20th Century Fox. While James Gunn would undoubtedly have worked wonders with him within the Guardians Of The Galaxy story, that tale is doing just fine without him.