The Marvel shows on Netflix have had a complicated relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with fans often questioning whether these characters could ever cross over to other MCU films and television series'.
Similarly to Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and The Defenders all acknowledge the MCU and some of its tentpole events, but this has never been reciprocated by the films. After initial rave reviews for a more grounded take on its Marvel characters, the series' were met with dwindling success upon subsequent seasons. This led to the series' cancellation in 2018.
Talk then shifted to whether these characters would get picked up by Marvel Studios or whether they would be rebooted entirely as new incarnations. According to a report from Variety though, Netflix would hold on to the rights for these shows and their characters for at least an additional two years from their cancellation dates.
This prevented the Netflix characters from appearing in any non-Netflix film or television series. This also meant that Marvel Studios could not start development on these characters until each show's rights expired at Netflix, all of which being on different dates.
Two years from the cancellation of these shows, and one seems to have passed a certain milestone...
October 12, 2020 marks the second year on from Iron Fist's cancellation, meaning that this is likely the first day that Marvel Studios could be able to start development on anything relating to the property.
This would mean that Marvel has access to Danny Rand, Colleen Wing, and other supporting characters from Iron Fist again, allowing the studio to develop new shows or integrate the characters into other Marvel films or series'.
It is unclear, though, whether Disney would gain access to the Netflix series themselves, calling into question whether Iron Fist could feasibly hop over to Disney+.
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Kevin Feige explained that he and Marvel Studios only want to continue building the legendary cinematic universe as long as they “can keep evolving it and changing it and growing it” to do “things [they] hadn’t done before.”
WHAT THIS MEANS
October 12: this date should create excitement for some Marvel fans, as Iron Fist should now be capable of appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This now stirs the question of when and/or will it happen.
It has been some time since the previous incarnation of the Iron Fist characters, but Marvel Studios may still want to create some distance between the Netflix iterations and their own. Commencing development now would give ample time for audiences to recalibrate, as the MCU has a full schedule for a good while. The Mandalorian's Deborah Chow has supposedly met with Marvel Studios, so perhaps she can take the reigns on a new Iron Fist series.
Alternatively, with the prospects of the multiverse seemingly on the horizon, perhaps Marvel Studios can find a way to integrate the Defenders into the MCU. They've somehow managed to find a way to bring Jamie Foxx's Electro into the fray, so what's to say Marvel Studios couldn't bring the likes of Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter back as their respective characters.
Luke Cage is soon to join Danny Rand at the House of Mouse, reverting its rights back on October 19, 2020. This close proximity could enable a possible Heroes For Hire series featuring the two. Daredevil is not too far off either, with its rights returning on November 29, 2020. This date being close to the filming of Spider-Man 3 could allow the Devil of Hell's Kitchen to sneak an appearance in somehow. The Punisher and Jessica Jones will take a bit longer to come back though, with the series' rights returning sometime after February 18, 2021.
Ultimately, Iron Fist's rights returning to Marvel Studios signals that only a few characters still remain out of Marvel Studios' clutches. Perhaps Hulk and Namor will be the next ones up to officially return to their rightful home.