The “Fantastic Four” movie franchise has proven to be one of the biggest letdowns at Fox, with Tim Story’s movies coming off too lighthearted and humorous, and Josh Trank’s controversial dark and gritty take garnering a critical panning. Recent rumors suggested that Fox may be looking to continue from Trank’s film and try to salvage things, but with Marvel Studios continuing to shine, the pressure keeps building on the property’s return.
Given all the studio-versus-director drama and baggage of that last movie, the best bet would be to cut losses and reboot the franchise. Sony is on its third interpretation of Spider-Man and fans are pleading with Fox to balance the film’s tone and nail a story that’s filled with just enough comic-loyal threads. With that in mind, CBR decided to look at 15 things we think Fox can do to get another FF reboot right!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the Fantastic Four movies
15. CREATIVE FREEDOM
Murphy’s Law applied to the 2015 reboot in that anything that could go wrong definitely did. The cast’s performance, the overall story, and the villain, yet again, were all underwhelming. The biggest controversy, however, came when Trank and Fox engaged in a creative power struggle. Rewrites, reshoots and Trank stating this final cut wasn’t his vision were all over the media. Simon Kinberg was attached as producer and on the screenplay, but fans were already unimpressed with him on the “X-Men” franchise. This time around, we want more comic-oriented creatives involved and Fox execs to back off.
DC has Geoff Johns and Marc Guggenheim on their film and television projects, while Marvel uses Jeph Loeb, so Fox should be looking at “Fantastic Four” comic writers such as Mark Millar (“Kick Ass,” “Kingsman”) and Mike Carey (“The Girl With All The Gifts”), who are familiar with the film medium. Robert Kirkman (“The Walking Dead,”Outcast”) and Jonathan Hickman are other writers who wrote the First Family at Marvel, so it’d be smart to tap in and pair them with experienced directors, like Guillermo Del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron.
14. NEW VILLAINS
For the third consecutive time, Fox failed at Doctor Doom. He wasn’t the European tyrant, the regal and cerebral despot, or the deceptively suave debonair we knew from the comics. If he wasn’t Julian McMahon’s lovestruck wannabe-genius, then he was Toby Kebbel’s hacker and pseudo-scientist that played second fiddle to Reed Richards and intimidated no one. This time, Fox needs to breathe fresh villainous life into the property as Doom’s gotten stale.
The powers that be should use Annihilus and focus on the Earthly threat of the Annihilus Wave. This alien invasion can take lead from movies such as “The Avengers” and the machine-war in “The Matrix Revolutions.” Another option is the villain known as Mole Man, who can be done in a similar manner as Sam Raimi’s Otto Octavius in “Spider-Man 2.” This pits them against a fellow super-intellect and can also keep things grounded to Earth (literally), even laying the groundwork for Doom as the team realize there are big thinkers out there for a sequel.
13. NO MORE ORIGINS
We’ve gotten enough of the team’s origin story. Tim Story showed us the team as exploratory adults who were transformed after a mission went awry, while Josh Trank also dealt with a scientific expedition that mutated them as youngsters in a coming-of-age tale. It’s best to skip all that because… we get it, they mutated due to their curiosity taking a cosmic nosedive. Jump into the team, relationships established (especially Reed and Sue as a couple already) looking at curing the world’s afflictions and scientific problems.
There’s no need to delve into whining about cures because it’s been beaten to death in this franchise, as well as Fox’s “X-Men.” We don’t need more of Trank’s teenage angsty drama, nor do we need Story’s interpretation of adults who are uncertain and fumbling. Focus on the team as self-assured and confident scientists, taking a page out of how Marvel Studios shaped Tony Stark. The audience will connect with individuals who are well on their way as Earth’s most prominent minds and shapers of our paths forward.
12. A BALANCED TONE
The movie’s tone definitely needs to be properly balanced. The Tim Story films had too much levity in them, which would be fine for, say, “The Incredibles,” but the Fantastic Four need a greater sense of gravity and urgency in stopping world-devouring threats. Trank, though, went way overboard and steeped his movie in too much grit. Reed and family know when to turn on the humor with each other, but they also get very serious when things turn darker. This needs to be reflected.
Sure, we appreciate the banter of Johnny and Ben, and the romance of Reed and Sue, but as a team, they’re one of Marvel’s first waves of defense against the meanest of villains, so we’d appreciate a film whose tempo and tone can fluctuate and adjust to suit this organically, like “Iron Man” or James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Don’t overdo it on either aspect, but allow the script and director to balance both, like Joss Whedon did when he kickstarted the Avengers universe.
11. TEAM INDEPENDENCE
In the last movie, the team felt like government lackeys and executors of their mission, as opposed to their own bosses. In Story’s first two films, they felt a bit more independent but then they were hired by the government to fend off the Silver Surfer as if they were for hire. It never felt collaborative and this is something that needs to be fixed. Reed’s team are to be respected and they should be commanding power as an entity on their own.
Having them independent means they have no limits and boundaries, which is just how the team operates in the comics, daring to go wherever their scientific minds take them. This allows them to roam, not just on Earth, but the cosmos and multiverse, to the ends of their own ambition. If we take these shackles off them, it could also see them as enemies of the government, which could be an interesting angle to take, a la “Civil War,” and give them more freedom if they wanted to cross over to the X-Men realm.
10. BADASS BAXTER BUILDING
This is one of the Fantastic Four’s most iconic tools and really needs to be depicted as a hub of the future. Tony Stark’s home was portrayed as such, soon becoming the Avengers tower over at Marvel Studios, which really set the bar. Other sci-fi properties such as “Ex Machina” and “Minority Report” also showed a better future base than what Trank’s movie painted, even if the latter was an origin story that ended with a tease of what the Baxter Building could be.
Tim Story’s first two films did stretch the imagination a bit, but we need the Baxter Building to be a character on its own, with a distinct personality. It doesn’t need to be fully A.I., like what Jon Favreau first put out there with movie Jarvis, but fans need to see it as an extension of the family’s genius as their right-hand man. It’s more than a garage, an engineering shop or a scientist’s lab. This base is the future brought to the present, which shows how forward-thinking and progressive Marvel’s first family really is.
9. X-MEN SHARED UNIVERSE
With “X-Men: Supernova” rumored to be Fox’s new spin on Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force, and “Logan” bookending Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the studio has indicated it’s still pushing forward with the X-Men, with no signs of any future Marvel Studios partnership mentioned. Their “Deadpool” franchise is also burgeoning, so a Fantastic Four reboot can hint at the existence of mutants, especially if the revamp is kept isolated like the other movies.
Easter eggs can be set up for Reed and Sue to spot another genius, such as Beast; or perhaps in their galactic monitoring, they can discover threads of the Phoenix itself. One of Sony’s smartest moves is sharing Spider-Man in exchange for Iron Man with Marvel Studios, so if Fox goes this route, it’d give them leeway to craft stories and crossovers a la Marvel’s Ultimate universe. The canvas is blank for both sets of heroes to meet each other and such a move could only bolster future stories, especially as Fox is missing key ingredients and rights to make true comic-loyal stories to each franchise.
8. A FRESH CAST
Recasting is the way to go for the reboot. Fox’s “X-Men” franchise has continuity all over the place, yet they stick with the same faces, confusing fans even more. Trank’s casting drew heat from the start by swapping the ethnicity of Johnny Storm, bringing in Michael B. Jordan and removing the blonde jester we knew the character to be, as Chris Evans depicted. While he wasn’t bad in the movie, Miles Teller and Kate Mara as Reed and Sue, on the other hand, had no chemistry and turned in wooden performances.
The characters were written out of context and didn’t feel like their comic counterparts, but still, the delivery was so off. Jaime Bell as The Thing was also fairly decent but he wasn’t given much to do and was only developed as a muscle, instead of an integral teammate. With such a bad taste left in our mouths, we need a new cast to bring things back into perspective, especially after Fox flopped with another flaccid depiction of the villain. An all-around strong, commanding cast is needed, which even Tim Story couldn’t land.
7. HIGH-OCTANE ACTION
They’re a family, first and foremost, but they’re also action-explorers. Trank’s movie had a final battle with Doom, which was lacking and felt super flat. Sadly, it was also the only time we saw everyone cut loose. Story’s movies also failed to capture any sense of dynamism in their action sequences and since then, Fox hasn’t really upped the ante, as seen in another pedestrian set of ensemble fights in “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
There’s strength in numbers, and in the field, the Fantastic Four epitomizes this in the most badass fashion. They’re assets who are just as capable in the field as they are in the lab, and if this can also be built in to a huge team-up, then Fox would have the spectacle that has eluded them. We’ve seen the Avengers and DC’s Trinity throw down on-screen, and the Fantastic Four, with their vast array of powers, can deliver something just as wondrous once Fox decides to show them as soldiers who aren’t afraid to throw down.
6. THE POWER COSMIC
The Fantastic Four is renowned for finding gateways to the cosmic realm. This needs to be maintained because when Story brought the Silver Surfer in as a rival, consequences felt dire. The same applied to when Trank took his team off-world. However, we’ve yet to see them truly traverse and boldly go where no Marvel Earth-dwellers have gone before. If this reboot hints at the galactic scope of things, then it better lay proper foundation for future exploration and discovery.
The Negative Zone, Annihilus, Galactus, and of course, his heralds, are all big parts of what the team needs to experience in a reboot, spread over a couple films. Marvel Studios laid the groundwork so they can be used as a template as to how to make the cosmic scope of things feasible. The multiverse is another facet that needed to be expanded on as it’s something Reed prides himself on. If Fox nails these, then the studio would go a long way in making up for missteps like that disastrous Galactus cloud.
5. LET THEM CUT LOOSE
The preceding movies, for some reason, have never let each member cut loose. If we can see Hulk go bonkers so many times, what’s stopping Fox from letting The Thing unleash his wrath? The scenes where he was weaponized by the government were sadly cut by Trank, leaving fans disappointed. The only time we also saw Human Torch push his limits was when he went supernova in “Rise of the Silver Surfer,” and given how key he’s been fighting with the Avengers and Inhumans, we deserve a more explosive take on him.
Sure, Sue’s powers may end up subdued, as there’s only so much you can do with invisibility, but the studio hasn’t fully capitalized on her force fields and projections. The same could be said for Reed’s stretch powers, which may seem boring at first glance, but with the right creative and comic direction, could amaze on-screen. Whether it’s individual or combined, we deserve to see the team taking their powers to the max, as in the comics, because all other comic-movie studios are pushing boundaries with their characters. Why not the Fantastic Four?
4. DEATH OF A MEMBER
Not many superhero flicks are bold enough to kill off main characters in early forays. A reboot here could provide a bold opportunity to buck this trend. One key character we think could be expendable would be Johnny Storm, as seen when Hickman killed him off in the Negative Zone against Annihilus’ minions to much media fanfare. Of course, he returned within a year to the comics and could easily do the same on-screen in a sequel after some sort of sacrifice in battle, similar to Superman’s death in Zack Snyder’s “BvS.”
Such a move could also allow the sequel to follow the path of the Future Foundation from the books as explorers of space, until Johnny returns as the Human Torch. Fox has already taken the lives of Cyclops and Professor Xavier in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” so it knows how to go for the jugular. Killing off a teammate here would be a highly-talked of decision, and again, with the revolving door of death easily manipulatable on screen, it’s something that doesn’t need to be permanent.
3. DOOM BOTS
While we’ve gotten enough of Fox butchering Doctor Doom, we’re hoping they slowly build to bringing him back in a big way. They could take a couple of films to do so, but at the end of this reboot, the most perfect post-credits scene would be seeing an army of Doom Bots powering up, or monitoring the various activities of the Fantastic Four. This would also eliminate having to show Doom, and subtly hint that he’s operating and aware of the big thinkers around, a la “Terminator’s” Skynet A.I. or Marvel’s Ultron.
These robots, and sometimes doppelgängers, are big aspects of his arsenal, and maybe if we see them patrolling Latveria, Fox could show us that they’re ready to do the villain right and paint him in the light of a true ruler. Doom Bots would show his power, his scope and also, that the megalomaniac has an army ready to go. They’d also keep up the mystery about Doom and can tease what he’s ready to offer to Earth’s service, which will surely be met with skepticism by Reed and company.
2. FAMILY MATTERS
When it comes to family, few exist in comics that are as tightly-knit and emotively powerful as the Fantastic Four. Despite their achievements and mental capacity, they are one of the most human aspects of Marvel. Trank’s movie lacked heart and soul, which Story’s admittedly had, as it attempted to isolate the members into a series of arcs as couples, instead of one whole.
He focused on the cold romance of Reed and Sue, Reed and Ben’s broken friendship, as well as the flailing dynamic of the Storm family. These should complement the entire squad, if not drive them. We need them united, helping each other solve problems, being honest, and moving as a single unit. Keeping them so segregated worked for “Chronicle,” but failed when he made Reed a loner. This team is built on unity and togetherness, and that needs to be recaptured on film. Having them as an already-established family mitigates this negativity and punctuates that they are stronger together.
1. GET SMARTER
We need to see Marvel’s smartest family as just that: super-geniuses! Sure, we need them bumbling around and experimenting in trial-and-error situations, but the Fantastic Four are known for creations that blow minds. Big robots, discovering and building the bridge to the Negative Zone, and last but not least, creating vehicles such as the Fantasticar; all of these are elements that this team should be bestowed in cinemas.
If Reed needs to be shown as an architect unlike any other. Who knows, if inspiration is taken from his Ultimate Marvel version, maybe it could open up room for a future villainous swing, which culminated with last year’s “Secret Wars.” A galactic prison in the aforementioned Negative Zone could also be another option to showcase the family’s genius, as fans make continuous calls to see an experienced team making great decisions like they do in the comics. After all, if it’s one thing that makes the Fantastic Four who they are, it’s that not-so-little thing called risk.
Let us know what you’d like to see happen with the FF movie franchise in the comments!
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