Franklin & Val Richards Are the Solution to Fox's Fantastic Four Problem


Judging by fan reaction to Marvel Legacy one-shot -- specifically, the response to Franklin and Valeria Richards apparently at the center of the publisher's plan to bring the Fantastic Four back into the Marvel Universe -- it's clear that fans are clamoring for new stories starring Marvel's Fist Family. But while that appearance set the stage for the FF's inevitable comic book renaissance, fans are also hoping to see 20th Century Fox right its battle-imaged Fantasticar and give them the movie take on the characters they've waited so long to see.

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Josh Trank's 2015 movie was intended to reboot the franchise. When the film bombed, both financially and critically, fans hoped the resulting fallout would include the studio approaching Marvel to collaborate on a new FF film, much like Sony did for Spider-Man: Homecoming. However, with things back on the upswing for Fox, thanks in large part to Deadpool and Logan revitalizing its X-Men Universe, the odds of Marvel being brought in to help overhaul the Fantastic Four are slim. But that's doesn't necessarily spell (Doctor) doom and gloom for the franchise -- there's still a chance the studio can do Reed and Sue Richards, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm justice, if Fox looks to Reed and Susan's kids, Franklin and Valeria, as the key to a successful reboot.

The first step is for Fox to recognize that the family dynamic we've repeatedly seen on-screen has to change. Two failed franchise attempts already dealt with the four young adults coming together as a budding team and developing into heroes. We don't need these origins anymore because, frankly, they've been done to death. Introducing Franklin and Val in a film that features a seasoned FF would immediately freshen things up. It would tell the audience that the FF already exists as an established, experienced family, one who already knows what being superheroes means.

Future Foundation group shot

This would help strike the tonal balance the other movies lacked. Reed and Sue's interaction with their kids has always been one of Marvel Comics' greatest assets, and translating this to the big screen would help to remedy past mistakes. Trank's movie was too dark, and the previous two were too light and simple. Adding younger voices to the mix would allow for a plot that works on two levels -- a sci-fi for adults, and a story of self-discovery for kids.

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Franklin is all about exploring the multiverse and reshaping reality, a characterization that could offer Fox the perfect chance go big. Imagine Reed and Sue trying to wrap their heads around raising a son with powers that include the ability to build entire worlds and shift reality, coupled with psionic abilities like precognition. In addition to creating the perfect opportunity to expand the FF's border beyond Earth, it would present the perfect means to build to an X-Men crossover or guest appearance that would feel natural, not forced.

And then there's Val, whose powers include the ability to travel through time, opening up the possibility of exploring alternate timelines. The idea that Val's powers could retroactively make both of the previous FF movie versions canon by treating them as alternate realities where time unfolded differently is an intriguing one, to say the least. However, Val's true value lies in her relationship with Doctor Doom, with whom she shares a close relationship in the books. Perhaps more than any character from the FF franchise to already make the leap to the big screen, Victor Von Doom needs the most work in rehabbing his image. Leaning into his and Val's relationship as godfather and goddaughter could add immeasurable depth to a character who has previously been treated as a 2-dimensional joke rather than one of the most complex characters in the Marvel Universe.


Of course, what stands out most about Val and Franklin is that they're explorers at heart. Focusing on their ambitions and the fire of youth could also advance the story past the adult heroes to the point where we can focus, not just on the kids, but on the villains as well; something Fox failed to thoroughly flesh out in Trank's film. The children's insatiable curiosity could open up the door to any number of adventures, situations requiring Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben to fix the kids' mistakes and save the day. Haven't we seen enough of the adults themselves making bumbling mistakes? It's about time such rookie errors are owned by, well, rookies!

Sure, basing the entire Fantastic Four franchise on the adventures of Franklin and Val might be a risk for Fox -- but then, what does the studio have to lose at this point? The previous big screen iterations of the Fantastic Four have been received with responses ranging from lukewarm enjoyment to an outright condemnation by audiences, so why not give another approach a chance? In order to "save" its FF film franchise, Fox has to make a truly bold move -- and perhaps nothing could be bolder, at this point, than to actually lean into what has made the Fantastic Four one of the Marvel Comics Universe's lynchpins for over half a century: the concept of family.

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