If you haven't heard, the controversial reboot of Fantastic Four is an absolute failure at every level. Critically, Fox's second attempt at franchising Marvel's founding family of superheroes sits as the lowest scored Marvel-branded movie ever on Rotten Tomatoes, and financially, the box office results for Fantastic Four's opening weekend fell far below all early estimates.
With critics, fans and financial viability all working against it, what's next for the Fantastic Four film franchise and the all-too-soon scheduled release date for Fantastic Four 2?
Fox's long-term Marvel movie plans seem to be in a state of flux, just as they were two years ago when the studio commissioned a script for an X-Force movie from Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2). The plans for that movie were rendered obsolete because of director Bryan Singer and writer-producer Simon Kinberg's plans for X-Men: Days of Future Past and its upcoming followup, X-Men: Apocalypse. Whatever the plans were two years ago for the franchise as a whole have changed quite a bit, first because of the success of Days of Future Past and now this weekend, because of what's happened with Fantastic Four.
Fox currently has three Marvel-branded films releasing in 2016 (Apocalypse, Deadpool and Gambit) followed by the untitled Wolverine 3 and Fantastic Four 2 in 2017 and an unannounced X-Men feature in 2018. Just like X-Force doesn't seem likely (at least anytime soon) so too do we expect Fantastic Four 2 to fall off the schedule; that means - assuming Fantastic Four isn't going to get a direct sequel because it shouldn't - the studio holds a valuable June 2017 weekend slot with nothing to put there. But they do have stuff to put there...
With the production and marketing campaign for Deadpool going well for Fox, and all the fan support in the world to back it up, the studio might have a surprise hit on their hands for February 2016. Deadpool is the first R-rated Marvel movie from Fox but despite the audience-limiting rating, it could still out-perform the bigger-budget Fantastic Four mess.
How About Deadpool 2 & The New Mutants?
If Deadpool succeeds, a sequel is a certainty. We know Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick already have ideas for a sequel, and that everyone involved is chomping at the bit to keep telling more Deadpool adventures, so it's possible Deadpool becomes a summer blockbuster character in 2017 if Fox decides to swap out Fantastic Four for an X-Men related project.
There's also The New Mutants, the film we assume is replacing X-Force and helping set up what we expect will ultimately be a different version of X-Force afterwards, just as it was in the comics (with New Mutants spinning off into the original X-Force team). With all the talk of the fan-fave time-traveling mutant soldier Cable potentially being introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse or Deadpool 2 (if there is a sequel), he could be a key character for the studio to help bridge all of these films together and lead the way for New Mutants, Deadpool 2 and X-Force.
Due to timing though, Fox won't be able to get another core X-Men ensemble movie produced in time for 2017 with Apocalypse debuting just a year prior (in May 2016), which means Fantastic Four 2 can't be replaced with something like the widely discussed crossover with the main X-Men characters - especially with most of the lead talent not yet contracted beyond Apocalypse. Such a film would need to enter production early next year and there's nothing to suggest such a possibility could happen.
So, realistically speaking, Fantastic Four 2 might not be in the cards come 2017 and Fox does have pieces in play for two potential projects to fill that gap in Deadpool 2 and The New Mutants. There's always the possibility the studio greenlights another project we've not heard about yet, but with Deadpool able to be realized on such short notice, a sequel is an easy choice if the first one is a success. Rumors and speculation are already tossing around the possibility.
Whether Fox plans to keep the June 9, 2017 release date for FF 2 or replace it with something else, the studio needs to make decisions soon so expect more news on this in the near future. As for the film rights to the Fantastic Four property, something Marvel fans undoubtedly want to see back at Marvel Studios after this weekend, there's no rush for Fox to being production on another Fantastic Four movie since rumor has it they have seven years to start production on another in order to maintain the license. But more on that later.
Fantastic Four is now in theaters. Deadpool opens February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit on October 7, 2016; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; Fantastic Four 2 on June 9, 2017; and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.