The Fantastic 4 will finally be coming to the MCU. It has been four years since we last saw Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, Sue Storm, and Ben Grimm on the big screen in an outing that was as forgettable as it was mediocre. With Disney recently acquiring Fox, however, the characters are now set to return with a fresh glow-up, one that Marvel Studios will inevitably give them. We don’t know when yet, but we know it is on the way.
So far, there have been four movies featuring the four characters - with some better than others. There is yet to be a truly perfect outing so far; with that in mind, we now take a look at 10 mistakes the MCU cannot afford to make when it reboots the franchise in a couple of years.
10 Don’t Drag Out The Backstory
When the Fantastic 4 Movie released in 2005, it showed us how the quartet and Victor Von Doom got their powers. Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm, and Susan Storm were all the victims of an accident in space, where they received abilities after being engulfed in cosmic radiation.
A decade later, the 2015 reboot did the exact same thing, telling a near-enough identical tale to the one that had been told previously. Not only that but they dragged it out across 36 long and agonizing minutes, making the whole movie feel like a drag. As The Amazing Spider-Man learned in 2012, people don’t like being the shown something they’ve already seen. Fresh and innovative ideas are certainly the way forward.
9 Poor CGI
We can forgive the Tim Story Fantastic Four films for having poor CGI, except that is generally not the case. The first film still stands up relatively well today, despite technology long having moved on (particularly within the superhero genre.) The second movie looked good enough, too, despite the fact it was competing with the likes of Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and much, much more back in 2007.
But the 2015 reboot looked horrendous, to put it mildly. Reed Richards’ arms were way off, making him look more like Stretch Armstrong rather than somebody who has the power to save the universe. Not only that, but Ben Grimm looked awful too. We know it’s not easy to make somebody look rock-like but, still, they did it better a decade earlier.
8 Rushing Movies
2005's Fantastic Four's runtime was justified due to its pacing, which it got right. The characters are introduced, evolve into superheroes, then save the day by preventing Victor Von Doom from wreaking havoc across New York City. Hopes were raised for the sequel but, ultimately, it disappointed.
Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer was enjoyable but unspectacular. And one of the reasons for this was the fact that, at under 100 minutes, they tried to cram in as much as possible. There was Von Doom’s return, complex relationships between the heroes, as well as the introductions of not only the Silver Surfer but Galactus as well. In the end, the blockbuster failed to hit the heights expected and its inability to spread things out, to allow more time for things to work out, cost the movie dearly.
7 Underutilized Villains
Once again, the Tim Story Fantastic Four movies can be somewhat forgiven in this area. Victor Von Doom is at the forefront of both blockbusters, even if he takes a while to truly get going during the Rise of the Silver Surfer. He’s everything a villain should be: Powerful, ruthless, and - dare we say it - somewhat charming?
Unfortunately, the Doctor Doom in the 2015 reboot was barely seen and heard even less. They throw him into the mix for the final third of the film but, by this point, we’re already looking at our clocks waiting for the thing to end. It’s a shame, too, because the bad guy was actually one of the more redeeming aspects of the film. Marvel Studios probably know this already, but keeping your villain held back is a bad and risky move.
6 Poor Humour
Now, this is something the Story Fantastic Four movies (and Rise of the Silver Surfer especially) is definitely guilty of. These days, there’s no reason for these movies to try extra hard to be funny. People are so invested in superheroes, what they stand for, and how they are just mere mortals. That means having a laugh but, in the second blockbuster, there’s barely any.
Rise of the Silver Surfer just rehashes the same jokes that were in the franchise’s previous outing. More mocking of Ben Grimm for looking like a giant chicken nugget? Check. More laughing at Johnny Storm's immaturity? Check. More of Jessica Alba’s Sue Storm getting into compromising positions because of her powers? Check. Yawn...
The Fantastic 4 series has to dare to be ambitious. While the Spider-Man trilogy (where Peter Parker stayed within New York City) and X-Men franchise (where the characters branched out a little bit more) both released around the same time, they were both far more successful. And the lack of imaginative locations was partly behind that.
Both films fail to branch out from within the heart of New York. While the 2015 reboot tries to switch things up, it gives us drab and dreary places that fail to capture our imaginations. In the MCU, there are characters from earth and characters from space, meaning we get to see both environments explored in detail. They’re all brimming with life, diversity, and freshness. None of the environments from any of the Fantastic Four movies leave the same impact.
4 World Building
Locations weren't only a problem due to their aesthetics. They also lack atmosphere, a sense that they’re just a small section of a world. In all the Fantastic 4 movies, it’s been just them, the villains, and a few Marvel secondary characters (albeit all forgettable ones). Modern superhero movies are just a small piece of a larger jigsaw.
Take Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man series, for example. Due to Marvel having the bulk of the character rights, plenty was off-limits. But, should you really pay attention to detail, you’d spot that the likes of Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, and even Venom were already out there. Spidey also used Gwen Stacy and Felicia Hardy. All Fantastic 4 movies had no nod to the fact they’re part of something much bigger and, despite their limitations, the previous blockbusters should have done better.
3 Casting choices
We apologize to fans of the 2015 Fantastic Four movie for calling it out so much, but it really did fail to meet expectations in so many different areas. Another one of those was casting choices, with all four of the main leads and Toby Kebbell as Victor Von Doom failing to be an upgrade on the earlier movies' casts.
Having starred in the likes of 21 and Over, Project X, and That Awkward Moment, at the time, Miles Teller was predominantly a comedy actor. Was he ever really going to convince as Reed Richards, the super nerd with super intelligence? Michael B. Jordan was mishandled as well. The gig as Johnny Storm came too soon, although Jordan would make up for it with a stirring performance as Erik Killmonger in 2018’s Black Panther. The script didn’t help either of the men’s causes, however...
Part of the reason why both Miles Teller and Michael B Jordan failed comes down to being stuck in a movie so devoid of color and personality. A bleak world can work in some cases - like parts of the DCEU, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and the MCU’s Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame - but it fails to work in others.
In the comic books, Marvel's family are vibrant characters, both in terms of their looks and personalities. The tone of the movie was even later questioned by co-writer and producer Simon Kinberg:
I think the biggest takeaway for me [is that] the tone of the movie, while really interesting and ambitious, ran counter to the DNA of the source material. I think the source material of Fantastic Four is bright, optimistic, poppy in tone. There’s a sort of plucky spirit to those characters, and we made a darker, sort of body-horror kind of version of Fantastic Four, which again as I say it now sounds really interesting and cerebrally ambitious but isn’t necessarily Fantastic Four.
Let the Fantastic Four just be the Fantastic Four.
1 Rehashing Villains
The final sin is one shared with The Amazing Spider-Man series: Rehashing a villain. While we recognize the fact that Victor Von Doom is the Fantastic Four’s greatest adversary, it was still the wrong move to throw him into the 2015 reboot.
Julian McMahon was good at playing the bad guy in the 2005 and 2007 entries. That meant it was always going to be difficult for Tony Kebbell to do a good job, just as Dane DeHaan struggled to make the Goblin his own in Sony’s Amazing-Spider-Man franchise. Prior to DeHaan, audiences had already seen both Willem Dafoe and James Franco become Goblins, but that didn’t stop the bigwigs over in the studio from giving the Chronicle and Place Beyond the Pines actor a shot at emulating them. Safe to say he didn’t and Fox’s decision to bring Von Doom back into the fold backfired big time. Let’s hope the MCU come up with a different villain for a change...