With Disney’s merger with Fox underway, the rights to the Fantastic Four will be back in Marvel’s hands soon enough. Then, they’ll be free to introduce the iconic characters into the MCU. This is an exciting prospect, but every previous attempt to translate the Fantastic Four onto the big screen has been an astounding failure.
That doesn’t mean that there can’t be a good Fantastic Four movie – it just means that, for one to work, the filmmakers will need to avoid past mistakes. So, here are 5 Things The Other Fantastic Four Movies Got Wrong (And 5 Ways The MCU Can Get It Right).
10 Other movies got wrong: Tone
The first couple of Fantastic Four movies appealed to children, but not to adults. The jokes were too immature, we couldn’t connect to the characters as people, and the world was too bright and fuzzy. Similarly, the reboot – the abysmally named Fant4stic – was way too dark, trying to bring a Christopher Nolan “grounded” tone to characters that don’t suit it at all.
This isn’t the Dark Knight, protector of crime-ridden Gotham under the thumb of a maniacal clown; it’s the Fantastic Four: a stretchy guy, a rock guy – it’s light, it’s playful, it’s fun. Both attempts at a Fantastic Four blockbuster franchise (although the reboot in particular) botched the tone.
9 How to fix it: Use Guardians of the Galaxy as a guide
Guardians of the Galaxy has the perfect tone for a Fantastic Four movie. It has a lot of humor, but it also has a lot of heart. It has a strong sense of family, with characters that couldn’t live without each other and are always there for the people they love when they’re needed. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s not cynical – when a character is in serious danger, we’re not laughing; we’re clinging to the edge of our seat, praying they’ll make it out alive.
All of the characters are lovable and have plenty of banter, but also plenty of heart-to-hearts to talk through their emotions and understand the changes going on in their lives. If the MCU’s Fantastic Four team follows in Guardians of the Galaxy’s footsteps, then they’re on the right track.
8 Other movies got wrong: Doctor Doom’s characterization
Doctor Doom is one of the most powerful and fearsome villains in the Marvel Comics universe. If he was done justice on the big screen, he would be as instantly iconic and terrifying as Thanos.
From Julian McMahon’s cartoonish, evil-for-the-sake-of-evil Doom in the 2005 series to Toby Kebbell’s dark, vaguely defined incarnation in the 2015 reboot, the on-screen portrayals of Victor Von Doom so far have been painfully disappointing. He needs to have a plan that makes sense, a sinister personality that makes a chill go down the audience’s spine, and an infinite supply of power that makes him truly formidable.
7 How to fix it: Better writing
There’s a common rule in writing: “show, don’t tell.” All throughout the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, we’re told how powerful Toby Kebbell’s Doctor Doom is; how he can wipe out all life in the world and he can total New York City in an afternoon and he’s the greatest threat the world has ever faced. But he only gets a chance to wreak havoc about 15 minutes before the credits roll and he’s irritatingly easy to defeat.
We don’t need to be told that Doom is a terrifying force to be reckoned with; we need to be shown. He has diplomatic immunity, immeasurable power, and a genius-level mind. A Fantastic Four movie should show how dangerous that can be instead of just describing it to us.
6 Other movies got wrong: Boxing out the wider Marvel universe
It was reported recently that Tim Story and the team behind Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer wanted to include Nick Fury in the movie, but rights issues forced them to replace him with Andre Braugher’s generic military character. Now, it’s not like having Nick Fury around would’ve magically fixed Rise of the Silver Surfer, but it would have suggested a wider universe within those films.
Even if the plan wasn’t to set up an MCU-style franchise back then, it helps with the world-building to have organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D. operating from the sidelines. Rights issues are to blame for this one, so it’s not the filmmakers’ fault, but it’s still a negative mark on the movie.
5 How to fix it: Ingratiate them into the MCU
The Fantastic Four would fit the bubbly, lighthearted, superhero-infested world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe like a glove, so ingratiating them into that world is the next logical step. One theory is that the Fantastic Four will be helping out Nick Fury on his Skrull command ship that is assumed to be associated with S.W.O.R.D. (the cosmic version of S.H.I.E.L.D.), which is a great way to introduce the characters, because it would explain their absence from the previous MCU films.
But either way, the best way to give the Fantastic Four a wider universe to inhabit would be to simply introduce them into the MCU, which seems to be the plan anyway.
4 Other movies got wrong: Characters’ ages
The first couple of Fantastic Four movies had characters with ages close to their comic book counterparts, but there were still small issues like Reed and Sue being slightly too young and Johnny being slightly too old – there needs to be a bigger age gap between Sue and Johnny to emphasize that Sue is the older, smarter one and Johnny is the younger, cockier, more immature one.
The 2015 reboot totally screwed it up with all of the characters being college-aged. Reed and Sue are a middle-aged married couple, not a pair of bright-eyed twentysomethings. The ages were all wrong.
3 How to fix it: Cast the right actors
To get the characters at the right ages, the MCU’s casting team will need to find the perfect actors for their roles. Some fans have suggested John Krasinski and Emily Blunt for the roles of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, respectively, which would be awesome – they’re married in real life, which means they have tangible on-screen chemistry and share a real love, and they’re both wildly popular and talented actors in their own right.
Another widely circulated fan casting is Zac Efron as Johnny Storm, which would also be ideal – he’s young, popular, attractive, and he can play arrogant, yet likable characters. The MCU has rarely miscast a role, so there’s no doubt they’ll find the right people to portray Marvel’s first family.
2 Other movies got wrong: Team dynamic
The best thing about the Fantastic Four has always been their team dynamic. There’s a reason they’re called “Marvel’s first family.” This is the team that the entire Marvel universe was built on and their relationships have kept comic book readers coming back again and again for decades.
Unfortunately, the movie versions we’ve had so far have failed to capture this dynamic in the same way that the comics have. The studios have been more interested in spectacle than character development, and so the bonds shared by the team have always been thinly drawn and generic. It’s a real problem.
1 How to fix it: Flesh out their relationships
What makes other team movies in the MCU like the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy movies work so well is that the relationships between the characters have all been fleshed out and they feel like a real team – or, better yet, a real family.
Reed Richards and Sue Storm are in love (and married with kids later down the line). Johnny is Sue’s immature younger brother that she wants to get on a wayward path. Ben Grimm was a childhood friend of Reed’s. These characters all have deep-rooted connections with one another, and that needs to be conveyed on film.