The Fantastic Four 2015 reboot finally hit theaters after a long, troubled, production, and has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster for 20th Century Fox, and a possible career-crippling blow to director Josh Trank. Now that the reboot is out, and all the debate about the changes to canon, casting, and villains is over, we can get back to more speculative conversation about everything from whether or not the Fantastic Four rights should revert back to Marvel, to whether plans for a sequel or crossover with the X-Men franchise will continue.
To the latter point: One of the more perplexing things we learned early on in production on Fantastic Four was that the filmmakers weren’t planning to seed the reboot with connections to the X-Men films. In an era where Marvel Studios’ superhero shared universe is dominating, and franchises like Star Wars and the DC Superhero Universe are all gearing up to build their own empires, Fox opting not to make even cursory connections between their only two Marvel properties seems like a big missed opportunity.
In the spirit of 20/20 hindsight, we’ve picked out 5 X-Men Movie Connections That Would’ve Improved the Fantastic Four Reboot.
5. A World of Mutants
Given the premise and setting of the Fantastic Four reboot, the film could’ve easily retained a standalone feel while still contextualizing the story to be set in a world where mutants exist. All it would’ve taken was a throwaway line of dialogue from the likes of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) or Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) – or any one of the government types – to let viewers know that there was a world of freaky powered mutants out there.
Having Fantastic Four set in a reality where mutants exist would’ve totally reframed the impact and meaning of the story (in some ways we’ll discuss in detail, here). Consider it: four humans finding a new dimension that has a power source able to endow humans with superpowers, instantly gets boosted to a new level of importance when set against a world where humanity lives in fear individuals born with such abilities. It would’ve made the actions and motivations of F4 characters like Dr. Allen more nuanced and understandable with comic book fans in particular, as they could surmise for themselves how the Planet Zero power source could one day lead to the conflicts of a X-Men / F4 crossover.
4. Planet Zero: The Anti-Mutant Answer
In the Fantastic Four reboot, the other dimension being probed by Reed Richards and the team at the Baxter Foundation turns out to contain some kind of green-goo sentient energy source that can give humans superpowers. As stated above, having such a place and power source set against a reality in which normal humans have been living in fear of mutants, creates a situation that could’ve been beneficial to both brands (X-Men and F4) with little more effort required than dropping some dialogue.
Instead of the cliched “evil/greedy military wants alien weapon,” angle, Planet Zero and its benefits – not to mention the prototypes that are “The Four” themselves – would’ve been reframed in a more complex question of the Baxter Foundation’s duty to humanity. With mutants that can invade minds or bend the very laws of nature, wouldn’t humanity benefit from being able to selectively engineer their own superpowered protectors? That’s a harder question for the likes of Reed Richards or Ben Grimm to ponder, it strengthens Johnny Storm’s motivation to use his powers for purpose, and drops the “evil military schemer” cliche. It also would’ve set up the means for the government to possibly create new superpowered characters in a future X-Men/F4 crossover.
3. Race For a Cure
In Fantastic Four, one of (many) vague subplots was Reed Richards’ year-long disappearance after escaping military clutches. Reed claimed to be struggling to discover a cure for his friends, but this thread quickly disappears when Doom attacks the Baxter Foundation, and “The Four” decide that existence as superpowered freaks is A-Ok.
However, in an X-Men world, Reed Richards’ experiments to cure himself or his friends could’ve easily pushed into territory that is threatening to the existence of mutants. It would’ve only needed to be foreshadowed in this first film (since the movie didn’t really delve too deep into Reed’s cure attempts) – but having someone as brilliant as Reed (and/or his team) working on taking away or suppressing super powers could eventually put them into the crosshairs of some bad people who have superpowers of their own – and no interest in losing them…
2. Brotherhood Alert!
Humans gaining superpowers. A new source of superpowers under government control. A genius working to “cure” the affliction of having superpowers. These are definitely developments that would attract the attention of Magneto and/or Mystique and The Brotherhood of Mutants, if F4 existed in an X-Men continuity.
Again, it’s not a connection that would’ve taken that much production effort or budget funds or time commitment from X-Men stars. A finale or post-credit scene could’ve featured some government type getting a debrief about the Fantastic Four origin event, only to have that the government type flash Mystique’s signature yellow eyes. That brief clip would instantly hint the shape-changing femme fatale (and subsequently The Brotherhood of Mutants) now has an eye on what is happening at the Baxter Foundation.
1. “Heroes We Can Trust”
One of the most unearned story developments in the Fantastic Four reboot is the quick turn from The Four being victims of some horrific accident, to becoming a team of heroes who accept their new fate. It’s an incredibly flimsy turn that’s crammed into the third act, but it’s actually supposed to be an important aspect of The Fantastic Four mythos: being heroes out loud and proud, up front in the public eye.
In Trank’s reboot, we get the tired cliché of “military applications” for the F4’s powers – a vague subplot that has The Thing racking up body counts, while Sue and Franklin try to ‘save Johnny’s soul’ before the brash young man volunteers to become an assassin. This is a misstep that could’ve been corrected had the film been set in an X-Men universe; in that context, having government-brand superheroes could’ve been as important of a PR campaign, as it was a military one.
Being able to sell the public “Heroes we can trust!” like the F4 would’ve essentially covered the same ground the film tried to explore with The Thing’s soul-sucking tour as a military weapon (manipulation of the team’s powers for questionable ends). Only, set against a world where the X-Men operate in secrete, public service would’ve inherently repositioned the F4 as a stark contrast to the more unregulated and clandestine actions of mutant groups. By the time the F4 and X-Men met up onscreen, the hypocrisy of the public’s acceptance of one team and demonization of the other would’ve been a rich theme to explore.
All of this is just wishful thinking from a fan. Fantastic Four is a hard FAIL, and the mechanics of even getting the reboot synched up with an X-Men universe seems too unlikely and convoluted to even bother with.
But just for discussion’s sake: Were there any other X-Men connections you would’ve like to have seen? Let us know in the comments!
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.
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