With Disney’s multibillion-dollar acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Marvel Studios has acquired the rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, so as soon as Kevin Feige can figure out the narrative strategy, we’ll be seeing them join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The MCU has yet to make a major misstep in adapting a Marvel character for the screen, but the Fantastic Four characters have proven very tricky to get right on the big screen in the past. There’s a chance to do the characters justice, but it won’t be easy. Here are some things that the reboot is going to need.
10 A proper portrayal of Doctor Doom
The past two cinematic incarnations of Doctor Doom have betrayed the character. Victor Von Doom is a genius who gains superpowers and becomes tragically corrupted, turning to evil rather than striving for justice. In the comics, he’s one of the most formidable villains in the entire Marvel universe.
What Stan Lee always thought made Doom a great villain was that he has diplomatic immunity (due to his allegiance to the fictional nation of Latveria), so he can walk up to a cop and declare his plans to take over the world and the cop wouldn’t be able to do anything.
9 Lighthearted tone
The biggest problem with Josh Trank’s 2015 abomination, the so-called Fant4stic, is that it took the Fantastic Four characters (note the name – it’s not meant to be taken seriously) and tried to cram them into a dark, gritty, grounded movie in the style of The Dark Knight.
You can’t Nolan-ize the Fantastic Four for the same reason you can’t Nolan-ize Superman (although Zack Snyder has tried), and that is that the characters simply don’t suit that tone. They’re bright and colorful and their stories are light and fun. There was a lot wrong with Tim Story’s Fantastic Four movies, but at least he was going for the right tone: vibrant, breezy, comedic, and happy.
8 The right ages for the characters
It’s important that Reed Richards and Sue Storm are among the older, wiser, more experienced heroes. It’ll be tough to do this, since the MCU has been around for over a decade and the world has faced multiple global-scale threats in that time, but maybe they’ve been off in space for a while.
Whatever way there is around it, Reed and Sue need to be married and in their 40s (this is why fans have been desperate for Marvel to cast real-life married couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt). Ben Grimm is roughly the same age as Reed, although it’s hard to tell under the rocks, and Johnny Storm is the youngest and most immature of the bunch. If the movie gets the ages right (the 2015 reboot seemingly gave us the Teen Titans version of the Fantastic Four), it’ll be one step closer to getting the characters right.
7 Sue Storm getting in on the action
In the early Fantastic Four comics, Sue Storm is basically the team’s maid. All she does is clean up after the guys and she’s often the one they have to rescue from damsel-in-distress situations. The fact that invisibility is her superpower is, in and of itself, sexist, because her colleagues all got awesome cosmic abilities and all she got was the power to not block her husband’s view of the TV.
Just as Evangeline Lilly’s MCU Wasp has righted the wrongs of that character’s misogynistic depiction in comics from the 60s, so should Sue Storm’s MCU portrayal. She should be working in the lab, devising battle strategies, and joining in the action, not ironing clothes or washing dishes.
6 Actors with chemistry
Every MCU fan has their own wish list for the casting of a new Fantastic Four movie, but the one thing that the casting team should bear in mind above all is that the actors playing these characters need to have chemistry. They’re a family (three of them are literally a family), so it’s very important that the family dynamic comes across on film.
The MCU casting team has done a fantastic job of this in the past: Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, Chris Pratt and Michael Rooker, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan, etc. So, there are no doubts they’ll nail this casting, but it’s still worth mentioning.
5 Cosmic adventures
One of the main problems with the previous Fantastic Four movies is that they’ve stuck around on Earth too much. These characters got their powers in a cosmic storm during a trip to outer space, so they wouldn’t just hang around on Earth as they do in the movies.
Their greatest adventures in the comics have been on other planets, battling with aliens and exploring the universe. In terms of the MCU, this opens up the story possibilities for team-ups with Captain Marvel, Thor, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. And, depending on their place in the timeline, they could face off with Ronan the Accuser (or even Thanos).
4 A Johnny Storm we can root for
Chris Evans did an okay job playing the Human Torch, but it’s clear that he’s better suited to the role of squeaky-clean Steve Rogers than arrogant playboy Johnny Storm. Michael B. Jordan was closer to the mark in the 2015 reboot, but he was let down by a terrible script.
The MCU version needs to portray Johnny as a sort of tragic hero. Yes, he’s a playboy – he’s a cool guy who drives a sports car and dates supermodels and monopolizes on the fame allowed by superheroism – but ultimately, his life is empty. Hedonism will only get you so far in terms of character development. Johnny needs to evolve into a more selfless, emotionally available person for his character arc to work.
3 Reed Richards as a genius
The MCU has done a great job of making its geniuses – Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, Tony and Howard Stark – look like actual geniuses, despite all their science being made up. Reed Richards needs to be depicted in the same league as those guys.
A great image would be Reed in his lab, writing out formulae across a bunch of blackboards around the room, stretching from board to board. Ben Grimm could also join him in the lab and they could become a sort of “Science Bros. 2.0” since the last pair disbanded with one’s death and the other’s permanent gamma radiation.
2 The Thing feeling like a real character
The great thing that Chris Evans did with the role of Steve Rogers is that after he was injected with the super-soldier serum, he still played the big, beefy, ripped Rogers as the weedy, dorky, neurotic Rogers. He didn’t suddenly become cool and confident. That’s what needs to happen with the Thing.
Even though a cosmic storm turned him into an orange rock monster, he’s still Ben Grimm, a regular New Yorker. Sure, the rock monster thing has given him body image problems, but these need to be explored beyond some cheap jokes. A truly great character will be born if the movie delves into the emotions that would arise if that actually happened to someone.
1 A strong team dynamic
What will make a Fantastic Four movie work above all else is a strong team dynamic. It’s what makes the Guardians of the Galaxy movies work – we believe that they’re a real team who all have real relationships with one another.
It doesn’t need to be entirely accurate to the comics. It just has to work for the movie while being true to the characters: Reed Richards and Sue Storm are the “parents” of the group; Johnny Storm’s arrogance gets on Reed’s nerves, but Sue sticks up for him since he’s her brother; Reed and Ben Grimm are old friends with shared anecdotes and inside jokes. If we love the characters, we’ll love the movie.