How to Fix the Fantastic Four

What’s up all? I’ve been doing some fiction stuff recently and have strayed away from my earlier bread and butter. There are a few reasons for the shift and I might delve into that later. If you prefer my fiction, that’s not going away. If you prefer my non-fiction/opinion stuff, that’s not going away either. Anyway, enough of that, onto today’s subject.

So, the Fantastic Four film franchise has had a rocky past of late, well more like an ongoing rocky existence. From the 90s Corman film, to the 00s films starring Captain America before he was Cap, to the stupidly-titled 2015 film, Fant4stic. It hasn’t been an easy ride for Marvel’s First Family, with their films being generally received on a scale of Ok to Bad. First, let’s delve into the tricky part of adapting the Fantastic Four for film, and then I’ll throw my hat into the ring attempting to the wrangle the beast at the conceptual phase.

Ok, so, let’s first look at why the Fantastic Four are hard to adapt. For me, the reason that lots of adaptations fail is two-fold and wrapped up in their origin. The Fantastic Four were created to reflect the nuclear family ideal in a superhero team. As part of that, they were hit with ‘cosmic waves’ and transformed. The problem with adapting their story is that their conception is rooted in the 1960s. Their origin story is like Swiss Family Robinson in Space, and because comics, they’ve basically been grandfathered into the regular Marvel Universe. It’s an origin that doesn’t feel especially relevant anymore, and thus is pretty difficult to modernise.

The other problem adapting the Fantastic Four is that they’re a science-based team so lots of their techno-babble works in its context but time and increased general scientific understanding has made staples of their lore look ridiculous in retrospect. When the whole concept is based on that, it’s kind of hard to skirt around it. So, what’s the solution? Well, I have a couple of ideas for the family first, followed by thoughts for the villain.

So, my first, and pretty much only rule, for a future Fantastic Four movie is no Doom until the sequel. He’s benched until people care about these characters.

As you’ve probably guessed, my first step for a new FF movie would be to immediately halt any sequels currently in production. Nothing can grow from the Fant4stic universe, it’s too marred in reputation. Just salt the earth on that front. This does make this the third reboot in a shorter timespan than the Spiderman movies, but it might be a necessary evil. Plus, any movie that would spawn from this plan wouldn’t see a release till 2019/2020. So, there’s time for an audience to forgive and forget.

So, starting afresh, two possibilities present themselves. If Fox is determined to keep the reins of FF specifically in their wheelhouse, then the goal would be to make a new movie. The other possibility would be for the FF to join the MCU. In that case, Spiderman is really blazing the path that the FF would follow him down. So, let’s start with the MCU idea. Just like Spiderman, I would introduce the Fantastic Four in another movie and have them migrate to their own movie after that. The movie? A Guardians sequel.

My pitch for bringing the FF into the MCU would go a little like this. Somewhere within a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the Guardians see a distress call. After some banter, Star-Lord decides to answer it and heads to the beacon. Upon answering the beacon, he discovers the Fantastic Four. Star-Lord knows of the Fantastic Four. It’s at this point that their origin is revealed. The Fantastic Four were scientists in the mid-60s who were experimenting with some new tech to travel between worlds instantly. After the tech is switched on, the team disappears, seemingly killed. It’s remembered as a tragic day in science history. Peter’s origins on 1980s earth would make him the perfect bridging character for the FF. Peter wants to know what happened to the FF.

They explain that they were transported to a place called the Negative Zone, a hostile dimension that they became trapped in. They only managed to escape now, for one reason or another. However, it’s soon revealed that they were followed by Annihilus, a despot from the Negative Zone. Annihilus seeks revenge on the Fantastic Four and all who aid them. This could result in Annihilus being the villain of this Guardians sequel or a secondary antagonist. It depends on how you frame him, but there would definitely be some comedy potential in such a self-serious character encountering the witty Guardians.

Alternatively, if the movie were in Fox’s hands alone then I would start with this origin and their return in present day. In either instance, it could be explained that time moves differently in the Negative Zone so 50 years passed in no time at all for them. When they emerge in present day they find their way back to Earth followed by Annihilus, who is wild and hammy as a villain, almost in the vein of Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. At some point in the movie, it should be revealed that Sue is pregnant and that Annihilus seeks the child as he senses its power to reshape reality. In a climactic battle, the FF battle Annihilus and his armada to send them back to the Negative Zone where they came from. With the evil defeated, the FF decide to stay on Earth for the foreseeable future. A post-credits scene would reveal Doom in his native home of Latveria.

In both instances, the Negative Zone would take some design aesthetics from the 1960s it was born from. Like Doctor Strange’s strange worlds before it, it would contain scenes that would particularly strike people of the drug-taking variety. All the characters from the Fantastic Four milieu would be very 1960s in style, delineating them from the regular MCU/Fox’s X-Men.

So that’s a quick rundown of the possible films that could emerge from the ashes of the FF franchise as it stands. Obviously, this is just a basic plot rundown. I haven’t run through all the ideas I would have. Potentially something could be done with the FF unlearning the harmful gender expectations of their time, and possibly also delve into their antiquated view of race. You could show how the time that they’re from isn’t so different from today. You could switch between the two time periods to establish their before and after characters. There’s some interesting stuff there if you utilise it. There is potential for the Fantastic Four to be interesting, but that potential is squandered by trying to fit their square peg archetypes into the round hole of modernity.

 

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