7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

I’d say this is a spoiler-free article about the new Fantastic Four, but to be honest, what is there to spoil? You’ve seen this story before; it’s pretty much a retread of the first movie, except all of the cheesiness and “fun” have been sucked out in favor of something more “grounded” and pseudo-dramatic.

It’s not “grimdark” by any means (minus the bit near the end where heads start literally exploding—one of the very few action scenes in this whole film, by the way; the trailer makes several scenes look more exciting than they are), but it does have that blue-brown-grey tint we’ve all come to know and loathe from that type of film, and a director (or to be charitable/hopeful, a studio) who seems to have a grudge against emotional expression: One of the final scenes features the team talking with some generals and all of them have a look of “can we just get this over with?” written on their faces, which just about sums up the movie.

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Actually, while I said it’s a retread of the first Fantastic Four movie, it definitely borrows heavily from Rise of the Silver Surfer as well. Remember how a good chunk of that movie was set in a top secret military base in the middle of nowhere? Well, I’m not saying this is the same base or the same “middle of nowhere”, but literally half the movie is spent in a pretty convincing lookalike location.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

Otherwise, it’s basically the same film as the first movie, just with more pseudo-angst and family drama in place of the romantic subplots. It takes a good forty minutes or so for our “heroes” to get their powers, and they spend the rest of the film training, adapting, fighting for/squabbling with the military (on an in-universe TV screen) and on the run, having some internal conflict, and overcoming it all in time for an anti-climactic showdown with (not-Doctor) Doom. Like I said, it’s just a more angsty redo of the first movie.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

It’s not worse; it just isn’t any better. Some stuff is superior to the last series: the stakes are a bit higher, the drama is a bit more convincing, the special effects are of course improved (though some scenes are wasted), and I’ll say that this Doom is somewhat more like his comic book counterpart. He might be a teenaged, misanthropic emo jerk, but at least he’s explicitly a genius this time around, and you take him a bit more seriously. It’s a step in the right direction, at least, even if he isn’t in it enough for us to care about him or his motives too much, and he, like everyone else, suffers from the whole “fun is illegal” principle this film runs on.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

But there’s just… so little to say. This film is much more bland than bad. The acting isn’t awful or anything, and nothing in it is especially terrible, it’s just not very interesting or original, and the “plot” is virtually non-existent.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

And so, rather than talk about this movie or what it got right or wrong, why don’t we look ahead to the future? A bright, starry future where Marvel actually has the film rights to this franchise and incorporates them into their own cinematic universe? Because based on the critical reception for this movie, and how utterly unoriginal and forgettable it is, I would be appalled, aghast, and amazed if Fox didn’t finally surrender the rights back to its rightful owners. If—no, when Marvel gets the rights back, what should they do with them?

1. No origin story

Seriously, we’ve seen this origin story twice before, and both times an entire movie was wasted on establishing characters (badly) and their powers, with Doctor Doom thrown in to give them something to do. We’ve had enough of origin stories in general already, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself has already had enough of them. It’s time to just throw us in the deep end and introduce us to the Fantastic Four after they’ve all got their powers and established themselves as a team and Reed as a brilliant scientist, so we can get right to the cool stuff.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

2. Watch the tone

The first two films were too silly and not all that fun; the reboot was just not all that fun. Both erred on the side of trying to be too “grounded” and forgot to put the “fantastic!” into the Fantastic Four. We need more action, but we also need more adventure. These guys are the Doctor Who of superhero teams; they should be exploring (and not just “visiting”) other worlds and dimensions, and meeting, talking with, and sometimes fighting extraterrestrial, subterranean, extra-dimensional, and sub-atomic beings, and travelling through time and all that jazz. The other movies spent way too much time in New York City, the lab, the woods, or in government facilities, and there really needs to be a “wow” factor injected into these movies.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

3. Not so much Doom

I truly love Doctor Doom, and hope that one day a movie can do him justice, but this is the third film with Doom as the bad guy, and while it’s criminal that none of them got him right, the Fantastic Four aren’t exactly lacking for weird, wonderful, and memorable villains. The reboot was partially set in the Negative Zone (sorry, “Planet Zero”), and we never even got to see Annihilus or any of its other bizarre and terrifying alien denizens.

Then you’ve got Galactus and the Silver Surfer, both of whom deserve a better showing than Rise of the Silver Surfer gave them. And apart from those, what about the Puppet Master? Psycho-Man? The Frightful Four? The Mole Man and his giant monsters? What about the Skrulls and the Super-Skrull? The MCU needs Skrulls! Just less Doom, please. Give him time to be built up.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

4. Give Doom his own movie

Yes, we can give Doom his own movie! Seriously, if there’s one area in which the Marvel Cinematic Universe has faltered, it’s the way it’s handled its own roster of classic evildoers. Loki and Ultron are two of the most threatening villains thus far (I’d add Thanos to that list, but he hasn’t done much yet), and even then that’s only in comparison to the rest of the MCU’s villains, rather than actually being threatening in their own right. Doom is the classic Marvel archetypal bad guy, the Superman of Supervillains, and if there’s anyone who can fix this problem, it’s Doom—when done right.

Giving a starring role to the bad guy would be breaking new ground, and Doctor Doom has it all: brilliance, magic, his own country, grandiloquence, and a fanatical belief in his own inherent superiority and right, nay, duty to Take Over the World for Its Own Greater Good. If you can get Doom right—and the other two attempts have done anything but—you can get him to carry his own movie, either as the protagonist or just as the game-changer all the other heroes must unite against to defeat. This is a guy who can take on entire teams of heroes by himself and win, and is so badass his tiny fictionation is considered a superpower thanks to his mere presence within it. This is the villain the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs, and the one the fans deserve.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

5. More action

That’s been the weak point of these flicks, and it’s especially the weak point of the reboot. While Rise of the Silver Surfer had a cool chase scene between Surfer and the Human Torch, most of what we’ve seen in these films has been short and forgettable, and half the time they’re just cleaning up their own messes. These guys have a cool and varied range of powers, and there are so many creative things you can do with them, so why not do them? Stop wasting our time showing them training or having accidents or being involved in traffic disasters, and have them do some actual heroics!

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

6. More Sue Storm

Of all the leads in these films, Sue is the one who gets the shortest shrift. In this one, she’s the only one who doesn’t actually go on the mission that gives them their powers (she gets hers thanks to the shockwave when the others come back). She gets the least amount of action, and she spends most of her time worrying about, helping, or trying to find either Johnny or Reed.

And in both this one and the first film, they give her a predictable and forced love triangle with Reed and Victor von Doom (though here, Doom is just in stalker mode). Sue is the most powerful member of this team, and should be capable of crushing all of them. She should be given a lot more to do, and more of a personality beyond “woman who cares”.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

7. More family

The Fantastic Four is called “Marvel’s First Family” for a reason. Yet they haven’t really done enough with this aspect of the characters. They managed to squeeze in Franklin Storm as a mentor figure this time around, but I want to see the team living together and having more chemistry. I want to see Johnny and Ben playing pranks on each other. I want to see Sue and Reed raising their kids. I want to see the other heroes popping up for advice and to witness Reed’s crazy adventures. I want to see family stuff, the kind of things that made the best FF comics so unique and interesting. A film about these characters needs that kind of natural warmth, because family is what the Fantastic Four is ultimately all about.

7 suggestions for when Marvel gets the Fantastic Four back

Come on, Marvel. This is your chance. Give the Fantastic Four their time to shine. Give them the spotlight and help them get it right this time. This is one of your best properties, and Fox has squandered it three times already.

Don’t let them do it again, and don’t do it again yourselves. Get back the rights to these characters and do them justice. Let’s see crazy, over-the-top, out-of-this-world plots and adventures; let’s see Reed having Tony Stark, Hank Pym, and Bruce Banner over to see his latest insane inventions; let’s see Hulk and the Thing go toe-to-toe on the big screen; let’s see Johnny Storm and Peter Parker engage in snark-to-snark combat; let’s see Doctor Doom square off against every superhero on Earth with nothing but his brains, his country, and his badass credentials; let’s see Skrulls; let’s see Mole Men; let’s see time travel; let’s see other dimensions; let’s see something fantastic. You can do it, Marvel, and you owe us. And you owe the Fantastic Four. It’s time for the family to come home.

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  • RockyDmoney

    Agree with a lot of these. Especially the adventure part. FF should be crazy off the wall adventures, not drab dull research labs. Also, in regards to Doom, they should lead up to Doom in maybe the sequels(that is if they try to make another FF set of movies). They should also keep him mysterious and closer to the comics…how about he and Reed are workign to together in some sort of project in college…Reed notices some calculations of Doom’s are off, Doom ignores him the accident happens and Doom leaves college and is never heard from again. Then in the sequel you bring him back as the villain

  • PhysUnknown

    If they do a Dr. Doom standalone movie, there has to be a Squirrel Girl reference.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Give him a pathological case of sciruophobia. Then throw in a squirrel.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    One thing the superhero genre is now consistently screwing up, and what will probably kill the Marvel ‘verse, is that the villains are used wrong. They pop into a plot to set up the action sequences. This is probably because the X-Men template is still being used and the X-Men were defined as having social/cultural attitudes as their big baddie who a character will show up in the story to represent.
    Especially with the Fantastic Four their baddie should be what they’re in opposition to and not some abstract concept which the baddie is standing in for in the film. Doctor Doom does not represent an abstract concept, he’s not a stand in for intolerance, ignorance, blind corporate greed, or fascist totalitarianism – he’s the baddie not because what he represents but because of who he is. Dr Doom is the reasonable madman whose goals are so unacceptable to everyone besides himself that he must be opposed, but the goals DO MAKE SENSE. His goals won’t strand him on a dead world for no reason, and he won’t conquer the world just so he can walk around calling himself King Doctor Doom.

  • This guy gets it.

  • Dex_Meridian

    I’d like to add that Marvel would/should let these characters be middle-aged. At least Reed and Sue. Let them be older, let them be parents, let them look like scientists instead of cover models. Hey, even make Johnny noticeably younger than them and use the gap in age to say something about this surrogate family.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I always thought George Clooney would make a great Reed, and Charlize Theron would have made a great Reed and Sue. Reed should have a few years on Sue, a May/December romance. At least that was often how the pair were portayed in the 616 universe.

  • mamba

    You want a template on how to do Doom right? Recent Tv series “Avengers”, when the skrulls were taking over random people and Doom kidnaps Wasp and Invisible girl (yup, it was a FF crossover) just to see if one of them was one.

    That entire episode showed Doom as cold, calculating, superior and brillant, and everything from his presence to his dialogue (very little BTW) was someone you can see being a palitable threat to the world.

    By the end, the 2 teams attacked Doom in his own castle…and he VERY CASUALLY laid them all out while walking to his throne, sits down, and casually tells them as they pick themselves off the floor “You’re tresspassers. Leave. Now.”. And they DO IT becasue they can’t beat him and don;’t even have the right to try! It was beautiful to behold how simply Doom made beating 2 major teams took.

    THAT’S the doom you want in your movie…someone who looks upon petty crimes as trivial wastes of his precious time and intellect.

  • Jonathan, I think this is brilliant. Good job on this article, man. Marvel’s first family CAN make it on the silver screen. Just have it be in the style of Guardians of the Galaxy/Swiss Family Robinson with crazy scifi and awesome adventures. And remind people that this movie’s characters have the heart to make it. It is possible!

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Jonathan.

      Don’t call me John.

      Ever.

      (otherwise, I approve this comment).

  • maarvarq

    Amen, brother, amen.

  • Jon Julius Seizure Milne

    How the Marvel Cinematic Universe can create a great Fantastic Four movie:
    1) Rewatch Guardians of the Galaxy
    2) Remember everything that was done to make it an awesome movie and apply that knowledge.
    3) ?????
    4) Profit!
    Seriously though, GotG is pretty much everything any F4 movie should be. Hell, the actual members of the Guardians can be interpreted as expys of the members of the Fantastic Four.

  • MarineDynamite

    I like your ideas, but I’d much prefer to see them not linked to the MCU. It’s bad enough that it absorbed Spiderman, I don’t want that same fate to befall the Fantastic Four too. Maybe as a self-contained TV series (preferably animated, though live-action wouldn’t hurt either) instead?

  • The_Stig

    I’m with you on the origin story. Maybe have a montage at the beginning of the movie about the origins, but that should be it. All they really need to do is mention or show the Baxter Building and Latveria in a future film and they’re off and running. However I’m for Doctor Doom simply because he’s such an awesome character and he needs to be done right for once.

  • NixEclips

    Looks like Fox doesn’t HAVE to do anything until 2022. So, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
    Btw, noticed you left out the 90’s FF. Would have liked to have that included in your article. Any reason you didn’t include it (besides it not being officially released)?
    Also, nice work.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Didn’t include it because I haven’t seen it and, well, didn’t really think of it.

      Also, with regards to the rights…Petition!

      https://www.change.org/p/everybody-group-people-make-fox-sell-the-rights-to-fantastic-four-back-to-marvel-studios

      • NixEclips

        You owe it to yourself to check it out. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19pvwt_the-fantastic-four-1994-unreleased-roger-corman_shortfilms
        It’s hilarious yet heartfelt. Doom is ripped right from the comics (too bad you can’t understand him).
        Oh, and this one ALSO has a medical facility type location!

        • Jonathan Campbell

          I saw the Snobs’ review of it after I wrote this and yeah, I noticed the medical facility too. Seeing a pattern here…

          I’ve seen bits of it, and other reviews. I think I tried watching it once but turned it off after Ben said “can Johnny and Sue come play with us?” in his creepy child stalking mode.

          I’ll get round to it though. I was younger then, more fragile. I did not know the masochistic joy one could take in watching such movies. Plus, it’s not like the big screen adapts were masterpieces anyway.

          • NixEclips

            I had to stop the Snob review. He seemed uncharacteristically mean. Maybe it was a build to an about face at the end, but he rubbed me the wrong way. And i’m a fan of his.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            He actually liked the film. He (in-character and as Brad Jones, in the Midnight Screenings review of this film) said that of all the FF movies he’s seen, the Roger Corman one was the one he felt came closest to getting the FF right, for all the flaws it has.

        • E.Buzz Miller

          It got the tone right more than the big budget ones did. Sure the effects are laughable, the acting poor, but it was fun and seemed to get the premise.

  • KLLRFRST

    We already got a great Fantastic Four movie years ago. Its was called The Incredibles.

  • joeengland

    Y’know, I had a lot of the same ideas.