I finally broke down and watched last year’s Fantastic Four debacle. It’s terrible, joyless and soulless in a way no movie with “Fantastic” in the title should be, let alone anything with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the DNA. You can’t blame the actors here – we know every one of them can act. It’s practically a who’s who of rising young stars and solid character actors for support. Here’s just a few of the things that stood out to me after one viewing of this cinematic atrocity:
- It’s so DRAB. Do a search for ‘Kirby Fantastic Four’ and take a look at the images that come up. I’ve added an example to the post. What do we have? Vibrant colors, big action. Where was that in this movie? Trank’s FF looked like it was filmed in a warehouse almost exclusively with security cameras.
- Too much backstory. Ben had an abusive background? Nobody liked Reed’s inventions or believed in him? Why did this stuff need to be added? The FF’s origin is simple – they steal a ship and get zapped by cosmic rays. I know they looked at the Ultimate FF for inspiration but even so, we don’t need 40 minutes of dreary “woe is me” bullshit before they get changed. I felt more of Rocket’s pain after one drunken outburst in Guardians of the Galaxy than I did after all of this.
- Doom. Sweet Christmas, stop fucking associating Doom’s powers with the same accident that gives the Fantastic Four theirs. I’ll delve into this when I give my fixes later, but having Doom get powers like this takes away one of the big things that makes him unique as a supervillain – the fact that he’s the leader of his own country. He has resources, and diplomatic immunity. You dare to capture Doom and throw him in jail? Be prepared to be swarmed by thousands of Doombots – assuming your prison could even HOLD Doom.
- It’s so humorless. I can’t recall laughing even once. There may have been things meant to be funny, but the dreary settings and the direction made it seem like you weren’t even supposed to.
- Sue. This has been covered by other writers previously, but come ON, “I made the suits”??? Of COURSE the woman made the clothes. At least in the previous two attempts Sue had an intellect that was nearly a match for Reed and Victor (even if Jessica Alba couldn’t quite demonstrate it/the writers and directors forgot about it for a whole movie).
Okay, I’m stopping at 5 so I’m not here complaining all night. Obviously this is a deeply flawed movie even without considering the source material (possibly due to Fox’s interference), but I feel like the Fantastic Four can be done right. The first thing I’d do is NOT make another movie. Instead, do a TV show. I’m not sure what the rights are for that, but I feel like a major problem with the latest movie especially is the filmmakers trying to wedge in all of this world-building and character introductions and backstory, and pushing action and fun to the bottom of the list. A 9-13 episode season (similar to The Expanse or Legends of Tomorrow, even Daredevil or Jessica Jones) gives you time to get to know everybody, while not forgetting about great action set-pieces and humor.
Still, Fox may not be able to do a show, but there’s still a way to make a movie that can do justice to Marvel’s First Family.
- Don’t start with Doom. I know he’s their most iconic villain. Heck, he’s Marvel’s best villain at this point, and he just starred in their HUGE comic reboot. But doing what’s been done before, having him be there and know them and be empowered by the same incident just doesn’t work. Instead, have him working behind the scenes. He’s in Latveria, he’s gathering power to himself – which INCLUDES SORCERY – but he hears about the accident that empowers our heroes. Doom has worked his whole life to build what he has, sacrificed much…and these four just get power thrust on them. Finding out it’s Reed would just amplify the resentment. HOWEVER, in that first movie, Doom does nothing but watch. He should be behind the scenes, biding his time, learning what he can about the Four and formulating plans. Not quite Thanos, but the idea that he’s just out of sight playing puppetmaster should build tension for the sequels.
- Go Cosmic. So far Marvel’s own Guardians of the Galaxy is the only comic book movie to successfully go into space and get really weird (hi, Green Lantern!). There’s an opening here, and Fox should take it. Blastaar, Annihilus and the Negative Zone? Sure! Mole Man? Let’s do it. Psycho-Man and the microverse? Hey, that gets us Sue as Malice, there’s some strife for you! The Skrulls, for crying out loud, there’s a lot of wacky stuff you can put out there.
- It’s a family. I can see this is hard to pull off, but the attempt needs to be made. It’s husband and wife, brother and sister, the childhood best friend. It’s a subtly different dynamic than your standard super-team with interchangeable parts and the writing should reflect that. It’s something that bugs me in the comics currently. They just love to split the Four apart, but I know eventually they’ll be back. It’s another thing that can separate the Fantastic Four from other comic book films.
- Gadgets! Reed’s stretchiness may be fun, but his true power is his mind, and the best way to show that is with his inventions. This latest movie never got past the teleporter thing, but there needs to be more than that.
- Galactus. Not. One. Cloud. The world is ready for the real Hunger That Does Not Cease.
Above all, whoever gets the next crack at the Fantastic Four needs to remember that this is supposed to be FUN. They EXPLORE the unknown. They have cool powers. They fight monsters and forces of cosmic undoing. And they love each other. Show me that, and I’ll be a happy fan.