Marvel’s famous foursome have served up a string of underwhelming big-screen outings.
Fans of the comics chatter passionately about the awesome foursome.
On the face of it, they have everything:
- great back story
- intelligent and attractive team
- powerful array of abilities from brute force through to red hot artillery and -super psyche
- love interest
- limitless financial backing
- loyal comic-book fanbase
Most of all they have one of the best cerebral villains in Doctor Doom.
Even the uber cool Silver Surfer is their friend FFS!
They have, in theory, most of the chemistry of The Guardians of the Galaxy. But they have more establishment appeal. They aren’t even hamstrung by the responsibilities of say Captain America or even Cyclops.
Yet, by a significant stretch, the lesser known Deadpool has blown them out of the water and the Avengers have left them in their space dust.
Sadly, Reed Richards and co, despite a recent stellar acting cast including Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans himself and Michael Chiklis, have all the sex appeal of an accountancy convention.
Who’s to Blame?
Surely 20th Century Fox, the studio that bought the big screen rights to Fantastic Four way back in the 1990s, has to take the rap.
They clung onto the rights despite all available evidence suggesting that they had not got a clue what to do with the superhero squad.
The duo of noughties movies – Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer are infamous for their TV-movie quality and the dull and clunky interplay between the four main characters.
The casting seemed to overshadow the fictional heroes. This gave the films a “safe” and uninspiring quality. They lacked the charisma that stems from vulnerability and flaws. Plus there wasn’t enough screen time with or for the arch villain, one of the best malevolent characters.
Safety-first doesn’t win the cool kids over.
They needed more darkness, more jeopardy, more grit.
What followed was an infamous hiding at the box office.
Even when they tried a reboot it smacked of desperation as they appointed up-and-coming film-maker Josh Trank (Chronicle) to oversee what appeared to be the alter-ego to the safety-first Hollywood star’s attempt.
Unfortunately, the result, 2015’s Fantastic Four (also branded Fant4stic) was even more of a flop. The director himself disowned the end product amid accusations of “film-making by committee.”
Fox then infamously canned the sequel to the re-boot.
But still they clung to their rights over the franchise like a jilted partner.
So Where Next?
Well, during an agonising four-year hiatus,the best idea the combined brains at Fox seemed to come up with was to replicate the success of Lego Batman and focus on the children’s market,. They were presumably believeing the kids would be more forgiving and less demanding of some of the less spectacular attribtrs of some members of the quartet. They allegedly had plans to play up the family aspects instead,
In the wake of this chronic mis-management, for F4 fans, it was clearly going to take something radical for the gang to reclaim their place in the big screen comic book pantheon.
Fantastic Four 2015, with Kate Mara and Michael B Jordan
Salvation Seemed to Have Three Likely Sources:
- Sell the franchise to a studio with the balls and creativity to do it justice.
- Take a figurative sledgehammer to the team and lead with the more charismatic characters (Grimm or Torch). Or give free reign to Doom and the Surfer.
- Absorb the quartet into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a route that has just seen Spider-Man return to prominence after the relative mediocrity of the wallcrawler’s last few Sony movies.
Of course, there are some who will claim that Spidey has been reduced to a childish caricature by the merger move and that he struggles to hold his own in The Avengers. There are others who claim that the Hulk too has suffered a similar fate. But perhaps a move of this nature could be a springboard for F4 to re-launch in a more grounded and credible way without a glorified Stretch Armstrong toy having to lead and carry a whole film?
What is clear is that audiences are getting pretty sick of seeing yet another origin story. That has been done to death . And while Batman may have gotten away with it to date and may be about to do it again with the new Joker film, we really don’t need yet another Fantastic Four prequel or Spidey genesis re-invention for that matter.
Famously, whether by accident or design, all three re-boot options became a possibility when, in March 2019, Marvel Studios regained the film rights of Fantastic Four. This resulted from Disney buying the seemingly clueless Fox.
So Are They Still Doomed?
Well, yes, but in a good way.
Suddenly the ongoing rumours of a Doctor Doom movie and Silver Surfer solo seem to have acquired more weight.
With Marvel back in the driving seat, it’s surely only a matter of time before the boys (and girl) in blue join the ranks of the Avengers, in some capacity.
There is even the option to leverage Disney’s might to expand the child-focused options. This would also open up additional gaming opportunities.
But whatever this takeover creates, let’s hope, for the sake of the long-suffering, loyal fans that there are exciting times ahead.
Let’s face it, if Marvel can turn Doctor Strange’s Claok of Levitation into a character now more emulated at comic-con conventions than many superheroes, surely they can do wonders for Mister and Mrs Fantastic?
All hail the prospective new F4.