Marvel’s last chance to save the Fantastic Four

Jeremy Milliner


Marvel shared a ton of news with us at Comic-Con last week: A handful of new TV series, some of the upcoming movies in Phase 4, and a bunch more. One promise that raised some eyebrows was the announcement of another Fantastic Four reboot.

Yes, another one.

We’ve had three movies with these guys in the past 15 years, and they were all pretty … well, they weren’t fantastic.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been ridiculously successful of late, even toppling long-standing box office giantAvatar“.

One of their more remarkable feats is time and again bringing long-forgotten characters into the glorious spotlight. Who could have foreseen the popularity of Iron Man over a decade ago? The same can even be said of the Avengers. How many people had even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy before 2014 (seriously, comment below if you had; kudos to you)?

If you told a Marvel fan back in 2005 that the Guardians of the Galaxy would rake in more cash than the Fantastic Four, he’d laugh in your face through his vintage issue of Alpha Flight. That’s because the Fantastic Four weren’t a long-lost offshoot in the overlooked annals of comic book history – they were at the epicenter of the Marvel universe, and had tie-ins to virtually everything involved inside it.

Why the Fantastic Four are so important

Fantastic Four Jack Kirby
These guys have been on more adventures than anyone else in the Marvel Universe!

Historically the Fantastic Four were the group that propelled the Superhero genre into the modern era. It did so by capitalizing on what were, at the time, very atypical angles of narrative: Though they got their start in space, the problems they shared were very down-to-earth.

The four teammates did not get along like the members of the original Justice League; The Thing despised his monstrous appearance and wished he’d never gotten his super powers; and Reed Richards struggled with decidedly non-super problems – overspent budgets, stock market crashes, failures in his personal projects, and struggles to lead his team. Instead of an unapproachable hero figure, Lee and Kirby created a relatable family of misfits:

It was at this point (in 1961) that Stan Lee convinced Martin Goodman to rename the company Marvel, and the team really started finding their own voice. It’s sad to see such a flagship of comic book history fail to meet the mark again and again with a modern audience, and it would be a welcome change if Marvel were to redeem their golden four.

Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four might be the most important team in the original Marvel comics

The Fantasic Four are also hugely important to several story arcs and characters that the MCU could tackle soon, most notably Galactus, Silver Surfer, Kang the Conqueror, the Negative Zone, Annihilus, and of course the infamous Doctor Doom. So it’s not just about Marvel’s fab four looking shiny on-screen, it’s about what it could mean for the direction of the cinematic universe on a macro level.

Marvel Galactus
Question: How do you go bigger than Thanos? Answer: Galactus.

Can Feige can finally fix the Fantastic Four?

That brings us to the big question: The Fantastic Four have been done before and it’s bombed every time. How can they be done better? When asked why the latest Fantastic Four did poorly at the box office, Stan Lee’s response was pretty legendary: “It was probably because I didn’t have a cameo in it,” he joked.

Unfortunately the MCU can’t rely on the same selling point that pushed the Fantastic Four comics to stardom, this notion that superheroes weren’t too dissimilar from us, or that they dealt with everyday problems; the MCU has already covered that in spades, and it wouldn’t make them stand out from characters like Hawkeye, Spider-Man, or Hulk.

So what can make this story work? First off, we’re all dying to see Doctor Doom, but maybe it’s best that we don’t – at least not right away. Spider-Man’s biggest villains are the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, and the MCU wisely chose to veer away from them in favor of the less famous, less scary Vulture and Mysterio (both of whom they did really well). Instead they might be better off focusing on the Skrull, Terrax, or Annihilus, the latter two being characters we’ve never seen on film before.

Fantastic Four Marvel Annihilus
Introduce the Negative Zone early, and bring in Annihilus as their first big villain!

Besides picking the right villain, it’s also important that the film tell the right story. We don’t need another origin story. Please. We didn’t need one for Spider-Man, we didn’t need one for Black Panther, and we don’t need one here.

Instead, focus on the family dynamic that made the team likable to begin with, and then pick a conflict for them to face together. The Negative Zone is an especially powerful plot thread that could have a huge impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a Fantastic Four reboot is the best chance to introduce it in a big way.

We’re anxious to see how Marvel and Feige plan to handle the Fantastic Four, but tbh we’re still biting our nails; we’ve been burned three times. Let us know in the comments below if you agree with our points, and what you’d like to see the company do with the Fantastic Four!

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