Following the global success of MARVEL’S AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, it’s no surprise to find superheroes teaming up to take part in the ensemble phenomenon. Marvel’s crimefighters-in-space GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY are set to hit the big screen, as is DC Comics’ JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. But what about the original superhero family – the FANTASTIC FOUR? Flame on!
Released in 2005, the first F4 movie was unfortunately left in the hands of Tim Story, the man who brought us TAXI starring Queen Latifah. With its questionable casting, hackneyed dialogue, and cringe-inducing CGI, it’s the sort of film you might catch on a plane and immediately pray for a crash. As a fan, I’d avoided it in fear of ruining my childhood. Now, watching for research, my notes include: ‘This rock soundtrack is HORRIBLE’, ‘Why have they cast the dude from NIP/TUCK as Dr. Doom?’ and ‘Jessica Alba’s hair is the same colour as her face’. An equally terrible sequel came in 2007, F4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER in 2007.
It was a crying shame for Marvel’s ‘First Family’, but with the success of the rebooted AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and continuing rumours of a revival, FANTASTIC FOUR may get another chance to save the world and dazzle audiences. CHRONICLE’s Josh Trank is reportedly set to take the director’s chair, with Jeremy Slater to pen the script.
THN is taking a look at what went wrong for the F4 back in 2005, and where Trank and Slater could go right…
REED RICHARDS/ MR FANTASTIC
Who is he? A scientist and inventor,, Reed is also head of the F4 and husband to Invisible Woman. It was Reed who originally led the team’s expedition into space, on which they gained their powers after exposure to cosmic radiation. Reed has the ability to stretch and transform his body into any shape through elasticity.
What went wrong? Presented as methodical and cold in the comics, Reed was played as the everyman’s everyman by Ioan Gruffudd. He spent the majority of his time staring vapidly at Jessica Alba and showcasing some CGI that would make a Playstation 2 recoil in embarrassment.
What should they do? Admittedly it’s difficult to take a living Stretch Armstrong seriously, but Reed has the ability to transform his body into limitless shapes. A shape-shifting, scientific genius, Reed has the potential to develop one hell of an ego. I’m thinking Dr House meets the T-1000…
SUSAN STORM / INVISIBLE WOMAN
Who is she? Wife to Mr Fantastic and sister of The Human Torch, Susan Storm is second-in-command within the team. Her passive power of invisibilty made her a constant damsel in distress until she developed the ability to create force-fields and produce psionic blasts. She is currently regarded as one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe (at least according to the dude who edits her Wikipedia page).
What went wrong? Jessica Alba. The closest she comes to being a convincing scientist is the fleeting moment she wears glasses. As the only female in the movie – aside from a blind woman who is inexplicably aroused by The Thing – you’d hope for an tough, independent character. Sadly, Invisible Woman is mostly relegated to love interest and told she needs to ‘control her emotional state’. Feminism lives!
What should they do? With her less invasive powers of invisibility, Storm has the ability to become the stealth the team desperately needs. Think the team’s Black Widow with actual powers, and hopefully a backbone.
JOHNNY STORM / HUMAN TORCH
Who is he? Johnny Storm has the ability to ‘flame on’ and engulf his body in flame. He can also fly, which has nothing to do with fire but is still pretty great. Johnny Storm was originally portrayed to be the same age as Peter Parker – with whom he develops a friendship – and can be brash and hot-headed. I swear that pun was unintentional.
What went wrong? Chris Evans, who has found great success as Captain America, turned the douche up to 11 as Johnny Storm. The introduction of his power was used as comic relief when a snowboarding incident set him alight and somehow resulted in him getting laid. There’s nothing wrong with bringing the laughs, but Evans wasn’t funny enough.
What should they do? Storm’s ability is inarguably the most dangerous and unstable, with potential to ignite some real drama. If The Human Torch was responsible for an accident due to an inability to control his powers, he could become a redemptive character as opposed to the comic relief. Think Spider-Man and his guilt over the death of Uncle Ben. None of this comes from the comics, of course. I’m just spitballing here.
BEN GRIMM / THE THING
Who is he? It’s clobberin’ time! Rough, gruff, and made of rock, Ben Grimm is a close friend to Reed Richards and Susan Storm who is mutated into… The Thing. Grimm was brought up in poverty, in contrast to his team member’s silver-spoon upbringings, but eventually worked his way to becoming an astronaut for NASA.
What went wrong? Actor Michael Chiklis wasn’t a particularly inspired casting choice and gave The Thing a voice that would have Batman offering a lozenge. Not to mention the special effects used to create his rocky exterior looked like something from TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Let’s give motion capture a go this time around.
What can they do? This guy has an identity crisis just waiting to happen. The Thing is essentially The Hulk with full awareness of his actions, and no way to turn back. A reboot could focus on the effect such a monstrous transformation can have on a man’s psyche. Plus, more clobberin’!
What else for F4…?
Over the years, the team have had a number of additions and allies. From characters yet to branch out onto the big screen to a range of famous heroes, the FANTASTIC FOUR franchise could be given a shot in the arm with some fresh faces…
JENNIFER WALTERS / SHE-HULK
The cousin of Bruce Banner – better known as The Hulk – Jennifer Walters was transformed into She-Hulk following a blood transfusion from Banner. Later, she permanently mutated from radiation. Walters has similar powers to The Hulk but at a reduced level, meaning she can control her actions during a transformation and thus shares a number of traits with The Thing.
She-Hulk temporarily took The Thing’s place in the Fantastic Four, and would be sure to shake up the team if included in a reboot. The introduction of another woman could shift the team’s dynamic and introduce audiences to a completely superhero previously unseen on screen. However, bringing in She-Hulk would likely mean providing audiences with an extra original story. Perhaps she’d be best saved for a sequel…
PETER PARKER / SPIDER-MAN
Yes, really. We all know our favourite web-slinger, but you may not be aware he appeared with Fantastic Four in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ISSUE #1 back in 1963. Throughout the years Parker has formed a friendship with Johnny Storm and revealed his secret identity to him. Following Storm’s death in the comics, Parker recently replaced him as a permanent member of the team.
Rights to Fantastic Four and Spider-Man are owned by separate studios, meaning is unlikely. However, the inclusion of Spidey would certainly draw in audiences and such a team-up could prove massively beneficial for both Fox and Sony.
The X-Men have fought alongside – and against– Fantastic Four many times since their arrival in 1963. In recent years the two teams joined forces to create X4, which included Iceman and Wolverine.
The 2011 prequel X-MEN: FIRST CLASS reintroduced Marvel’s mutants in a 60s setting to surprising acclaim. Rebooting Fantastic Four into this era opens up a range of possibilities, including a cross-over with Professor Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. Unlike Spider-Man, Fox own the rights to both, and could combine the franchises with ease. Could we see the team in the upcoming FIRST CLASS sequel? Time will tell.
No superhero epic is complete without an enemy to defeat. On-screen the Fantastic Four have faced off against Dr. Doom, The Silver Surfer and planet-consuming Galactus. Admittedly, the team’s remaining foes leave little to be desired in regards to a feature adaptation… Sea-dwelling prince Namor the Sub-Mariner gives off evil Aquaman vibes and may not translate well to the big screen.
Dr. Doom is notably the Four’s most iconic villain, and despite featuring heavily in the 2005 adaptation and its sequel, the masked villain was camped up by NIP/TUCK’s Julian McMahon and not used to full effect. Given the ability to control electricity on-screen, Doom is presented in the comics as a scientific genius and powerful sorcerer. This approach to the character may appeal to director Trank, who is rumoured to be adapting THE RED STAR, a comic featuring a world in which technology and magic co-exist. Giving Doom his original origin story would allow the villain to be reintroduced in a fresh way, hopefully expelling the bad taste McMahon left in F4 fan’s mouths.
Wherever Trank takes the franchise, he’ll need to act fast as the rights to Fantastic Four will revert back to Marvel if production has not started by 2014. Of course, returning Marvel’s First Family to their original owners is no bad thing, but could result in the Four’s absence from cinemas for years to come. Of course, Marvel gaining the rights to Fantastic Four gives them the opportunity to include the team in ‘Phase Three’, meaning the possibility of them teaming up with THE AVENGERS…