And now we know just who will make up the team in the much-anticipated <strong>Fantastic Four</strong> movie reboot, due for release in 2015. Up to this point, the idea of a new <em>FF</em> movie has seemed more like a long-running practical joke than a reality -- we all remember <em>Rise of the Silver Surfer</em>, after all; who'd want to try again after that one? -- but now that the cast has been named, we have to face up to the unfortunate reality that it really, really, really could happen. <p>With that potentially frightening reality in mind, let's take a couple of minutes to consider what we'd want to see in a <em>Fantastic Four</em> movie. No -- let's take it further: what we <em>need</em> to see in one. There may be only <em>one</em> Fantastic <em>Four</em>, but here are <em>ten</em> things we hope the movie brings <em>two</em> the big screen. <p>Okay, yeah, maybe that "two" pun was stretching it a little too far.
This one should go without saying, but <em>Fantastic Four</em>, when done right, isn't actually a superhero story as such -- it's a story about <em>these four characters in particular</em>, and their mostly-functional relationship with each other. There's a lot of latent soap opera to be mined from this foursome that could keep a movie series interesting even if the only bad guys that show up are the Mole Man, Diablo and Paste Pot Pete. About those bad guys, though…
Let's be honest: It's definitely possible to do a <em>Fantastic Four</em> story without Doctor Doom, but why would you want to? When handled properly, Doom is a remarkably compelling villain whose greed and vanity stands in contrast to the FF's altruism and generosity of spirit -- plus, there's that wonderful visual and a tendency to lapse into monologues delivered in the third person. There's a lot that makes Doctor Doom a memorable and fun character to have around, and none of it is based around gender, so the rumors about a female Doctor Doom? Why not?
Beyond the four main characters and their villain of choice, it'd be nice to see the movie at least hint at the larger family that exists around the Fantastic Four. One of the key parts of the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run was the supporting cast, whether it was Alicia Masters, Wyatt Wingfoot, Agatha Harkness, Willie Lumpkin or any of the countless super-powered characters that orbited in and out of the series (Crystal and the rest of the Inhumans! T'Challa! - though those particular folks are owned by Marvel Studios). The focus of the new movie should definitely be on the team themselves, but the world of the Fantastic Four was always just a little bit larger than just those who lived in the Baxter Building.
I know, I know -- people want to see the blue jumpsuits with the "4" icon on them. Something that should be remembered about the FF, however, is that they're not <em>really</em> super heroes -- they're adventurers whose adventures sometimes include saving the world or dealing with super villains. Bearing that in mind, why not do away with the increasingly convoluted explanations necessary to get cinematic heroes in outfits similar to their comic counterparts and just allow the FF to wear whatever they want? As the latest <em>Fantastic Four</em> relaunch demonstrates, it's not even as if the comic book version of the characters have stayed faithful to the blue and black look themselves.
Another trend that <em>Fantastic Four</em> would be well-placed to avoid is towards poe-faced "realism" in superhero movies. The Fantastic Four has never been a convincingly grim nor gritty comic book, and trying to treat this movie even as seriously as Marvel has taken the <em>Iron Man</em> or <em>Captain America</em> movie franchises could weigh down the series a little bit too much. This summer's <em>Guardians of the Galaxy</em> teases a brighter, more fun superhero movie. Let's see <em>Fantastic Four</em> follow in those space-age footsteps.
There's a rumor going around that the movie will revise the origins of the team into something more deliberate, and also something that will see Reed and Ben receive their powers before even meeting Sue and Johnny. I hope that's not the case, because there's a simplicity that's very attractive about the origin of the Marvel Universe's first super team. They're bound together by happenstance as much as anything else, by the fact of a shared history and shared experience that no-one else can relate to. Although, yes; we can all hope that they revise away the idea that the foursome want to get into space before those pesky reds do.
At its heart, <em>Fantastic Four</em> is a science-fiction series. Not only is the team's origin is a spin on the then-popular "science goes wrong" idea, almost all of the best stories from the series can be reduced down to SF tropes more easily that superhero ones: An experiment goes awry, an alien invades, and so on. I'm not suggesting that the movie <em>Fantastic Four</em> divorces itself entirely from the superhero genre -- it is the most successful genre in movies right now, after all -- but it would do to remember that <em>Fantastic Four</em> has never really been a series about people who fight crime. It's about something bigger than that.
For its first 100+ issues -- the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby issues that set the tone for the series, and remain its high-water mark -- the <em>Fantastic Four</em> was all about the shock of the new. Lee and Kirby were astonishingly inventive, tossing off new characters and concepts seemingly without effort. As an adaptation, the movie won't necessarily have the same ability to amaze with new ideas and new concepts, but nevertheless, that doesn't stop us hoping that there will be something unexpected and unseen on offer when the movie eventually materializes.
Admittedly, this might be slightly more difficult than the traditional Marvel creator cameo method of "sticking Stan Lee in the background of a scene somewhere with one line of dialogue." However, <em>Fantastic Four</em> was Kirby's book in as many ways -- more ways, perhaps -- as it was Lee's, and it would be fitting to see that recognized somewhere in the movie itself. Jack gave everything to the series, and re-energized an entire genre (an entire <em>medium</em>) in the process. Let's see the movie take note of that (and, yes, Stan should be in this one, too).
More than any other ongoing superhero series, <em>Fantastic Four</em> should be about what's next, what's around the corner and in the future. It's not simply that Reed Richards is a futurist -- Tony Stark's Iron Man has that excuse as well, after all -- but that the characters have been shown to be continually <em>excited</em> about the possibilities of what lies ahead, racing to meet it. Wouldn't it be great to have a movie that ended not with a post-credit sequence teasing another film in the franchise, but the characters simply heading off to continue a career of endless adventures…?