In the wake of the great comic book feature film information dump of October 2014, literally hundreds of thousands of words have and will be written and read by fans micro-analyzing every last detail of the now no-less than 30 DC and Marvel Comics movies alone scheduled through 2020. Millions of additional words have and will be written by fans on Facebook, Twitter, messages boards and the like, weighing in on the metric ton of new information with their thoughts.
And all those stories and fans responses will run the gamut of every conceivable opinion, perspective and expectation for all these future films. But one thing will unite the pundits and fandom - one singular idea will cut through the jumbled mass of varying viewpoints:
Just about everyone thinks 20th Century Fox’s 2015 Fantastic Four reboot is a really bad idea.
It usually goes something like this - whenever a new pass of the superhero movie schedule gets raised on social media, fans figure out to ways say things like this (these are actual posts Tuesday on Newsarama’s Facebook page):
“There's only one I have no interest in seeing: Fantastic Four.”
“FF will tank under Fox and Sony.” (ahem, despite the fact only one of those companies is making it)
“FF2 will never happen. ”
And my personal favorite…
“That movie is going to be so sh**ty that it is causing Marvel to cancel the comic. They are going to cancel THE COMIC THAT LAUNCHED THEIR UNIVERSE DUE TO FOX'S S***TY MOVIE. I can only imagine how horrible it will be. ”
But here’s the thing (and yes, I’m going to start swimming up the fandom stream on this one) – how do we have any idea that it’s going to be a “sh**ty,” “horrible” movie?
The fact is, we don’t. And here’s an additional fact: of every one of those 30 movies on the schedule through 2020, we might know the least about the Fantastic Four.
Here’s what we do know. We’ll give it to you in, let’s go for four main points:
1. It’s made by Fox, who certainly have a spotty history with Marvel adaptations, but are riding a pretty decent streak in First Class, The Wolverine, and Days of Future Past.
2. It’s directed (and co-written) by Josh Trank, who has exactly one other feature film credit to his name, a pretty well regarded superhero movie called Chronicle, and who has also been tapped by Disney (we like them, right?) to direct a Star Wars spin-off film.
3. It is written by Simon Kinberg, who doesn’t have a spotless record but did most recently write Days of Future Past and is currently in very high demand, also working on live-action Star Wars films and the acclaimed Star Wars Rebels animated film.
And oh yeah, not for nothing, but 3a. Kinberg was one of the writers of Days’ Quicksilver, who nearly every comic book fan in good standing assumed they were going to hate (sound familiar?) but most ended up loving.
Days of Future Past’s Quicksilver was nothing like his comic book counterpart and looked ridiculous at first pass but wound up being some of the most hardcore comics’ fan’s favorite part of the movie.
Let that sink in for a few moments while we continue.
Finally 4. We know it’s not going to be a faithful adaption of the 616 comic book series, and instead seems to draw as much inspiration from the Ultimate Comics version of the concept as anything (which you could say for the Avengers franchise as well).
But rather than make a case for numbers 1 through 3, I’m just going to focus on 3a through 4: Just because it isn’t faithful – to their ages, to race, to their costumes (maybe) – doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad film.
The fact remains: it’s entirely within reason Trank could make a perfectly entertaining, engaging, competent film loosely based on the FF comic book mythos. That it maybe won’t be a back-issue pasted onto the big-screen doesn’t mean a thing about the quality of what unspools over its 120 minute run-time.
Case in point – if in an alternative universe Fox had announced the new Fantastic Four would be loosely adapted to make Reed Richards an out-of-shape white collar paper-pusher, Sue Richards a stay-at-home soccer mom, Johnny Storm her 10 year-old son rather than brother, and metaphorically altered the Thing from an outright monster into the painfully insecure teenage daughter of Reed and Sue, fans would have been ever more outraged than they are right now.
But someone in this universe did make that movie, and it’s called the The Incredibles, which many comic book fans regard as ‘the best Fantastic Four movie ever made’. Why? Not because it echoed the minutia of the comic book FF, but because fans regard it as having nailed the spirit of the comic book FF – better than Fox’s more faithful movie adaptations did, as well as better than any previous faithful animated incarnation ever did.
That, and The Incredibles was just a really, really good movie. Which is the whole point being made.
But wait, I’ve already encountered the retort to this argument. Critics will says 'okay, fine, adapt the Fantastic Four as loosely as you like, maybe that will be good, just don’t call it the Fantastic Four.'
And I have my own well-reasoned response to that argument.
It’s a stupid-ass argument.
What if in 1972 Paramount forced Francis Four Coppola to name The Godfather “Thatsa Italian!”. For 175 minutes it’d still be Coppola’s the f**king Godfather. A title shouldn’t ruin a movie’s quality or viewing experience.
Sure, Trank’s new FF may not be the “faithful” Fantastic Four movie adaptation fans who already saw the first two Fantastic Four movies this decade (and hated them) and apparently no longer bother to read the Fantastic Four comic books say they so badly want, but that doesn’t by default make it a bad movie. Comic book fans need to stop equating craft and execution with how well filmmakers color within the comic book canon lines. It’s just not the same thing.
That it may not be the FF movie of our dreams doesn’t mean it can’t be a film we can enjoy. As fans we need to stop drawing these unnecessary lines in the sand.
And this isn’t an argument that Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four will be a good movie or that’ll it succeed. It could very well suck on merit. But no one knows this yet. Fox and Trank have proven themselves capable of making a quality product and if they succeed here with a film very loosely adapted from the source material, people will go see it. Moviegoers won’t boycott the film because Reed isn’t 45 and Johnny isn’t white, and neither I suspect, will even its harshest critics.
As comic book readers we ALL need to get over the notion that how faithful an adaptation is has anything to do with how well it is received commercially. We especially need to get over the notion that being really, really cranky on the Internet is going to run the film’s box office prospects and expedite the process of the license reverting back to Marvel Studios, who btw, just announced their movie schedule through 2019.
What is the long game here anyway? A Marvel Studios adaptation by the mid-2020’s? It’s that what we’re going all-in on?
Me, I’d rather take 2015’s Fantastic Four for what it is and enjoy the two hours I spend on it rather than desperately hoping for a failure.
That last thing isn’t a good look.