Be it under the watchful eye of Tim Story, Josh Trank or whomever the poor sap was who made the unreleased, low budget Roger Corman one in the 90’s; Marvel’s first family has had quite a rough go of it, cinematically speaking. Miscasting, problems striking the correct tone and budget issues aside, Kevin Feige’s news that the fantastical family will soon be touching down in the Marvel Cinematic Universe left fans feeling cautiously optimistic – but what’s to say we’re not just setting ourselves up to be clobbered by even more disappointments? What does Marvel Studios have to do to ensure that we don’t just get more moments like Reed Richard’s using his stretching power to grab toilet roll or Victor Von Doom popping heads while looking like a caped Bender from Futurama? Regardless how Marvel choses to introduce Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch and The Thing, be it an origin story, a multiversal dohicky or some shenanigans involving time travel; here’s my thoughts on how Jon Watts can avoid creating yet another fantasic fuck up.
5) Embrace The Fantastical
This one is fairly straight forward considering that Marvel Studios has already spent nearly 15 years establishing multiple sandbox that the Fantastic Four regularly play in. Reed and the gang in the comics are infamous for galavanting across dimensions, launching themselves into space or squaring up to some cosmic threat often in a single adventure and while they also handle street level villainy too, it would be a massive mistake to not fully utilize the gargantuan multiverse that the MCU has built.
Crazy space shit? Guardians Of The Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok has you covered. Multiversal shenanigans? Look no further than the Doctor Strange and Ant-Man sequels. Time Travel? Avengers: Endgame, bitch. Hell, we even have Wakanda, Skrulls, Kree, Scott Lang and (very soon) She-Hulk in the mix, which sort of means that the only component you need to get the Fantastic Four rolling in the MCU is – the Fantastic Four themselves…
Plus, as an added bonus, the general tone of heartfelt drama and broad comedy the MCU has cultivated ever since Tony Stark took an ill fated business trip to Afghanistan seems tailor made to serve up a version of the team (Ben Grimm especially) that should take full advantage of their glib nature in the face of full cosmic craziness. After all, thanks to runs by Jonathan Hickman and Dan Slott, they work far better as explorers than they do as garden variety super heroes.
4) The Reed Richards Conundrum
Arguably the toughest nut to crack when it comes to characterization is that of the rubber limbed enigma known as Reed Richards. Finding the correct balance of the man has been so tough that not even the majority of writers who have penned the Fantastic Four comic itself have failed to nail down a hero that may be deemed “complicated” to some and “a sociopathic, gaslighting prick” to others.
To be fair, whomever scripts Reed certainly has their work cut out for them as the man certainly has had his fair share of questionable moments, being it zapping his near God-like son Franklin into a coma, creating a superhero Guantanamo Bay located in another dimension, slapping his wife, Susan, while under mind control and delivering a virtually endless stream of passive aggressive put downs to his entire family (especially Susan) for the entirety of the 60’s and 70’s.
So how do you make one of the most fundamentally unlikable heroes in Marvel the warm patriarch he should be – well, the Ioan Gruffudd version made him a well meaning dork who simply got carried away with his work, which is fine but it’s hardly the super-capable inventor that could convincingly lead a super team. Even less appetising was the Miles Teller version who portrayed Reed as a borderline cowardly loaner who abandons the group after their accident to go on the run.
Basically, what we need is a warmer, more fatherly Reed much like the one seen in Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s seminal 2002 – 2005 run that (aside from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s legendary run) would make a great source for the filmmakers to tap from.
Of course, another thing that would help tremendously in avoiding making Reed horribly abusive to literally every around him is some spot on casting. Which leads me to….
3) Casting Is Key
Something that Marvel Studios have almost always gotten right is their impressive track record of casting and many a time, their choices (Terence Howard and Edward Norton aside) have been the secret behind Marvel’s stunning string of successes. Could anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. have made Tony Stark’s less palatable attributes quite so loveable, how about Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, or Chris Hemsworth’s Thor?
The point is, the Fantastic Four have to be insanely likeable right from the get go and some of the past casting hasn’t quite nailed who these characters are as well as I hoped – the entirety of Josh Trank’s 2015 cast missed the mark quite spectacularly while Gruffudd and Jessica Alba from the 2005 attempt were too weak or too naggy.
There’s still positive lessons to be learnt here however, as a pre-Captain America Chris Evans did an impressive job of making flammable himbo Johnny Storm surprisingly likeable and The Shield’s Michael Chiklis managed to emerge from beneath some rubbery prosthetics to give us a legitimately great, blue-eyed Thing that’s still the FF performance to beat (if he had been CGI, he’d have been almost flawless).
So, who should they cast – well, I’ve never actually been one for fan casting so I won’t embarrass myself, but the rumours of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are just too perfect for me to ignore. He could make comic’s most coldly efficient scientist a convincing father figure while she has repeatedly proven she can project the inner strength of a warrior mother who could convincingly step between a dude on fire and a dude made of rocks.
Whomever they choose, if you cast this right, you’ve literally done 80% off the work.
2) Put The Family First In Marvel’s First Family
Coming off Marvel’s Spider-Man trilogy after performing the impressive feat of convincingly having a cinematic Spider-Man negotiate high school, director Jon Watts has already proved himself a canny choice for the FF as he isn’t afraid to make his super powered heroes enjoyably flawed and incredibly relatable. This is something that he’ll need to tap into when introducing the Fantastic Four into the MCU as not only are they a family in of themselves but every single one of them have embedded themselves into the universe so much their virtually the surrogate parents of the Marvel Universe itself. For example, one of Johnny Storm’s best buds is Spider-Man, while Ben Grimm regularly holds poker nights for the less telepathic super heroes of New York (which is something I need to see on screen before I die), while Sue and Reed are the power couple that all other romantic pairings look up to.
However, as it’s now fashionable to now skip over overtold origin stories (thankfully) may I also suggest that we forego having the group meet up and jump straight into them being an actual family with Sue being pregnant at the climax. After all, what separates the FF from other super team is that they are a family, so why not lean fully into it – in fact, why stop at kids Franklin and Valeria; why not have the Future Foundation be founded too, the school for super kids that plays massively into what would make these characters so different.
1) GET. DOOM. CORRECT.
So this is it. This is the meat of the matter.
A successful, comic accurate Fantastic Four would be a magnificent way to link up a lot of the MCU’s disparate corners in many different ways beyond exploring all the different worlds the franchise has to offer (Scott Lang, Spider-Man, and She-Hulk all have a strong relationships with the group), but what would be even more beneficial to the universal as a whole would be Jon Watts, Kevin Feige and co. cracking the toughest nut the comics have to offer. That of one Victor Von Doom.
Simply put, you get doom right, you not only have achievement unlocked the greatest villain Marvel – nay, comics – has to offer, but you’ve pretty much got yourself your next Thanos/Loki in the bag to wreak havoc on the entire franchise.
Essentially, Doctor Doom’s deal is that he wants to rule the world for no other reason than he thinks he’d be really fucking great at it and that’s good enough for him. He boasts a cushion of the tech prowess of Tony Stark mixed with the magical capabilities of Doctor Strange that’s saddled to an ego that easily dwarfs both of these legendary know-it-alls and if you cast him correctly you have a character who could effortlessly be dangerous enough to draw everyone together to fight this Avengers level threat.
So, how do we do it? Well, may I be so bold to suggest a full, comic accurate attempt, which means the green cape, the armour, the constant screaming of the word “RICHARDS” whenever things go south. I’m personally thinking the kind of cold, sneering, eurotrash, megalomania of Jeremy Irons from Die Hard With A Vengence mixed with the charisma of RDJ’s Tony Stark gone awesomely wrong and we NEVER see his face save the permanently frowning metal mask he hides his ravaged features behind as he tries to mold the world into whatever he thinks it should be. Hell, even have him bark “BAH” at a terrified underlings every now and then.
Get Doctor Doom right and you not only have a villain worthy of comics first family, but you have a villain worthy of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Let us know your thoughts of what casting or chooses would make a great Fantastic Four movie.