Tripping the Light Voyage, Part 2: How to get the Fantastic Four Right

In part one, we talked about he elements that need to be present in a Fantastic Four film (and have yet to be so). Here, we’ll discuss specific ways this can be done and then finish off this whole deal. Possibly awkwardly.

If the FF are to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scott Lang and Hank Pym could call upon the expertise of Reed Richards to help them locate and save Janet Van Dyne in the second Ant-Man film. Throughout the narrative (perhaps while dealing with the villainous Psycho-Man), it could be revealed that Reed has unique abilities, something that Scott might have been unaware of, but Hank might have known (or, at the very least, theorized).

When the film has reached its conclusion, and the mid-credits scene has excited fans, the very end credits could include a conversation between Reed and Hank. Reed talks to his old friend about the changes to the world since the ‘accident,’ so many years ago. He could make it clear that the world having become a stranger and smaller place has altered his original beliefs about his ‘family.’ Hank would ask what Reed’s plans are to which Reed could respond that, perhaps it’s time to stand together, in the light.

And the film ends with Hank’s knowing smile.

A similar approach could be taken should the property remain with Fox, introducing Reed as a scientist who supported mutant rights who assists the X-Men in dealing with some powerful menace (perhaps the Brood). Much of the audience-winking could be treated the same as it would for the MCU with various X-characters interacting with Reed in ways similar to the scenario above. In fact, since everyone has to have an after-credits, it could end with Reed and the Beast having a conversation similar to that of Reed and Pym.

And the film, again, ends with Hank’s knowing smile.

Either of these could introduce the idea of the Fantastic Four, to the respective universe, without showing exactly where they come from. This would also allow the option of developing a separate film franchise for the FF which is fresh from the failures of the past. Because, when the time comes to introduce the full FF in a brand new feature film…

The expansion to a universe that the Fantastic Four represent is priceless to those who are interested in telling epic, world-shaking, ground-breaking stories. At its core, the FF is about exploration and discovery, allowing alternate dimensions, parallel timelines, and cosmic landscapes to open up to a world in which they are introduced. Think the cosmic stuff in Guardians of the Galaxy was cool? It was all derived (perhaps by some degree of seperation) from the Fantastic Four. Looking forward to the X-Men battling a supervillain who was once worshiped in Ancient Egypt? Fantastic Four did it first.

The next FF film needs to revolve around this instead of why they have superpowers and why they are together and, oh yeah, Doctor Doom.

In either of the preceding scenarios, the Fantastic Four could open up a film discussing becoming a public entity after years of having operated in secret. Perhaps, having seen the outcome of the Avengers films and the aftermath of Civil War and Infinity, Reed and the others feel like they can no longer selfishly hope to hide when they could do so much good for the world. Perhaps, having watched the plight of mutant-kind for years, the group offers to stand in solidarity as people who were born human, but changed by external forces.

Regardless, my FF film would focus on how the four of them, alongside their supporting cast, are a family; standing together to support one another through love and devotion. Each aspect of the team dynamic would be driven by this. Reed would be madly in love with Sue Storm, the only person who can distract him from his work, a big brother to Johnny Storm, and the best friend of Ben Grimm, who blames himself for his friend’s condition. Sue would be warmly devoted to Reed while being willing to tell him when he was full of crap, a mother figure to Johnny, and also best friends with Ben, whom she sees as an older brother. Ben would view both Reed and Sue as the two best friends he’s ever had and Johnny as a semi-rival/kid who could be a halfway decent human being if he grew the hell up. Johnny views Reed as a stuffy older brother, Sue as his caring, sweet-but-tough older sister, and Ben as someone who is so broken by what he’s gone through that the only way to help him is to annoy him to the point where he blows off steam by trying to beat on Johnny.

Building a human dynamic to these characters is far more critical than trying to update their origin from ‘bad spaceship.’ When broken down into their component parts, the FF need to be developed as individuals who respond to the dynamic of the group. Each of them is less without the group as a whole.

Perhaps that’s the one thing that the films have managed to get correct. In each of the less-than-fantastic four Fantastic Four films that have appeared, prior, the relationships between the four title characters is treated as a secondary plot point or used as leverage to drive the story forward, rather than the focus of the narrative. At the very least, the FF movies that have been released have focused on the idea that the Fantastic Four need to be a team in order to stop whatever evil is about to take over the world.

Oh wait. That evil is ALWAYS Doctor Doom.

When you have a property with the rich history and wide range of mythology that the Fantastic Four, the fact that four films have been released by three different studios which pull from the exact same well is unforgivable.

With Marvel Studios at the helm, the obvious choice of villain may not occur in the first film. This is the case with Iron Man, as his iconic foe, the Mandarin, doesn’t show up until the third installment of this film franchise (to some varied levels of appreciation). Debuting the Fantastic Four with any one of their nemeses who don’t have the surname ‘Doom,’ would be a wise choice. Heck, I could make up a screenplay where they face off agains the Mad Thinker in my sleep and he’s one of the crappier ones!

It will be interesting to see where this property goes, but whomever should develop the next version of the FF should watch all four of the movies that have been filmed, thus far, and discover what worked about them. This creator should study them and break them down to understand the tiny nuggets of value that the films have in order to ensure that another Fantastic Four travesty does not occur.

I know, I know, I’m being unnecessarily cruel.

Think of it as the superhero movie version of ‘scared straight.’