How To Make The FF Reboot Fantastic
—by Nathan on June 25, 2014—
This year of 2015 may be the first year in a while that could very well bring the superhero movie genre down a few pegs. Not only is Fox rebooting the Fantastic Four, Marvel's bringing us the Ant Man film that all ten die-hard, super-excited Ant Man fans have been begging for (if even that many). But I love the MCU stuff, so the FF reboot could be the movie I'm going to scrutinize the most. Some interesting casting choices have been made, including Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm/The Thing. Now, I don't mind that Johnny's going to be African American (all that bugs me about that is now the brother/sister dynamic between Johnny and Sue may be different because Johnny could be adopted or a half-brother), but I am kinda irritated by the fact that the guy who voiced Tin-Tin is going to be a giant, orange rock monster. In all, the decisions are...different. Heck, Marvel isn't happy either, practically declaring war by removing the FF from all their comics and taking down pictures from Marvel offices. So far, this movie looks like it's going to take a dive by bombing big a the box offices. I'll admit, I'm not a huge FF fan, but the last two movies were just "eh." When you've got an all-powerful world-eater who's represented as a CLOUD, you know something is going wrong. But Galactus isn't the only issue I have with Tim Story's version of the FF. So I'm going to write on five things that could be changed so that this new version is good. Like I said, I'm not a big FF fan, but this is a superhero reboot. It's time to get things right. I want to see Josh Trank do what Tim Story didn't do and make a GOOD FF movie that I'll enjoy (and, more importantly, my biggest-Johnny-Storm-fan-ever sister will enjoy as well).
Okay, diving headfirst into super villain territory right off the bat. Probably one of my biggest gripes was how Victor von Doom, the FF's arch-enemy, was portrayed in the earlier FF films. The guy was just a businessman with powers who hated Mr. Fantastic's guts and slowly turned into metal in the first film. Then he steals the Surfer's powers in the next movie and basically tries the same thing. Granted, Doom has always hated Reed in the comics, but the guy has a lot more ambition than that as well as ability. So, for this reboot, we need to see a more powerful Doom with bigger desires. By "more powerful" I mean a Doom who embraces the fact that he's a monarch, the ruler of Latveria. The guy's got wealth, diplomatic immunity, land, citizens. And if you top that all off with weaponized armor (yup, armor, not steely skin) and far-reaching ambitions, you get a villain who's pretty tough. We need more than a guy who fires lightning bolts at people. Doom shouldn't have to rob an armory for a heat-seeking missile, he shouldn't have to go to the Silver Surfer for help. Whether ruling from his castle, sending out robot doppelgangers, or battling the FF toe-to-toe, Doom needs to be fierce. And smart. In the previous films, all he does is steal stuff. Reed's machine, the heat-seaking missile, the Surfer's abilities. He can make inventions, devise plans. The guy's smart, strong, tough, and ambitious. Make him act like it. But, at the same time, he needs to be an enemy that can be beat. No "captured Doom turns out to be a robot." That's the Doom we need to see. And with Trank wishing to make a more realistic FF film, maybe we'll get that.
More bad guys. Yay! While the FF may not have the infamous ensemble that Spidey or Batman have for Rogues Galleries, they have their own collection of colorful and kooky crooks. The previous franchise used Doom twice and had Galactus as a giant cloud. Not good enough, I say! We need to see some of the classic villains. It sounds like we're getting a Mole Man, who's weird and kind of a C-list villain, but he still controls hordes of monsters. But with comic villains, we've got the Red Ghost (and his Super Apes!), we've got the Miracle Man, we've got Impossible Man, we've got the Mad Thinker, we've got the Puppet Master, we've got the Frightful Four, and a whole bunch of other baddies. The FF have been around for over fifty years, which means they have a pretty rich history, which means they have a lot of baddies to choose from. What we need to see is variety in these films, and not just villains who want to rob banks, hold hostages, take over cities, and kill the good guys out of hate. We need villains who have bigger plans, badder plans. Maybe I'm overthinking this, but the FF have always had megalomaniacal types of adversaries. They need to be utilized that way. And, sure, actually give us a proper Galactus. Utilize the power of CGI and make us a massive, world-conquering construct. Hockey stick-ears and everything.
Moving on to the actual super-team in question. The Fantastic Four have always been, if nothing else, a family. While Ben isn't actually related to anyone on the team, he's still a part of them and is even referred to as "Uncle Ben" by Reed and Sue's children. We need that family dynamic in there. The previous films mostly focused on Reed and Sue's relationship, with some Ben/Johnny antics thrown in for laughs. If you pair up each member with one of the others (Reed/Sue, Reed/Ben, Sue/Johnny, Johnny/Ben, etc.), that's eight different relationships to look at, just with two of the teammates together. Maybe that's a lot to analyze in a two-hour or so film, but I've noticed this about movies: The time it takes to establish a relationship and to "mature" said relationship is a lot less time in a film than in a book. These heroes need to be able to grow closer and work well together. Yes, they'll be dysfunctional sometimes, but that's how all families work. The comics do a great job at exploring it, so why not the movies? The Avengers gave us a good glimpse at how hero relationships work, so with a smaller and closer-knit team, the FF film should be able to do this wonderfully.
In the Tim Story films, the FF pretty much just explored their abilities and fame (in the first movie) and then saved everyone from a world-eating cloud (in the second). In recent years, the FF has moved on from much of the "peace keeping" and "world saving" group like the Avengers are to a group of adventurers and scientists. They explore alien worlds, other dimensions, strange universes. They problem solve, they discover. I think an FF franchise needs to keep that idea there. Yes, they save the world, they do superheroics, but that isn't their principle function. Yes, we'll get a big bad evildoer that they'll need to stop, but I think the films can incorporate some of the exploratory aspects of the comics in there, too. It's what makes the FF unique. Make them find the Negative Zone and keep Annihilus away. Make them explore space and maybe run into Galactus. Why let the villains come to them when they can go out in a spaceship, burrow through the ground, or dive to the depths of Atlantis? Give them another goal than just defeating the bad guy.
Okay, I understand why some may gripe about this last point. Ever since Christopher Nolan took Batman down a darker, grittier path with his Dark Knight trilogy, it seems like a whole bunch of other films have been going for the more realistic look (films such as Iron Man, Man of Steel, and the Amazing Spider-Man franchise are all evidence). But here's the thing: it works. Nolan's trilogy has three of the best superhero films out there, Iron Man was a huge success for Marvel, and Man of Steel has helped to kick-off DC's own shared universe (and while the ASM films haven't undergone the same treatment, I personally vouch for their quality). The FF, sadly, is one of the sillier groups out there. The team includes a human rubber band and a guy made out of orange rocks. Add in the soap opera romances, the Torch/Thing skirmishes, and corny villains (like the Impossible Man), and you don't have a recipe for Dark Knight-level seriousness. But I think that there can be a balance. If we get the tyrannical Doom, if we see a group who works together as a family, and if we watch a team who wants to explore the outer reaches of human experience, I think we could get a good franchise going. I think it all boils down to characters. Characters who ignore the silliness, characters who grow despite the zany circumstances they live in. Never once does Batman think "Gee, fear gas. That's corny for a guy named Scarecrow." Nor does Spider-Man question the idea of a giant, mutated Lizard running around the sewers of New York. If it can work with those films, it can work with the FF. There can be the grittier aspects, and there can be goofier ones. But they need to be able to mesh.
To be honest, writing this has made me a little more excited about the upcoming Fantastic Four film. I know that my ideas probably won't make it in. Maybe the directors and screenwriters will think slightly similar to how I think. I don't know. And I also understand that there are many more ideas that could make the FF reboot wonderful. But I think some of these ideas work. If incorporated, they could make a better movie than the ones we received seven-ten years ago. Who knows? Maybe we'll get some of these dynamics and maybe a good Fantastic Four film along with it.