Fantastic Four crashes and burns…
hopefully someone is paying attention for next time


I have to be honest, I saw this mess coming.

Sure… if you follow the story about the 2015 release of Fantastic Four and director Josh Trank, you know about some of the hysterical stuff that has hit this project. Heck, you really only need to know one story -- do a search and check out Trank’s comments just before the film was released, where you could basically say he was apologizing because the film heading to theaters wasn’t the one he wanted to make -- to see how hampered and comical the production just may have been. But it was something else for me.

It was a story about the sequel that was making the internet rounds a week or so before the film was released. It seems that as the cast were making their appearances and doing their interviews for pre-release publicity, the subject of the second film from this attempted run was being raised. And go figure, the name of the Silver Surfer came up as an answer. And the first thought that hit me was close to this: “Silver Surfer? Wow. So instead of blazing their own trail they basically plan to do exactly what a majority of people say didn’t work ten years ago.”

You have to understand a few things in order to truly follow this. The Fantastic Four as a group of superheroes does not exactly face the most incredible or recognizable roster of villains. They have faced a lot of villains. It’s just that many of them aren’t that memorable, and several are known more for their involvement with other heroes. And yet, as their most impressive challenger, they do have one of the greatest villains of all time… Doctor Doom. And that can be a wonderful advantage or a terrible curse… it all depends in how you approach it.

Joker and Lex Luthor are similar subjects for Batman and Superman… tremendous characters, and yet any time someone mentions any type of project at all involving The Dark Knight or Man of Steel, pretty much without exception the questions begin about what role these specific foes could have.

It’s a blessing to have such an amazingly recognizable character to build around. Use it properly and it can be amazing. Ah… but do it wrong…

Victor Von Doom has basically been the lead challenger in each of the efforts to bring this team of good guys to cinemas. Could have been Roger Corman’s unreleased film, the two efforts from a decade ago, or this year’s release… Doom… Doom… Doom. And again, it makes sense. He’s a dominating, great villain. But none of the four theatrical projects has really been accepted as capturing a great portrayal of him.

And then… there it is… the next effort could go to the Silver Surfer. Which… with all sorts of rumors about Josh Trank and troubled production swirling around… just seemed like the wrong answer, whether it’s a bunch of hogwash and speculation or an opinion based in some really possible thoughts. It struck me that instead of blazing a new, daring, unique trail for this cast and this run, it sure seemed like they were planning to take the easy route that had been attempted previously. (And, not attempted with amazing results previously.)

So… here are three suggestions from me for working on a Fantastic Four project, trying something new, and getting it right…

Option Number One -- A truly developed trilogy

Ok… Doctor Doom is a necessary part of any complete story. He has to be involved. You could argue he needs to be in any Fantastic Four movie. But does he need to be part of the first movie? I mean… a big part?

You could tell an origin story with the first film that introduces Doctor Doom, but relies on solid villain options such as Puppet Master, Mole Man, or possibly even stretch a bit to Namor.

Moving on, Diablo is a tremendous option as a villain for Fantastic Four films, given the “cure for Ben Grimm” aspects involved. If the first film successfully establishes the franchise, a Diablo story could bring in terrific depth and character development. (Side note -- Want a great modernization of classic comic books? Diablo running a pharmaceutical company. Lots of room in that one.)

So open with origins and Mole Man, fight Doctor Doom, and wrap up with Diablo… not a bad run. The point is, even if you use different stories and villains, commit to the complete arc and expand beyond Doctor Doom.

This repeated approach of opening of the first film and adjusting future plans based on response has been a disaster. You can’t hedge your bets here. If you want a franchise, then build a world and develop it. Get the story right… don’t just jump in, decide Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom, and then take some time off because that combination seems like an easy winner just from naming it and a vacation is in order. Learn from history.

Option Number Two -- Attempt the unexpected, but very possible

Yup… crossovers. (And yes, I have heard that 20th Century Fox is getting giddy about possibly combining the Fantastic Four with their other Marvel property, the X-Men.)

The link I am most familiar with when it comes to Marvel characters involves Spider-Man teaming up with the Fantastic Four. Doctor Doom and Doctor Octopus are two big ones that involve characters if not story lines… Electro, Sandman and Hydro-Man are others.

The Fantastic Four has worked with several of Marvel’s biggest names, either in teams or with elements moving from one group to another. If Doctor Doom is the central element of an opening film… and sure, I could see approaching any Fantastic Four effort with that in place one more time as a starting point since Doom is so intertwined in significant moments of their history… then one of the best second steps could be expanding the excitement. Imagine bringing in X-Men and Magneto around for a second film, and then finishing off a three-picture run with combined heroes facing off against Galactus. Not too shabby.

Yup… even I went Silver Surfer and ultimately Galactus. I get the appeal. But heck… you have room here for Kree and Skrull and Avengers to become involved. What you need in order to make it happen is the right story and then agreements with the right property ownership groups. Look… I admit, it would be stretching the comic book canon… could you ever imagine if 20th Century Fox reached out to Marvel/Disney and could get the Fantastic Four a cameo in the Infinity War films?

The point here is simple, for this option you would need to reach out to other studios… other companies holding rights to heroes and villains and foundations of stories. But it is possible. It’s being done with Spider-Man right now. And a solid association with other projects could add tremendous depth and strength to any effort.

Option Number Three -- Break up the band

I don’t love this thought, but I do find it intriguing. How about The Thing or Human Torch getting a film?

After all… we love us some Iron Man, in solo films and Avengers efforts. Until Iron Man was released, the character was not a top tier superhero. It was a combination of a great first story, great actor in the part, and a really strong job from the director. A Johnny Storm movie could be an interesting project… could involve his sister (for plenty of reasons)… and maybe some details about the other members of the team that could lead to a bigger film.

The trick to all of this is pretty basic… the obvious and simple is not being received all that well. That doesn’t mean the property is a dud. Fantastic Four efforts will be met with excitement when announced, but people are passionate about the characters… and that needs to be met with a passionate set of director, cast, and crew.

To date though, it often seems like all of the Fantastic Four movies have been made with the same approach as the one that began the Roger Corman effort… maintaining the rights first, and not necessarily doing the property justice. At times, it sure seems that even when the group working on it has good intentions, the people controlling the funding, production, and ultimate releases aren’t exactly onboard with delivering something brilliant. (And do not make a mistake in understanding… whether everyone is onboard and working together or not… there is no intention to lose the rights to the property.)

We have seen plenty of examples that show there are people that can take these comic books and create something brilliant. Trouble is… there is so much riding on these titles, including just maintaining the rights to the characters and the stories… that a ton of hands and interests will be involved in any production. That means different visions, different priorities, and, unfortunately, tension and chaos.

I’m in no position to make a movie with the Fantastic Four. I don’t have a script, don’t have the character rights, and don’t have the money. I can suggest better designed movie runs, more interaction with the Marvel universe, or individual character development as possible improvements all I want… doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. But…

I don’t believe anyone wants to make a bad movie. I don’t think anyone wants something that does poorly at the box office or gets hammered by critics and fan reviews. I can tell you that as long as every attempt keeps beating the same drums though, with the same underlying pandemonium, we are going to be continuously treated to the same results. And that’s anything but fantastic.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at