When I first heard about Fantastic Four being rebooted, I wasn’t feeling it. I’ll admit it: the first two films were super duds. I’ve been reading comic books for the better part of my life, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the Fantastic Four, there’s no way you can escape those stories, primarily because, being one of Marvel’s flagship titles, so many of their storylines have had larger ramifications to the Marvel Universe as a whole. Reed Richards (a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic) is one of the biggest brains in the Marvel U., and is called in to solve many of what Donald Rumsfeld would call “known knowns,” while doing his best to preemptively destroy many of the known unknowns as well as figuring out ways to stop whatever unknown unknowns in the world (you know, basic stuff).
Adapting comic book movies to the silver screen must be difficult. You’re talking, for some of these characters, five or six decades worth of storylines and changes to whittle down into a 90-plus minute film. For some reason, we’ll end up with quality flicks like Guardians of the Galaxy that truly nail their comic book predecessors with ease.
Or we'll end up with nonsense like the 2005 film Fantastic Four.
You’d think this would be pretty easy to adapt, right? Four people (the aforementioned braniac Mr. Fantastic, a loveable jock, a beautiful woman and her brother) are thrown into space on a mission. Something goes wrong and they return with amazing powers and now have to deal with them and how to use those powers to better the world. For Twentieth Century Fox, though, something went wrong: they deviated too far from Marvel’s oldest team, turning in a film that tried to inject too much humor, manipulate too much of the relationships that worked, and ultimately chased dollars to hold on to a franchise they had no intentions of doing justice.
With this new reboot of Fantastic Four set to hit theaters this Friday, there is a lot that can go wrong, and while I wish I could have provided this list to the people behind the new film prior, I can only hope that they saw what I saw—a cavalcade of fuckery—and figured out how NOT to make a Fantastic Four film (although early reviews have been worrisome).
One thing that’s been interesting in the comics has been Victor Von Doom’s relationship with Sue Storm. Well, more like his obsession with her. Hell, Doom helped Sue Storm deliver her daughter Valeria in the comics! Why the hell do we have to see Sue actually being the love interest of Victor Von Doom early on, though? She’s always been linked to Reed Richards, since the beginning of their comic book run, so why make the first hint of Reed and Sue’s relationship in the film be “oh here’s that girl I almost started living with?” It’s as if Fox’s main "brilliant" idea was “this Marvel superhero film needs a budding romance throughout it between an awkward nerdy guy and Jessica Alba.” If Fox wanted to make one of the central themes be “Dr. Doom and Reed Richards are fighting over Sue Storm,” why not take the idea of Reed trying—and failing—to reverse their mutations and having Doom step in as the patron saint, attempting to do what Reed can’t (which is a major source of contention between the two in the comic series), all the while having his own ulterior motives—maybe tricking the Four into fixing just Sue, and her having to decide between Reed and Doom?
Who knows, I’m just spitballing here.
There was just no reason why Reed’s trip needed to be funded by “Victor Von Doom Industries.” You can see what Fox wanted to do; it was all about Reed’s biggest plan ultimately sinking Doom’s business, and driving him insane. The issue primarily is that it wasn’t necessary; just by nature of Doom’s attitude, he didn’t fuck with Reed off the rip. Doom has drive and rules Latveria with an iron fist. There’s no real “need” to have Doom be Reed’s benefactor in any way.
Speaking of Doom, whose idea was it to turn him into some weird metallic guy with weird Magneto-ish powers? Doom’s long been known as a superior intellectual that dabbles in the dark arts; he’s a sorcerer. Why does he need weird alien powers when, being a superhero movie, it’s OK to just write “he's studied magic for years, he can create forcefields or whatever?” What’s wrong with “dude gets scarred in life and wears full body armor” instead of “dude is a billionaire on a random space mission and turns into a guy made of metal?” Why do we need to have everything explained in some way that makes it seem like the writers didn’t read (or purposefully avoided) the source material?
Speaking of avoiding the source material, what was good with Ben Grimm? Part of his charm was that he’s a blue collar guy from Brooklyn. He is the pride of the middle-class, the rock of a man that every foundation needs to get the job done. Post-space ride, Grimm turns into The Thing and more or less sounds like the comic book come to life. Before then? Who knew what Michael Chiklis was aiming for, but he totally missed nailing what a non-Thing Ben Grimm could’ve sounded like.
The 2005 Fantastic Four flick also had a heavy hand in the humor department. Aside from the relationship between Johnny and The Thing, Fantastic Four comics aren’t known for being laugh-riots. Reed Richards is almost devoid of human emotion (hence the constant strain in his relationship with Sue), and The Thing seems to never take a joke. Why are we being thrust into these corny montages of couples skiing down mountains that trigger Johnny’s fire powers, turning a snow bank into a sauna that his nurse is completely okay to have sex in? You can’t turn a limp film into something memorable with sex jokes and lame music montages.
Look, I want Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch to win. I’m fine with seeing another comic book film being rebooted, as long as it rights the wrongs from the awful 2005 edition. You can rework the aspects of the story that don’t work for film without reinventing the entire wheel, and you don’t need to make a film that’s either too bleak or too humorous doing it. We have better technology, and a budding batch of Marvel franchises under Fox’s belt to really give the Marvel Cinematic Universe a run for its money. If the lessons from the trash Fantastic Four movies aren’t thrown out and replaced with fire ideas for this new reboot, you might as well stuff the franchise in a pod and blast it into space. Maybe Galactus will find it and consume it, saving the rest of the universe from more Fantastic Four renditions.