The Fantastic Four movie franchise is on its way to being rebooted - with the exceedingly clever title The Fantastic Four - and we're worried. The FF is great, but it's not the easiest of comic concepts to do right (as many parts of the last 25 years of Fantastic Four comics will easily prove). However, it's not impossible, either. Here are eight things new director Josh Trank can do (or not do) in order to make the new Fantastic Four movie genuinely fantastic.
Top image: Art Adams cover art.
1) Cast a Decent Mr. and Ms. Fantastic
First of all, you can't just throw in the starlet du jour as Sue Storm. Jessica Alba is a perfect example of someone who brought absolutely nothing to the role of Ms. Fantastic (not even real blonde hair). Sure, Ioan Gruffudd looked like a decent Reed Richards, but he was almost Ken doll-like in his blandness. Look, I'll admit they aren't the easiest roles to play - Reed is generally typified as the standard brilliant, distracted scientist, while Sue is simply the wife/mom of the group, and indeed, a happily married couple isn't the meatiest of roles, either. But that's merely the framework for the characters - Mr. and Ms. Fantastic need to be charismatic and likable beyond that. If nothing else, we need to feel that they truly love each other.
2) Cast as a Group
Your job of casting a good Mr. and Ms. Fantastic will be much easier if you simply cast as a group. Make sure the chemistry is there between all four actors, rather than just casting individually. The Fantastic Four is a family first and foremost (alliteration!), and they need to feel like it - all of them. In the previous FF movies, only Chris Evans' Johnny and Michael Chiklis' Ben Grimm seemed to have anything resembling a relationship to each other, and not inconsequently they were the best part of those movies by far. The whole team should feel like that, and you're not going to get unless you put four actors together in a room and see how they connect with each other (or don't).
3) Don't Film the Origin Story
Not only are origin stories generally played out, I have bad news for you - the FF's origin is not that interesting. It's actually pretty goofy, even when compared to other superheroes' origins. Mr. Fantastic takes his best friend, his girlfriend and her brother on a ridiculously unprepared, unsafe space flight, where they get bombarded with cosmic rays? That's not compelling, that's just negligence on Mr. Fantastic's part. It immediately puts Reed in a disadvantage - why are we supposed to like this guy when he effectively just used his friends as guinea pigs in his poorly thought-out experiment? - when again, these characters should be likable from the get-go. Do yourselves and the audience a favor and just concentrate on an actual adventure instead of trying to needlessly redo the origin.
4) Don't Include the Reed-Sue Courtship
Same principle as the origin story. By filming Reed and Sue falling in love, you're presenting the FF as coming together when they should simply be "together." I'm sure some people will disagree with me here (they always do), but Reed and Sue's defining characteristic is their relationship, and furthermore, the fact they're a happy couple already is what sets them apart from the rest of the Marvel universe. How they fell in love isn't interesting in the least - it's just a generic love story. Mr. and Ms. Fantastic's relationship is the cornerstone of the Fantastic Four; without it, the FF is just a random group of superheroes. By filming Reed and Sue first falling in love, you're ignoring what makes the FF unique and making a mediocre romance instead. No thanks.
5) Pay Attention to Kirby
The Fantastic Four should be weird. What sets them apart from other Marvel superheroes - besides the family thing - is that they were as much psychedelic adventurers as they were superheroes. Any FF movie that spends its entire run-time on Earth is a waste. They should go to different planets and different dimensions, and we should see things we've never seen before. The best model for this would be Jack Kirby's original run, which included Galactus, the Kree, the Skrulles, the Inhumans, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Negative Zone, Adam Warlock and more. That's a mind-blowing amount of creativity, and the best FF movie will reflect that as much as possible. It won't come close, because Kirby was a mad genius, but you've got to at least try.
6) Do Not Make Galactus a Cloud
You probably knew this one yourself after the last FF movie, but I want to make it abundantly clear. Oh, I know why you did it. "A giant guy in a purple outfit looks silly!" you said. Two things: 1) If you can't make a giant dude coming to eat the entire planet look intimidating, then hire someone who can. It's not a problem with Galactus, it's a problem with you. 2) Even if Galactus ends up looking a little goofy, you know what? At least he'll look interesting, which is a significant improvement over how Rise of the Silver Surfer's Cloud-Fart-Galactus.
7) Do Not Make Dr. Doom a Schmuck
Seriously. If you're not going to make Doctor Doom look like the scariest mofo on the planet, don't even bother including him. There are tons of run-of-the-mill villains you can use if you need someone to rob banks, tie damsels to railroad tracks, or just plan to blow shit up. Doctor Doom is and should be waaaay above that. If you need to know how to do Doctor Doom right, please see the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon episode "The Private War of Doctor Doom." Seriously, he should make Avengers' Loki look like a punk. And speaking of…
8) Do NOT Try to Make Them the Avengers
In any way. Oh, I know you want to. Avengers made a ton of money, the Avengers are a Marvel superhero team. The Fantastic Four is Marvel superhero team, they're the same thing, right? WRONG.
I said it above: The Avengers are a team. The Fantastic Four are a family. If you don't want to make a film about a family, do not make Fantastic Four. Go try to make a New Mutants movie or something. Frankly, the individual members of the FF aren't that compelling on their own - they don't have the dramatic backstories of Captain America, Thor or Iron Man. What they have is each other, and that's what makes them interesting. If you try to turn them into the Avengers you will only end up with a crappy Avengers. If you need a film to base the new FF on, go watch The Incredibles. That's what who the Fantastic Four are. A family that loves each other… and also happens to have superpowers. Ignore that, and we'll ignore your FF movie. Again.