Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. But, why am I doing this? This blog series started out of my ongoing frustration with the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, and how going back to the comics might provide a better understanding of these characters and their world, and thus envision what a truly great FF movie might look like. I’ve reached July 2005 now in my loosely structured timeline, so it’s time to go back to that question – what would my Fantastic Four movie be?
Yes, I know this is a futile effort, because Marvel/Disney has already teased a Fantastic Four movie in the works. The script and pre-vis are likely already done, and there are flurries of casting rumors every day. So, consider this mere speculation. A lot of you will likely disagree with my suggestions. If so, remember that these are just suggestions.
How to do a Fantastic Four movie? Here are some don’ts:
- DON’T do Dr. Doom. Only tease him for future movies. This first movie should establish the FF’s characters and their relationships, so we’re invested in them before Doom shows up to mess with them. Introduce the idea of Dr. Doom, but keep him in the shadows for now.
- DON’T do Galactus. In Infinity War, the MCU already did the world-ending apocalypse action that a Galactus story would have done.
- DON’T do the Negative Zone and Annihilus. All this stuff about the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and Endgame is basically the Negative Zone already, and the upcoming Quantumania movie looks to be even moreso.
Here’s the big pitch: My ideal FF movie is an adaptation of Fantastic Four #1. The Mole Man is the villain.
We begin with a short pre-credits scene of Reed and Ben in college. Reed tells Ben that someone named Victor is doing an experiment to open a portal, but he’s miscalculated. Reed and Ben try to break down the door to Victor’s lab, only for them to be thrown back in a huge explosion. Cut to the Marvel logo and the title.
From there, we cut right ahead to Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny sneaking into a NASA (or NASA-like) launch site. Everybody’s seen Lightyear by now, right? It’s not the best movie, but the scene where Buzz steals his own spaceship is a fun and exciting action beat. The FF movie can open with something similar. We don’t need to see the scenes of the government cancelling the flight at the last minute, and our heroes deciding to steal the ship. These things can be told through quick, Marvel-quippy dialogue. We see the four heroes without powers, but working as a team and thinking on their feet.
Upon successfully launching the ship, Reed gives a big speech about how the ship is a research vessel, and what they’ll learn about space will help everyone on Earth. He adds that he’s glad he’s got the three people he considers family on board to share this with him. Then KABOOM! The ship gets hit with cosmic rays. It’s a frightening, chaotic sequence as everyone tries to survive as the ship comes crashing back to Earth.
From there, we skip the scene of the FF discovering their powers as the emerge from the ship’s wreckage. Instead, we time-skip ahead six months to a year. NYC is shaken by a mysterious earthquake. The “4” flare goes off in the sky, and then we’re off. This is a version of the FF’s mad dash through the city in issue #1, except with real life-or-death urgency this time. Sue, Ben, and Johnny use their powers to help New Yorkers get to safety. The locals have no idea who they are, so the FF are not famous yet.
Once the crisis has passed, the three meet up with Reed. Because this is an adaptation of the first issue, there’s no Baxter Building yet. The first two issues had the characters’ HQ in a series of “secret apartments” in Manhattan, so that’s their HQ in this scene. Reed praises his teammates’ efforts during the crisis, and then he lays out the plot. There are mysterious quakes and sinkholes happening all over the Earth. This crisis isn’t coming from space or another universe, but from deep underground.
This scene can also give us more quippy Marvel banter, establishing the characters and their relationships. Reed and Sue are engaged. Johnny is a wisecracker who takes nothing seriously. Ben pesters Reed about working on this instead of working on a cure for him. He does this in a joking manner, but there’s some underlying tension there.
Reed uses his super-science to deduce that the source of the earthquakes is a small island in the North Pacific. He says it’s up to them to investigate. They travel to what we Marvel fans know is Monster Isle. The heroes are attacked by giant monsters upon arriving, and they are separated. The Mole Man eventually makes his presence known, further complicating things.
At this point, I see the movie going in four (heh) directions, depending on which character is the protagonist.
If Reed is the protagonist: This is the most obvious route, as he’s the team leader and the brain of the group. It depends if you want to portray him as a stuffy scientist who never leaves the lab, or if you want to portray him as a Doc Savage globetrotting adventurer type. Either way, when the team is separated and things look bleak, Reed breaks down and he learn he’s not the man with all the answers. First, he lost Victor. Then, the ship crashed and Ben is now a monster. Turning his family members into superheroes is his way of helping them through what happened. When everyone is reunited, Reed rallies his team not by being the scientist or the adventure, but by being the loving family man. The Mole Man offers Ben a new home on Monster Isle, but Ben responds to Reed as his best friend, despite everything that’s happened, and he rejects the Mole Man in favor of Reed.
If Ben is the protagonist: This is the next obvious choice, as the Thing is a fan favorite. We see Reed and Sue’s romance through Ben’s eyes. When they’re kissing and whatnot, Ben is heartbroken at being a monster. When Ben encounters the Mole Man on Monster Isle, Mole Man offers him a new home. He could even try to turn Ben against his teammates. Then Ben could realize that Reed had his best interests in mind by turning him into a superhero. He and Reed can have the big handshake and become friends again before taking on Mole Man.
If Johnny is the protagonist: This is a tricky one. I suggest loosely following Johnny’s story from issues 3-4. Johnny gets sick of his teammates’ bickering, He decides he doesn’t need them and flies off on his own. On his own, he finds some crucial information or a doohickey that the FF needs to defeat the Mole Man. Johnny must then grow up a little and rejoin his teammates when they need him.
If Sue is the protagonist: Sue is often portrayed as the glue that holds the team together. When the team is split up and all seems lost, Sue convinces Reed to get his head of the clouds and focus on his family. She convinces Johnny to grow up a little and take the situation seriously. She convinces Ben that he’s more than just a monster and he does have people in his life you love him. As she’s the one who rallies everyone together, it’s Sue and not Reed who takes on a leadership role.
Then there’s the Mole Man. He felt rejected by his fellow humans, and found solace living among monsters. There’s a lot that could make him a relatable villain in this, as he could stand in for anyone who feels rejected. Except that he takes things too far. How, exactly, did he become ruler of Monster Isle? Perhaps he has an unseen benefactor…
Our heroes are reunited as a team, and they have confronted and rejected the Mole Man. Then we move into the action finale. The Mole Man sends Giganto, the monster from the cover of issue #1, off to attack human civilization. The Marvel Wiki says Monster Isle is near Japan, so let that be the exotic locale for the finale. Tokyo is a little obvious, so why not have the monster attack Hokkaido? It has lots of scenic sites that filmmakers can use. (At the very least, they made it look like a nice place in Love Hina.) Now that they’re working as a team, the FF are put to the test to find some way to defeat Giganto. Whichever character is the protagonist should be the one to deal the final blow.
How to end the movie? We can have the expected scenes of Reed promising to cure Ben, or maybe Reed considering proposing to Sue. I like the idea of ending it with the FF becoming world-famous know, and them realizing how much their lives have changed now that they’re out of hiding.
In the mid-credits scene, the FF arrive at Castle Doom in Latveria, searching for Victor. The castle is abandoned, the only thing left behind is the word “Doom” scrawled on one wall. See, the audience already knows who Dr. Doom is, so instead of teasing Dr. Doom in the credits, we instead establish the mystery of “Where is Dr. Doom?” to keep everyone excited for more. If you want a joke at the very end of the credits, maybe bring back the John Krazynski version of Reed from Multiverse of Madness (he survived somehow) and have him comment on this new FF. Or just tease something from whatever Marvel movie immediately follows this one.
- Part 2 sequel: The Puppet Master is the villain. Romance between Ben and Alicia. Puppet Master’s automatons attack Reed and Sue’s wedding. Puppet Master has the same unseen benefactor as the Mole Man…
- Part 3 sequel: …It’s Dr. Doom! Doom makes his presence known, conquering Latveria and making a play at conquering the Earth. It’s all about him proving he’s greater than Reed, however. The final fight is based on the Reed/Doom fight from issue #200.
- Human Torch spinoff movie: Bring back Namor from Wakanda Forever. Johnny could also romance Namorita, who was briefly seen in Wakanda Forever. Then Attuma goes rogue, so Johnny, Namorita and Namor must work together to stop him. It’s a modernized take on the 1930s Human Torch vs. Namor classics.
Keep in mind that these are just suggestions, and if I were to go through all the work of turning this into an actual screenplay, it’d need a lot more work. And yes, the superheroes-on-an-island-setting thing evokes The Incredibles, but The Incredibles heavily evokes Fantastic Four, so all’s fair. Whatever the MCU Fantastic Four movie is, I hope a lot of thought and care goes into who the characters are at heart, because that’s what didn’t happen in 2005.
Next: Escape the base!
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