The FANTASTIC FOUR franchise was just one of the many properties to switch hands during the Disney-Fox merger. Since the failure that was the 2015 reboot, fans everywhere have posited that the only solution to save the Fantastic Four would be a return to Marvel. Now that Disney owns Marvel (and the rest of the world), and Disney and 21st Century Fox have come to a deal, that wish has become a reality.

The Fox and Disney Merger Deal: What We Know So Far

If I’m going to be honest, the quartet doesn’t have the greatest track record where the big screen is concerned. The 2005 and 2007 renditions starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis were mild box office successes, receiving mixed to negative reviews from critics.

The 2015 reboot took a decidedly darker turn, channeling director John Trank’s previous work in CHRONICLE. The film was a flop with critics, the box office, and Trank himself. The best parts of the Fantastic Four don’t feel welcome in their own movie.

Film Rights Are Weird

In the late ’80 and ’90s, Marvel Studios was going absolutely broke. In an effort to stave off bankruptcy, the company sold off the film rights for a majority of its characters. This was long before anyone dreamed of the massive money-making entity that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Due to financial issues, the company underwent extensive reorganization and eventual sale to Disney, but the rights were already sold.

The 1994 FANTASTIC FOUR prior to the Disney-Fox merger.
Really, someone should have told them no one was going to see this movie.

Constantin Film bought the Fantastic Four’s film rights in 1986. For a while, the rights remained unused. A film rights contract generally requires that the company makes a film every certain number of years. Otherwise, the rights return to the original owner. In 1994, Constantin produced but did not commercially release a movie titled THE FANTASTIC FOUR. The film is available only as a bootleg and is often referred to as an “ashcan copy,” made solely to retain the rights to the characters.

Constantin struck a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox in 2004, releasing FANTASTIC FOUR in 2005 and FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER in 2007. A third film and possible Silver Surfer solo movie were scrapped due to the less than satisfactory box office performance of the sequel.

Another desperate bid to keep the film rights resulted in the trainwreck that is the 2015 reboot titled, unsurprisingly, FANTASTIC FOUR. Constantin’s planned sequel was canceled after poor box office turnout. Now with the news of Disney and Fox’s merger, the rights to one of the world’s oldest superhero teams now firmly belong to Disney.

What Issues Did The FANTASTIC FOUR Movies Have?

Critics panned the FANTASTIC FOUR films for a few reasons. Personally, I was just a kid when the original two came out. It wasn’t until I did a recent rewatch that I realized the movies didn’t really live up to my childhood memories. So what went wrong?

1. They’re kind of… boring. 

The 2005 franchise hit every necessary story beat but didn’t really do anything interesting with them. The movies were hard to take seriously. Compared to the other superhero films that preceded FANTASTIC FOUR, such as X-MEN and Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN, the movie was relatively unremarkable.

Chris Evans got the best deal after this one.

2. Focusing too much on the original comic book origin. 

In the comics, exposure to cosmic rays during a space mission grants the team their powers. One of the hard parts about adapting comic book characters created in the sixties for a modern audience is how writers deal with the camp. These stories are funny and a little wacky — I mean, Johnny Storm has to yell “Flame on!” to activate his powers. How do you make that serious? Hint: You don’t. Just embrace it.

3. Victor Von Doom is their first villain.

After the obligatory learning how to use your powers scene, the Fantastic Four join together to defeat Victor Von Doom, their arch-nemesis. The downside to this is that Doctor Doom is one of the greatest Marvel villains in history. Come on, an origin movie that has a newly-superpowered team take on their (arguably) biggest adversary? It’s like having Doomsday appear in BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN. Oh, wait.

4. The family dynamic is off.

The Fantastic Four are considered to be Marvel’s First Family. They were created in response to DC’s new team, THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, as human characters that stumble into power and still make human mistakes, developing meaningful but flawed relationships. However, the film adaptations of this family don’t seem to focus too much on this integral aspect of the characters. Without the success of the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics as we know it wouldn’t exist. 

The 2015 Reboot… Yikes!

Josh Trank’s FANTASTIC FOUR appeared doomed from the get-go. Production issues and frequent script rewrites stalled progress. 20th Century Fox watched an early version of the film and disliked it enough to send it back for reshoots. These factors combined meant fans were not too optimistic about the newest incarnation of the super-powered quartet.

FANTASTIC FOUR (2015) earned a nine percent on Rotten Tomatoes, an eternally blue and depressing film. Rather than adapting the original comics, screenwriters chose the ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR run, created by Brian Michael Bendis. When Reed Richards’ research in teleporting organic material to another dimension called “the N-Zone” goes awry, the gang receive their powers. It’s a slightly more scientific approach based on quantum physics rather than weird cosmic clouds.

Totally not lame.

Where the 2005 film focused too much on camp, the 2015 reboot went too dark. Every scene is intense. Where characters normally have some fun discovering and testing their powers, the film indulges in a little body horror.

In addition to this, the United States military takes custody of the teenaged Fantastic Four and attempts to weaponize them. The film chooses to lightly interrogate the ethics of the military industrial complex before throwing the protagonists into the N-Zone for a (blink, and you’ll miss it) fight with Doctor Doom. These conflicting plot threads never truly find a resolution. As a result, the best parts of the Fantastic Four didn’t feel welcome in their own movie.

The Fantastic Four’s Greatest Enemy: The Internet?

Is Disney the Future for THE FANTASTIC FOUR?

The MCU could introduce the Fantastic Four as an already established team. Spider-Man swung into CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR in a similar manner. Michael Chiklis, who played the Thing in the 2005 film, expressed interest in returning to the character.

Now that the Fantastic Four once again belongs to Marvel and Disney, there are numerous paths for the franchise to take. Disney’s CEO already confirmed that the superfamily was going to join the MCU. But what direction is the company going to take the story?

The MCU’s films have been criticized for becoming rather formulaic, but this is exactly what has allowed the franchise to become a big screen juggernaut. It’s why people let ANT-MAN and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY happen. The MCU movie formula strikes just the right balance between seriousness and fun. I mean, how often can you say “Fantastic Four” before realizing it’s actually a pretty ridiculous name? Yeah, I thought so. Ultimately, the only option for fans is to wait and see what happens.

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4 Comments

  1. Jorge Gabriel Figueroa

    Jorge Gabriel Figueroa

    December 24, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Yes, yes it is. Nuff said

    Reply

  2. Manny

    December 23, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    god i hope so

    Reply

  3. Michael & Kirsten Qfwfq

    Michael & Kirsten Qfwfq

    December 23, 2017 at 1:03 am

    So far no, sadly

    Reply

  4. Warehouse 9

    Warehouse 9

    December 22, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    I doubt it…

    Reply

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