Fantastic Four Movie Pitch

fantastic four return 4 marvel cinematic universe movie pitch peggy carter 1970s dr doom peyton reed banner john krasinski

Okay, so. I’m writing the introduction to this before I’ve actually gotten around to seeing the new Fantastic Four movie yet, but it seems like it is in fact really, really bad. And that’s a shame, actually, because I’ve been defending it for months, on the basis that no-one had actually seen it yet. But people have now seen it, and it’s hard to argue with 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ll go and watch it soon, and add in my thoughts to the post then.

(Oh. I actually really, really enjoyed it. With a few reservations and all, but generally, I thought it was a lot better than it’s reputation suggests – not perfect by any means, but far from the abysmal movie people are suggesting. I actually wouldn’t reboot it, if given the option, but I’ve committed to this now.)

Anyway, I figured that it might be a good idea to do for Fantastic Four what I did for Spider-Man – a pitch for a reboot. We’ll assume, for a moment, that it’s going to end up in the MCU continuity, simply because that sort of mental gymnastics is a little more fun, but it could be easily done as a standalone.

On the Setting

Probably not something you’d expect to be immediately most important, but I figured it’d be worth putting this one first, because it has a fairly significant impact on the rest of the movie.

This particular Fantastic Four movie is going to be set in the middle of the Cold War. The lines are going to blur a little, since we’re obviously departing from established history a little (what with the Superheroes and all), but we’re looking at a slightly fictionalised 60s/70s, where we’ve still got that period of detente, but things are a little more tense than they were in reality – one particular Eastern European nation, by the name of Latveria, is stirring up trouble…

(The benefit of going back to the 70s is twofold; it provides a distinct visual style, which sets this film apart from others of its ilk, and it’s also going to help me with Dr. Doom, as you’ll see in a minute…)

On the Origins

Here, admittedly, I’m running into trouble. I’m caught between a couple of things – on the one hand, I want to skip the origins. An opening credits that’s a sort of mash up between that of Spider-Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk, where we see news articles and secret files on both the Fantastic Four and Latveria’s place in the Cold War, seems essentially perfect. Everyone knows the origin story, and they don’t particularly seem to like new angles on it, so it might well be best to just sort of get it over and done with. As much as I’d like to open the movie with scenes of Reed and Ben, or explore immediate reactions to their accident, it’s been done recently, and to fairly poor reaction.

So, actually, yeah, we’re going to go with the title credits. We’ll see the four astronaut/scientists doing their bit in the Space Race, getting hit by cosmic rays, and Latveria making a nuisance of itself all relayed through a series of clever news broadcasts and clippings and etc. The movie can continue on after that with a quick action sequence – Johnny Storm taking out a nuclear missile or something – before we come up with our inciting incident.

Now… slight departure from the comics, here, but stay with me on this. I’m going to attach the Fantastic Four to a government agency, and essentially make them spy type people. If it’s the MCU, it’d be SHIELD, with a cameo from Peggy Carter; if it’s still Fox, then just some generic agency.

On the Plot

What, exactly, does SHIELD want with the Fantastic Four on this occasion? Well, they’ve been hearing rumours and rumblings about the dictator of Latveria, one Dr Victor von Domashev, having unlocked a secret power. The suggestion is that this is some form of magic – Reed is skeptical, but the others shoot this down with relative ease. (”Magic isn’t real, that’s impossible.” “Well, so are we.” “Point taken.”) Again, if it’s the MCU, you can tie in Peggy’s concerns with Red Skull and the Tesseract and the like, but that’s not essential.

The bulk of the movie, then, is a bit of an espionage thriller with the Fantastic Four. You’d spend a lot of time in Latveria, meeting the oppressed populace, getting to know what things are like. Eventually, there would be a confrontation with Doom at the end of the movie. The Fantastic Four can stop his specific plan on that particular day, but due to the complexities of diplomatic immmunity, and the fact that he’s leader of an entire country, means they can’t exactly depose him entirely.

Leaving us with one very angry dictator, bearing a grudge against the Fantastic Four, who’s entirely ready to come back and fight again another day…

On the Characters

Reed Richards: We’ve already established that Reed is going to be openly skeptical of magic (which will provide us with a nice running gag), but I’m actually going to take that a step further and say that part of the reason he’s here is because he wants to believe in magic, because he wants to try and use it to help cure his friends. He’s exhausted all the possibilities open to him with conventional science as he knows it, but he’s determined to do something for his friends, so this is what he’s looking into now. That’s what motivating him throughout: pursuit of a cure.

Ben Grimm: So, something that presents itself to me as being an interesting possibility to explore is the fact that Ben is Jewish. (He also turns into what is essentially a literal Golem, but I don’t know a huge amount about Golems, so I’ll avoid any sweeping statements there.) Anyway, so. Let’s say, then, that either his parents or an uncle and aunt were killed in the Holocaust; Grimm has got a fairly personal reason to want to stop dangerous dictators in their tracks. This is a fairly basic starting point, admittedly, and you’d have to be sure to keep this subtle rather than heavy handed, but it does appear to fit in with the film, and it provides a little more diversity to the movie, which is always nice.

Sue Storm: I think with Sue… okay, right. Here’s the basic arc I’ve got in mind: This is all taking place in the first year of their accident, we’ll say, so even though they’ve got their powers and etc, they aren’t necessarily settled as a group. Sue in particular in going to have reservations – she’ll go to Latveria and do this because Peggy asked, but it’s not exactly something she’d have chosen to do. Her experience in Latveria is going to change her mind, basically – when she interacts with the people, she sees the good they’re able to do, and realises that their little group is in fact a positive thing. She of all them becomes determined to stop Doom, because of the friends she makes amongst the Latverian people.

Johnny Storm: This probably wouldn’t necessarily be something he’s comfortable with, would it? He’s not really the type who’d be into skulking about in secrecy, and would probably prefer to take on Doom directly. For Johnny, there’s going to be tensions between his brash nature, and he necessities of the mission that they’re on. You’d maybe have an action set piece at some point in the middle wherein Johnny gets frustrated, tries to save someone rather than keeping a low profile, and almost brings the whole thing crashing down around them.

One thing that is important to emphasise (and you’ll do it by contrasting them against the other characters you see in the movie) is that these four people are very much a family. That’s their angle, the thing that should set them apart from other superheroes.

On Doctor Doom & Latveria

Okay, so, here’s the thing. I can’t take the name “Doctor Doom” seriously. Yes, as an alias, sure. But not as an actual literal name. Sorry.

So, what we’re going with is Doctor Victor von Domashev, nicknamed “Doctor Doom” by the oppressed populace of Latveria, who we’d learn a fair amount about. That’s actually how I’m planning on conveying the level of threat from Doom – we’re going to withhold showing him particularly, apart from occasional glimpses, and really build him up through the stories told by the people of Latveria. It might be nice to build a deliberate contrast between his public face (the learned man, the Doctor) and the impact of the harsh dictator that we actually see.

As the Four journey through Latveria (I guess looking for someone in particular? Some of the specifics aren’t quite there yet) they’re going to be spending time in houses and village communes and so on, and we’ll meet some Latverian families fairly intimately. Maybe at one point, Ben and Johnny can get swept up in the resistance movement, leading Reed and Sue to have to try and find them. Essentially, they’re going to be doing something not dissimilar to Martha Jones in Last of the Time Lords. Maybe you can steal the sea shanty bit from Turn Left with the Cossolantos, too – we can get to really know and like these people, before brutally murdering them! (Apologies if you don’t understand the Doctor Who references. Look them up!)

On the powers

The magic of Doom is, admittedly, something I’m not entirely certain of how to manage. I’d lean towards leaving it unexplained – make it a deliberate mystery, and that can provide a bit of tension throughout.

With the rest of the Four you can leave it as is, really, albeit perhaps with a few changes. It might, for example, provide a nice set of scenes if Sue is able to make people/things invisible too through contact with her – that doesn’t feel like too much of stretch, given that her clothes usually turn invisible too – and I’d like it if Reed’s powers were made a little weirder and more nonspecific. He’s not just stretchy, he’s malleable. So he can do things like becoming a parachute (a la The Incredibles), or he can get out of a cell by flattening himself and sliding under the door, or he can stretch his features to morph his face a little.

Also! I happened to read an old ‘leaked plot outline’ from the recent Fantastic Four movie recently- the outline was incorrect, but it did have an interesting idea about Johnny Storm’s heat powers. He’d change colour to signify how hot he was. I actually think that’s a pretty cool idea – he wouldn’t be green or anything like that, but rather than just one shade of orange, you’d have him changing between red hot, or blue-y flame, or white hot, and so on and so forth. I think you could potentially build something quite interesting out of that.

On the Franchise

So, then. Where does this particular movie aim to go? Trilogies seem to be the thing people aim for, don’t they?

I’m not sure where I’d take the movie after this. Obviously, I’m leaving deliberate threads dangling to return to with Doom, given that they can’t depose him (yet?) and he’ll inevitably bear a grudge against the Four (and particularly Richaaaaards!).

Part of me feels like Galactus and suchlike don’t quite fit the tone of this, if we’re going for 70s set in the MCU. It’s the sort of thing that you’d expect o have had a big impact on the state of the world, but obviously didn’t, given that we’ve seen the pre-existing current day set movies that obviously haven’t been through a visit from Galactus. Something that could be interesting, though, is if by Phase 5 or whatever, Marvel is more confident with skipping back and forth through their timeline, you’d have the Silver Surfer confront the Four, which is set up for a subsequent Avengers movie featuring Galactus? That has legs as an idea, I think.

If they do get to a third movie (which would feature the return of Doom), though, I think the important thing is for Reed to be able to cure his friends, as a culmination of their arc. Or, at the very least, to give Ben the ability to turn his power on and off. (”Rock on!”) That’s rather important to me – gaining those powers is such a massive upheaval to their lives, and Reed wouldn’t ever give up searching for a cure, even if the others had accepted their powers.

You know, I think this is a rather strong basis for a film franchise. Any thoughts?

Note from 2018: This was written from a probably fairly shallow understanding of the characters, and I don’t know exactly how much I agree with all this now anyway.

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Film Review | Fantastic Four (2015)

fantastic four movie review 2015 fant4stic josh trank michael m jordan miles teller jamie bell kate mara fox marvel mcu

Hmm.

Okay. So. At the minute, this movie is on something like 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. (Wait, no, I just checked. Actually, it’s 8%.) The general consensus that the movie is “Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great.”

And, so, I thought that was a shame. Because I’ve been defending the movie for ages – whenever someone would complain about the trailer, I’d say that I actually thought it looked quite good (I did) and that it was probably too early to make any pre-judgments (it was). But that obviously became increasingly more difficult to maintain, especially as all the news of the troubled production came out. By the time Miles Teller was making excuses for the movies poor reviews, I’d essentially given up on it.

Thus I decided to go and watch it and basically just mock it. Mean spirited, I guess. But it’s kinda fun to sit and make jokes while watching bad movies – that’s why things like Sharknado exist. I was all set for a pretty awful movie, essentially.

So imagine my surprise when I actually really enjoyed it.

And I do mean I really, really enjoyed it. I thought it was excellent. The body horror angle was something that’s not really been explored before in the recent glut of Superhero movies (at least, not that I can think of) and I found that really interesting – beyond Ben Grimm’s general sort of “gosh it sure does suck to be a rock”, I’d never really thought about how scary and different it would be for these four people. It was an aspect that I genuinely believed worked really well, and I think they did an alright job of giving each character different reactions to it.

Obviously, it was not perfect. It was muddled in places, and I think the resolution was a little rushed. They had quite a few good character moments, I think, but they definitely needed quite a few more – I don’t think Reed and Ben ever really finished their arc, for example, and Sue definitely could have had her role increased. There just needed to be a little bit more to it – it’d have been nice to fill that “one year later” gap, rather than skipping right over it. (Also! At the beginning, when we see them as kids, Ben should have said “I want to be the second man to travel to a different dimension”, and that’s the beginning of their friendship.) You could tell that the actual production had been rushed; I think maybe the script needed another pass (if you never brought anything back, Sue, how did you have that extra dimensional dust?) and I do wonder how the film worked before the final last minute excisions were made.

Certainly, the “One Year Later” cut should have been reworked – given that the body horror aspect is reliant on their reactions to the changes they went through, I think it’s self evident that we needed to see more of their reactions to their powers. The initial fear was was well done, and I didn’t even have that much problem with the way they were shown to feel after the time jump, but I think the movie would have been a lot stronger had we seen the transition from point A to point B.

Overall, though, I think it’d give it, say, a 7/10, maybe? Possibly I could be lead to give it a higher mark, actually. Really, I thought it was that good…

…to the point that I’m actually questioning all the other reviews. Because I can understand hardcore fans of the comics taking issue with the movie – it is a very different angle from which to interpret the source material, and I know that a lot of comic fans wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing. Equally though, a lot of them would, simply because it’s new and different and often there are merits to that sort of thing. More to the point, I’m surprised that so many casual movie goers and critics are reacting against this – in theory, it’s tailored quite well to them, given that it’s got some key differences to the majority of other superhero movies. It seems directly tailored to combat that idea of super hero movie fatigue that everyone drags out every so often.

Presumably for a lot of people this is their Man of Steel – a movie I totally and utterly hated, because I felt like it was just… well, bad. It didn’t feel like a Superman movie to me. It came across as poorly written and – well, actually, I’d say it matches up to this fairly well: “Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great.” Except, y’know, Man of Steel rather than Fantastic Four.

But I felt like this worked. I mean, my Fantastic Four knowledge is about the same as my Superman knowledge, and I’m probably better acquainted with those characters than I am with Superman. Broadly I felt like they were better served by this film than Superman was by Man of Steel.

Man of Steel, though, was controversial at least. There are enough people on either side of the debate that it’s still going on. But with Fantastic Four, there isn’t even a debate.

All of which is leading me to think that maybe my personal taste is a weird and idiosyncratic thing. (After all, Cars 2 is the only movie I’ve ever enjoyed enough to watch in the cinema twice.)

So, to sum up. Fantastic Four had a lot of genuinely very interesting ideas in play, and I think it needs to get a lot more credit for those ideas than it has so far. It was not perfect, and I think had it had a longer development time, then it would likely have come out as an overall stronger movie. As it is, though, I enjoyed it a lot, and it deserves a far better reputation than it has.

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