Why is it so hard to make a Fantastic Four movie? The first family of superheroes have had several films during the course of the superhero movie boom, and they've all ranged from a mediocre cheese-fest to a godawful mess. In fact, Marvel even cancelled the solo Fantastic Four run back in 2014 and the team haven't returned in anything but a team-up comic since. It's generally believed that modern audiences just won't chime with the Four, with people pointing to the team's old-fashioned family dynamic as the reason why. Of course, that hasn't stopped Fox (reportedly) making a last-ditch effort to reinvigorate a movie franchise so they don't lose the rights to #Marvel Studios. And here's how they could actually make this movie work.
Weird Science & Space Opera: Take It Back To The 1960s
Okay, yes, there is another way to make a good Fantastic Four movie — amp up the family dynamic, play it for comedy, aim it at children... basically, turn the team into The Incredibles. But there are two problems with this. Firstly, The Incredibles already exist, and they'll be making a comeback soon with the long-awaited sequel. And secondly, Fox aren't chasing a family-friendly demographic. They want those avocado-loving millennials, and they want them bad — hence the recent reimagining of the Fantastic Four as young adults. Which, obviously, went down about as well as a Washington Post think-piece on why millennials are too lazy to eat cereal.
So where do we take the Four from here? What can we possibly do that cements this team as part of our modern, superhero suffused world? The answer, dear nerds, is nothing — we should not be taking the Fantastic Four forward, but backwards, to a shiny and chrome era when everything was possible, phones were still tethered to a wall, men walked on the moon, and women wore less. I am speaking, of course, of the 1960s.
Here's the pitch: Go full retro '60s scifi. I'm talking heavily stylized, real nostalgia factor stuff. Think Lost In Space meets The Outer Limits meets silver age comics, as a team of scientists are sent on one of Earth's first missions to space, only to get sucked into the kind of weird science that saturated the era's fiction — with modern VFX to make it pop. Beehive hairdos, miniskirts, and technicolor togs are a must. Oh, and a purple-suited, planet-eating Galactacus wouldn't go amiss as the main antagonist.
Is this classic-style Fantastic Four movie set in the 1960s, or a '60s vision of the future? Perhaps both would be the solution. Setting it in the past would be an interesting way to examine the enduring appeal of superheroes, and period-piece action flicks are always fun, just look at the success of Wonder Woman. But by catapulting the team into the future — thanks to your classic, technobabble-explained space anomaly — the movie could also explore how we used to conceptualize humanity's destiny, giving the team a Stranger In A Strange Land story in the process.
The family dynamic definitely shouldn't be lost either, and neither should a sense of fun. Being stranded in space and time is an interesting pressure to put on a family, allowing the team to bond as much as it breaks them. Obviously, the fun factor needs to be a major part of the film, but with a Twilight Zone-esque thriller edge.
Admittedly, this is a wild idea, and it would be a challenge to pull off. But ever since Guardians Of The Galaxy shot the silver screen's superhero genre into space, studios have been tripping over themselves to replicate the offbeat, unexpected hit. This out-of-the-box thinking is exactly what the Fantastic Four franchise needs, and right now it's the studio's last resort. Trying to emulate The Avengers is dated and tired, de-aging the team and trying to make the story gritty lost the point entirely. Fox have one last chance at doing the Fantastic Four justice, and going back to the team's roots is the only way of doing that.
Or they could copy The Incredibles. You never know, it might work.