Ever since Iron Man blew up the silver screen in 2008, the #MarvelCinematicUniverse has been dominating the blockbuster scene. The powerhouse franchise from #Disney and #MarvelStudios has since branched out into television shows set within the same cinematic universe as their films. While the likes of Captain America, Thor, the Guardians Of The Galaxy and the aforementioned Iron Man are dominating theaters, street-level heroes like Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and the forthcoming Iron Fist are killing it on Netflix.
Meanwhile, on the Disney-owned ABC network, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been successfully coasting along for four seasons, with a fifth one likely on the way. While not the most loved version of the MCU, Agent Phil Coulson and his agents have been holding their own and the series has been able to introduce a lot of characters that weren't necessarily able to carry their own film franchises, like Deathlok and the recently introduced (this season) GhostRider.
Upcoming Marvel Projects
Soon, we'll be seeing an innovative new show joining the ABC lineup in the form of Marvels #Inhumans TV series. The super-powered royal family was supposed to be featured in their own movie as a pet project of Marvel President Ike Perlmutter. However, plans changed after a deal was struck with Sony that saw the world's favorite web-slinger being introduced into the theatrical world of Marvel with #SpiderManHomecoming added to the schedule. After being pushed further down the production schedule, and following the split of Marvel's TV and film divisions, the Inhumans project was moved to the Perlmutter-run TV domain.
The project — now an eight episode mini series — promises to still hold some theatrical flare, as it is being produced with #IMAX technology. The first two episodes, in fact, will still be presented in a theatrical format before airing on television as they are being shown briefly on IMAX screens.
Yes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe — in both film and television — has become a major force to be reckoned with. Warner Bros. has been attempting to cash in on the success with their ill-planned #DCEU but, so far, has not been able to capture the same magic.
There's One Group Of Heroes Missing
However, no matter how great and immensely populated the #MCU is, one particular group of heroes has sadly remained absent. Due to some old contract deals, the #FantasticFour have been held (along with the X-Men) at the competing production company known as Twentieth Century Fox.
The problem with that — apart from not being allowed to play in the same sandbox as the rest of the Avengers-based superheroes — is that #Fox has now twice failed to bring Marvel's First Family to the screen in the glory they deserve.
While I enjoyed the first two films that featured Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis and (Captain America, himself) Chris Evans as the cosmic-powered foursome, it can't be said that they weren't without their flaws. While they hit the proper tonal mix of action, sci-fi and comedy, they were both lacking some story structure and the portrayal of fan favorite villain Doctor Doom (Julian McMahon) was fairly atrocious. He was just lacking something.
Then, more recently, we were given Josh Trank's darker, grittier, more progressive and "politically correct" reboot. Based loosely on Marvel's Ultimate Fantastic Four comic, the film failed in every possible way. The controversy over the ethnic casting of certain characters had become the least of the film's problems. A poorly structured story, lackluster direction and heavy studio involvement, resulting in third act re-shoots and — once again — a very poorly adapted Doctor Doom, lead to an epic box office failure. The likes of which have rarely been seen. Needless to say, Fantastic Four 2 was pulled from its 2018 release date and no plans have surfaced to resurrect the struggling franchise.
That being said...
What Is To Come Of The Fantastic Four?
While neither studio has confirmed, there are rumors that the rights to the Fantastic Four have secretly reverted to Marvel in exchange for the television rights to the X-Men. Legion has just premiered on FX and a new series set in the X-Men film universe is in development for Fox, with a pilot episode being directed by franchise mastermind Bryan Singer.
So, if there is any merit to the rumor, what does Marvel and Disney have planned? With untitled films AND television series on the production schedule, the possibilities are endless. However, as a fan and creative individual, I believe the best thing that Marvel and Disney could do is make Marvel's Fantastic Four the next hit television series on the ABC Network. And here's why...
1. TV Is The Best Medium For Family Drama
There is a lot you can do with story and drama in film. Family drama, however, is a beast unto itself and that's harder to get across in two hours of film (or less). We all know that the family aspect is the very root of what makes the Fantastic Four the relatable franchise that it is. Both franchises did the best they could (the first two films more than the last one), but the medium just couldn't capture that fire. Family drama is something that evolves and unfolds over the course of years and it takes multiple hours of television spanning multiple seasons to truly capture that.
ABC actually even tried this once with the obviously Fantastic Four-inspired series #NoOrdinaryFamily (pictured above, and ironically starring Michael Chiklis). While that series failed to find an audience and was cancelled, it should not be taken as a negative mark to the idea. What No Ordinary Family lacked, more than anything, was the brand recognition of the Marvel franchise that it tried to copy.
2. Film Fatigue
Let's be honest: No matter how much fans have been wanting the rights to the Fantastic Four to revert to Marvel, I don't think anyone wants to sit through yet another theatrical reboot that tells the same story for the third time. We're already doing that with Spider-Man, so we really don't need that happening with a second franchise when we have another, more appropriate, option to consider. So, with two failed film franchises on the shelf (three if you include the infamous Roger Corman film), it's time for Marvel and Disney — should the rumors of the re-acquisition be true — to consider adapting the property for network television.
3. A Grander Story Format
Movies are fantastic. The budgets are huge, the action is spectacular and for roughly two hours you are pretty thoroughly entertained. However, there's so much more that can be done with 6–13 hours of television that just can't be captured in a couple hours of film. Look at how amazing Daredevil and the other Netflix shows have been. Brilliantly fleshed-out characters, stories that you get fully immersed in and action (albeit less visual and stylized) that rivals that of their film counterparts.
I'm not saying that Fantastic Four needs to be a full 22-episode season. The budget of such a series might sacrifice the quality of the special effects needed for the team's fantastic abilities. Also, stories can get convoluted and lost within themselves when they try to stretch too thin. However, an "Event Series" that runs 8–10 episodes (like the forthcoming Inhumans) can condense the story enough to be engaging but not fatiguing. All it would need to do is come back in that format each year and the reduced episode count would allow for better visuals in the budget.
4. Crossovers! Crossovers Galore!
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is built on crossovers and guest appearances. Ever since The Avengers graced the screen in 2012, we haven't really been able to have a solo film that didn't include at least a guest cameo by one of the other teamsters. A Fantastic Four series would be no different. Sure, it would try to stand on its own for at least the first season but any subsequent follow up (being on the ABC Network) would have to include an outing with the Inhumans. Also, we have the rumor going around of a Namor series going into production for ABC. Marvel's own aquatic prince, like the Inhumans, has his own rich history with the Fantastic Four. So, if that series is really set to happen, then the seduction of Sue Storm would have to take place.
It definitely appears, to me at least, to be the most viable option. Like I said, an 8–10 episode Event Series shot with IMAX technology (and possibly even premiering on IMAX screens like Inhumans is set to do) would make for a great reintroduction to Marvel's First Family and a satisfying one for the ravenous fans that have been waiting for this to happen. With Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Ant-Man franchises all shaping the landscape of the MCU beyond #InfinityWar, we need something huge to help anchor the television side of things and Fantastic Four is the franchise that can do that. Let's make this one happen, Marvel!
Would you love to see the Fantastic Four on television?