I’ve been thinking a lot about the Fantastic Four recently.
Last week, Marvel announced that the First Family of superhero comics would be returning to print, after having taken an extended leave of absence that most fans (and many comic creators themselves) believe has been a childish attempt to torpedo the brand so that Fox can’t make as much money from their movies.
This feels a little pointless, as Fox has proven quite capable of torpedoing the Fantastic Four all on their own.
With Disney set to acquire Fox, Marvel will soon have control of these characters again, and plans are likely already underway to incorporate Sue, Reed, Johnny, and Ben into the burgeoning Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s likely occurred to Marvel that the Fantastic Four are a far better fit for the MCU than the X-Men at present, especially considering that we haven’t yet had a truly phenomenal “FF” movie.
(That said, I will defend the first two “Fantastic Four” films until my dying breath. Michael Chiklis rocked that latex rubber Thing suit!)
But what kind of movie should he Fantastic Four get? We’ve had two generic superhero movies with Doctor Doom as essentially a Power Rangers villain, and we’ve had one dark, gritty horror movie that takes a big, steaming dump on the franchise as a whole. What more is there to try?
This challenge is especially difficult as the Fantastic Four’s big selling point is the fact that they’re superheroes that are also a family, which is basically also the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as The Incredibles. It’ll be hard for any new movie about the Richards family to actually stand out.
Brace yourself, because I’ve solved this conundrum.
First things first: the villain. This hypothetical movie ought to have a bad guy that reflects the unique theme and direction of the film, as well as the challenges that the characters are facing.
The first MCU “Fantastic Four” movie shouldn’t feature Doctor Doom at all. Let’s leave that character on the sideline for some later date.
No, instead, the villain should be Mole Man.
Wait, not that Moleman. The other Mole Man.
In the very first issue of the “Fantastic Four” comics, the villain is the ultimately fairly pathetic Mole Man. Spurned by society, Mole Man travelled deep underground, where he created a race of giant mutant monsters, which he unleashes on an unsuspecting world as revenge for the way he was treated on the surface.
The image of the Fantastic Four fighting one of these monsters is probably the most iconic image of the characters in their long history. It also happens to be the picture from the cover of the first comic.
This is what we haven’t seen from a “Fantastic Four” movie, nor from the MCU as a whole. We can have a big, bombastic monster movie, akin to “Godzilla” or “King Kong”, in which a group of superheroes fight a giant, city-destroying mutant monster.
Mole Man perfectly reflects the trials that the Fantastic Four go through as they come to terms with their powers – particularly Ben Grimm, the Ever Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing, who has to accept that he’ll no longer be able to blend into a crowd following his transformation.
There’s a lot of room for good pathos here, as two characters with similar tragic backstories appreciate each other’s viewpoints, but ultimately come to blows as Ben chooses to forgive humanity for fearing him.
What’s more, these big mutant monsters will help to keep all members of the Fantastic Four busy during a fight. Previous movies featuring these characters have involved most of the team awkwardly standing around while Johnny Storm does all the cool stuff.
Casting for this movie will be difficult, but then, nobody could possibly be as poorly suited to the franchise as Miles Teller.
The only character that I personally have a casting choice for is Mole Man.
Who should play this tiny, grumpy, angry genius scientist?
There’s no contest – this role has Danny DeVito written all over it.