This weekend Josh Trank’s dark and gritty reimagining of Fantastic Four flopped spectacularly, and that’s a good thing. The $120 million version of Fantastic Four that is “grounded in reality” became one of the biggest comic book bombs of all time by barely managing to pull in $26 million and coming in second place in the weekend box office.
The first thing that filmmakers should learn from this is that you need to respect the source material. Sure, it may be cool to pitch a gritty reimagining to a studio to get you that director’s gig, but what’s the use when it goes so far from being recognizable that it’s Fantastic Four in name only? People don’t like Fantastic Four because of the character’s powers, as that seems to be the only thing Trank’s movie retained. They like Fantastic Four because it really is about a family that just happens to have superpowers. The Fantastic Four is the original “The Incredibles”, and that’s what has made them a cornerstone of Marvel Comics for more than fifty years.
Tonally, Fantastic Four is much more “Lost in Space” than the Cronenberg that Trank desperately wanted to emulate with his cinematic disaster. The best Fantastic Four stories are always about some exploration or other event where the family comes together and Reed stops at nothing to help his family. Because no matter how detached Reed may seem, he’ll always be there to save the day for the family. This became even more of a focus of Fantastic Four when Reed and Sue’s kids became starring characters. I’d suggest reading Hickman and Fraction’s recent runs on the book, both of which are available digitally in collected editions.
Another good reason for the movie bombing is that hopefully Marvel will welcome the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” back into the Marvel comic universe. They cancelled the book leading up to the release of Trank’s flop, and having no Fantastic Four leaves a gaping wound in the monthly releases of comics from Marvel. We need Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny, Frankin, Valeria, and the rest of the Future Foundation back in comics as soon as possible.
But of course everyone is talking about the possibility of Marvel regaining the film rights to their First Family. While Fox did say they won’t return the rights to Marvel, they really want to make an X-Men TV series, but they need Marvel’s approval to do so. The film rights to Fantastic Four could be a big bargaining chip, and Marvel has tried to use that before when they tried to get the F4 cosmic characters back from Fox when they also brought Daredevil home.
With the damage Fox has done to the franchise, many think that Marvel shouldn’t try another movie. And I actually agree. Do it as a TV series. The Future Foundation (with the kids, they make it great) would fit an hour-long series with a lighter more family-friendly tone than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. A Future Foundation show airing at 8:00pm before S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesday nights would be an excellent way to introduce the Fantastic Four to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and then they could naturally use the characters in some of the movies.
And with Marvel being able to use Spider-Man, that opens up even more possibilities. As most comic fans know, Spidey has been an adoptive member of the team for a long time and his friendship with Johnny would be awesome to see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So Fantastic Four’s epic flop may be a bad thing for Josh Trank and Fox, but it looks like it could be a very good thing for fans of the characters.