This weekend has been bittersweet. I am one of the many people who have been complaining for months about the approach 20th Century Fox was taking with their reboot of The Fantastic Four. Feel free to blame me for part of this flop, if it makes you feel better. I would love to take the credit, but with the way Josh Trank is even trying to distance himself from this film, I think we can all agree Fox is the biggest villain in all of this.
Part of me is happy The Fantastic Four didn’t win the box office this weekend, and part of me is utterly disappointed. I would like Marvel Studios to get the rights back, but as a fan of the comics, I really do want them to make a successful movie for this franchise, regardless of who makes it. I want this because Dr. Doom is my all time favorite villain in the Marvel Universe. If I could at least get a good big screen adaptation of Doom, it would go a long way in making me willing to fork out the money on an opening weekend.
Mostly though, I want Marvel to get the rights back, because there are two things that I want to see brought to the big screen. One, a Secret Wars adaptation, which can’t be done without a good adaptation of Dr. Doom (Or at least SHOULDN’T be done. Doom took on The Beyonder in the original series, and in the current one he is God, after all. ). Two, I want an onscreen fight between The Hulk and The Thing.
So here we are 21 years after the Roger Corman attempt, that Marvel suppressed, and somehow that is STILL the best attempt at an onscreen adaptation of this franchise (At least as far as staying true to the original comics, and giving us Dr. Doom that actually is half way decent.). How did this happen? Corman made that movie with a paltry 1.4 million dollars, and Fox still couldn’t do a better job with budgets over 100 million on THREE attempts? This just adds to their growing bad reputation for Marvel adaptations. It also re-emphasizes the point being made all over the internet, that they are even getting shown up by cosplayers and their truly tiny budgets, with the Ivan Ooze…errrr… I mean Apocalypse costume for the new X-Men movie? At some point, you need to take a step back and realize that maybe you messed up here, Fox.
As one of the many complainers online, the response I got the most was that I was passing judgement before seeing the movie. I can’t disagree with this, but my judgement seems to have been spot on, with all the bad reviews this movie is now getting. I actually wanted the film to succeed, believe it or not, when I first heard about it. Then I heard about what they were doing to Doom (A computer hacker? Ugh, another attempt that ignores his lineage, as the son of a Witch, and his birthplace of Latveria), and I was disappointed but thought, “Maybe I can still see this on opening week”. Then they cast all these young actors that didn’t seem to fit with my image of what I expect for The Fantastic Four, and it became, “Damn, OK maybe I can still at least watch it, just not on opening week”. Then I saw the first trailer, and saw they were doing some sort of dimension hopping to get there powers, instead of the traditional cosmic rays in space story, and it became “Well I can still watch this at the dollar theaters or on DVD maybe.” The last straw though was when I started to see the reviews come out, earlier this week. When I heard they had pushed Sue Storm to the side, and that she doesn’t even make the dimension hopping trip where they get their powers, but she still somehow gets her powers, that was the last straw. I don’t think I would even be willing to watch this movie, even if someone paid me now.
Sue Storm is the glue that holds that team together, and arguably one of the strongest superheroes in the entire Marvel Universe. To do that to her is just wrong, and open ups the door for all the social justice warriors on the internet to call you out as sexists. What were you even thinking, Fox? Are you that out of touch with the current times we live in? You cast a black Johnny Storm, but then turn around and do this? It just makes no sense at all.
In this light, not only does the Roger Corman attempt shine brighter, but it also makes me appreciate some of the things that the Tim Story version, in 2005, did get right. It was cast fairly well. Micheal Chiklis, Chris Evans & Ioan Gruffudd all nailed their respective roles, and Jessica Alba did OK (Just not a big fan of her acting abilities. She is mediocre at best, in my opinion), for what was actually a pretty well written Sue Storm.
You could also really tell that Chiklis was a big fan of the comics, with the good job he did with that role, I just wish he wouldn’t have insisted on wearing that stupid rubber suit. The movies biggest sin though, in my opinion, was what it did to Dr. Doom. There was little explanation about his transformation being so different from everyone else, which was a missed opportunity for character building and showing how his tremendous ego is sometimes his greatest fault. Tying his transformation to the cosmic ray blast, rather than a failed experiment that Reed Richards tried to help him with (Like we saw in the comics) also misses the opportunity to set up that dynamic between those two great minds. Lastly, I just found Julian McMahon’s performance to be absolutely awful. He just never seemed to be able to capture the over the top nature of Doom and his enormous ego. Especially in the climactic battle scene, he delivers his lines like he is practically sedated.
When we can look back on these other failed attempts, and see more good in them than we originally saw, it’s not a good sign. 20th Century Fox has a potential gold mine on their hands with these movie rights, but their reverse-Midas touch is really shooting themselves in the foot, at this point. The latest rumor is that the Deadpool sequel is already being moved up to take the slot that was meant for the Fantastic Four sequel. Another bad sign, when an unreleased movie is seen as a better option already. They better hope that one doesn’t flop also, or fans are going to stop even giving them a shot anymore.
Fox, really needs to take a good look at themselves, and at Marvel Studios. One of the biggest reasons that Marvel has been having so much success is because they have chosen writers and directors that truly love the source material, and have for the most part gotten out of their way, so they can shine on their own. They may not be able to strike gold, like Marvel did with guys like Joss Whedon & James Gunn, but they can definitely do better. After all, no place to go but up, with as low as they have sunk in recent years.