Probably (no, definitely) among the biggest reveals from the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night was the announcement that the Fantastic Four – Marvel’s “first family” – will finally make their debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in the near future. Whether this is to be the final installment of Phase 4, or the first film of Phase 5 is hard to tell, because the lines between phases are starting to blur now that COVID-19 has messed up the entire release date calendar. Marvel President Kevin Feige offered no details: which makes me wonder if, for the time being, we might not hear as much about separate “phases”, just to give Marvel a little more freedom as they maneuver around the pandemic.
A first logo for the film was revealed: a sharp, angular four in electric blue. And Feige also announced that his Fantastic Four will be directed by Jon Watts, who has been very successful at bridging the gap between Marvel and Sony, directing their Spider-Man films. He is currently at work on Spider-Man 3, which Feige also confirmed on Thursday will feature Multiverse elements: it’s been widely reported (and become something of a joke online) that Spider-Man 3 will include virtually everybody – Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Jamie Foxx’s Electro, and probably Charlie Cox’s Daredevil. If Watts is showing onset that he’s capable of masterfully handling all these different characters and their individual storylines, he may be the perfect fit for Fantastic Four, which will almost certainly deal with the Multiverse in some way or another.
Watts isn’t, perhaps, the most exciting choice on paper: especially since many still feel that Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2, is the only director who’s shown any success with a similar concept – without even trying, Bird basically designed the blueprint for how a Fantastic Four film should feel. I understand why there would be dissatisfaction. But Watts’ Spider-Man films have been good (at least in my opinion: I know they have their extremely vocal haters), and some of the best scenes were those that dealt with the villain Mysterio, who supposedly came from the Multiverse until it turned out he was just a disgruntled Stark Industries employee. If Watts can do wonders with a fake Multiverse, imagine what he’ll do with the real deal.
That being said, a Fantastic Four film can’t be all Multiverse shenanigans and confusing time loops and paradoxes. At its core, it has to be the story of a superpowered family facing challenges and overcoming struggles together, or fans will be rightfully angry. The closest thing we’ve got to this in the MCU already is the dynamic between Ant-Man and his immediate and extended family: but where those films generally have low stakes and slightly comedic action, the Fantastic Four is big, and epic, and dramatic. Downright melodramatic, at times. It’s still unknown if the MCU’s Fantastic Four will introduce us to a fully established team, or set up a proper origin story. Fox has tried and failed at that twice, both times bungling it by trying to rush the team’s biggest villains to the forefront: I think a new origin story is necessary to show that Marvel cares deeply about these characters, and that they’re committed to getting them right before we even start thinking about things like Galactus, or Silver Surfer, or Doctor Doom. Luckily, the MCU is currently setting up Kang the Conqueror, who seems like the perfect first-film villain for the Fantastic Four, if you ask me. He’ll already have been introduced in Loki or Ant-Man 3 by that point, so the film won’t need to waste any time revealing his backstory to audiences.
As for what a proper origin story would entail, well…I’ve always felt that the Fantastic Four should be time-travelers from the 1960’s, and that’s a pretty popular theory, but they don’t necessarily have to be. In the comics, they obtain their individualized superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific space mission gone wrong: Reed Richards, the team’s leader, becomes a super-stretchy human rubberband (a similar powerset to that of Kamala Khan, whom we’ll see in Ms. Marvel prior to Richards’ own appearance); Sue Storm, who I hope is more than just “Reed’s girlfriend” this time around, is able to turn herself invisible and create force-shields; Johnny Storm, Sue’s hotheaded teenage brother, gains the ability to set himself on fire and fly; while Ben Grimm, Richards’ best friend, is permanently transformed into a massive, self-loathing rock-monster. In the comics, they were among the first superheroes not to wear disguises, preferring to use their newfound celebrity status as a way of bringing attention to scientific breakthroughs – something that is admittedly a cool idea, but not that fresh in the MCU anymore.
Thanks to Reed Richards’ obsession with time travel, quantum physics, and world-hopping, the Fantastic Four are intricately tied up with all the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe: particularly those who threaten the timeline, like Kang the Conqueror and Doctor Doom, or those who threaten to devour the world itself, like the cosmic being Galactus. But the fact that they have such epic enemies and high-stakes battles makes it all the more crucial that their first film in the MCU is smaller and more personal, with a strong focus on family.
So what do you think? How would you recommend Marvel proceed with this long-awaited adaptation? And who’s your favorite Fantastic Four character? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!