Movies & TV / Columns

What’s Next for the Fantastic Four?

August 10, 2015 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

It was a long, hard ride and the movie we all feared was being made, WAS made, and it stumbled into theaters with scathing reviews and controversy. Fox had high hopes for the Fantastic Four reboot, quietly predicting another X-Men level franchise but that was dashed with FF’s opening weekend take of $26.2 million. When you have a production cost of $120 million and add in millions more in marketing costs, the Fantastic Four has become a fantastic dud.

Fox thought it found the right recipe for success by casting a couple of “next big thing” actors like Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller and giving Chronicle’s Josh Trank the director’s chair but bad buzz plagued this production from the time it was announced. “This turned into a nightmare for Fox,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “Everything that could go wrong went wrong and the whole thing fell apart.”

The movie was projected early on to bring in somewhere in the $40 million-plus range for its debut, which was still much lower than 2005’s Fantastic Four’s $56 million and the sequel’s, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, $58 million. The one silver lining, it did, barely, better than Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance’s $22.1 back in 2012.

For their part, Fox isn’t giving up. In the press, that is. Some Fox exec’s have said the studio would be engaged in a rigorous postmortem about the film’s failure and the characters might be supporting players in other future comic book movies. “We have a lot to look forward to in our comicbook character universe,” said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson. “We may find different ways to feature these characters in the future, but it’s early and we’ll have to see what form that takes.”

As to be expected, Fox is playing major PR repair. What’s going on behind closed doors is much, much different and we can only imagine what’s going to happen on Monday morning. It’s not going to be pretty.

So what SHOULD happen?

Fox is faced with several options, some more realistic than others.

Before the Fantastic Four came out, Fox felt confident enough to greenlight a sequel for July 14th, 2017. We can only speculate but a sequel is out of the question at this point. On the books, there is no logical explanation for the sequel to be made but stranger things have happened. An X-Men/Fantastic Four team-up movie is another matter, although highly unlikely. Some could argue that the X-Men could give the “rub” to the battered FF franchise but just as many could argue that the mutants could be pulled down, especially if the storyline feels forced and the Fantastic Four come off poorly. But that leads to what Aronson hinted at above.

Supporting Characters
Besides the X-Men, Fox has the hugely popular Deadpool movie along with Gambit, Wolverine, and a couple mystery projects. Could the Fantastic Four fit in with that crowd? Will Thing tussle with Deadpool in his sequel? How about the Human Torch showing up to assist Wolverine? Possible. But what does that do for the Fantastic Four in the long term? Not much. Fox has said they want to move towards a more shared universe but, realistically, no one is crying for the First Family of Marvel to be included.

Back to Marvel
It’s been over decades and Fox has shown they can’t do a proper Fantastic Four. This weekend’s performance just might have humbled Fox to admit that it’s finally time for the studio to sell Fantastic Four back to Marvel Studios. Marvel has a proven track record with its property and we can assume have some sort of plan to introduce any of their properties like the X-Men, into their cinematic universe, if the opportunity arose. Sure, it would become a very crowded universe but one that was organized and planned out. Plus, selling the team back to Marvel will give Fox a cash payout and a potential cut of whatever Marvel might make off of the characters on film down the road.

Spider-Man Option
You might be wondering about the Spider-Man option. Recently, an agreement was reached over the Spider-Man that was mutually beneficial for Sony and Marvel.
Marvel pays nothing for any appearance Spider-Man makes in their cinematic universe and neither studio will receive a box office percentage for any film, featuring Spider-Man, that is produced by the other studio. What does Fox get out of the deal? Do a quick search and see the excitement level about Spidey appearing with the Avengers. That buzz is sure to crossover and help any future Spider-Man movies at Fox. Could the Fantastic Four benefit from the same type of deal? Absolutely. But it’s tricky. Marvel already has several resident “smart guys” (Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Scott Lang) so Reed Richards enters a crowded field. Plus, it’s harder to introduce a whole team within another team’s movie. Still, it would be fun to see Thing and the Hulk batter each other around on the big screen.

Forget About the FF Completely
Fox isn’t legally required to hand back the FF’s film rights for another decade, around 2024. If they’re looking to spite Marvel, they could simple sit on the franchise and do nothing. Childish, yes, but it’s no secret that studio heads aren’t known for being the brightest of the bunch. It comes down to money and this doesn’t do Fox much good.

I credit my man B. Ripley for this one. I’m sure television is outside the deal they made back in the 80s but a Fantastic Four TV show with a decent budget could do very well. It allows for the family angle to be played up and frame the stories as a weekly journey into mystery. Audiences get to know the team and they have enough villains to make it entertaining.

Reboot. Again.
With so many people being so passionate about the Fantastic Four, Fox has plenty of date to go over. First, even though audiences have bashed the movie, it’s shown that they care about the team. Why not wait a couple of years, announce a recasting and have a new Thing or Torch make a couple of cameos, and announce a reboot with a strong director and vision, based on feedback from this disaster?

Just please, please, please, please, get Doctor Doom right.

What do you think is going to happen with the Fantastic Four and what do you hope is going to happen?