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What Was So Awful About The Fantastic Four Movie And How I Would Set Things Right
Let Us Imagine Together!
I don't want this to sound like a "cop out," but it may not be possible to render a decent film adaptation of the original source material. However, if I had my druthers, here is what an honorable attempt by me and "my team" would look like.
The first thing to say is that when adapting something to film, the object is to make a film that can stand on its own. That means that it must appeal to moviegoers who have no familiarity, or frankly concern about the original source material.
Time management is crucial. That means certain things have to get done by certain time points within the running of the film. There will be some things that a, say, two hour movie will not have time to do.
But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself.
There are three things we must admit to ourselves before we proceed with a remake, which, this time, has a chance not to fizzle. Nothing positive can come of a proper film adaptation until we admit these three things.
1. Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) has a silly super power. It is passable in comics and cartoons (but still looks silly). But it is absolutely ridiculous, in a live action film, with real human beings playing the roles, for a real human being to be made to look as though he can stretch like a rubber band.
It is very difficult to take a freak like that seriously as a super hero in a live action film.
2. Ben Grimm (the so-called "Thing") has a grotesquely silly super power. Once again, it is passable --- I suppose --- in comics and cartoons (but still looks grotesquely silly). But it is absolutely ridiculous, in a live action film, to have a real human being play the role of a talking cement wall.
3. Sue Storm (the so-called "Invisible Girl/Woman") has a very passive, boring, and weak super power. Her dry and drily applied abilities tend to help drain dynamism away from the character, don't you think?
We must resign ourselves to something before we go any further. If we are to render a decent "Fantastic Four" live-action film, we will have to change things in ways that are guaranteed to lose one-half-to-three-quarters of the fans of the original source material.
Why such a drastic proposition?
Let's start with the latest film's problems.
A. The casting was all wrong. They were all too young, especially the Reed Richards and Sue Storm characters. The Fantastic Four have always had a family-type vibe, with Richards ("Mr. Fantastic") playing the big brother/father role, Sue Storm as the older sister/mother, Johnny ("The Human Torch") as the rebellious, hot-headed kid, and Ben Grimm (the so-called "Thing") serving the avuncular function.
I believe that the four principal players in the 2007 film, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is, by and large, the right cast. I'm talking about Ioan Gruffud as Reed Richards; Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm; Chris Evans as Johnny Storm --- even if he is doing Captain America these days.
As for Sue Storm, I, personally, would go with someone like Mira Sorvino, or someone like that.
B. The second problem with the 2015 film is the tone: too much Dark Knight and too little Avengers. In other words, the 2015 Fantastic Four film is, in my opinion, inappropriately dark and brooding, which is completely at odds with the tradition of the original source material.
C. The third major problem is that, in the 2015 film, the team spent way, way, way too much time being traumatized by their powers and not enough time fighting bad guys.
1. In a live-action film, you can't have a real person playing a monstrous, living, walking and talking, literal brick wall, without showing some angst, to say the least, on the part of the person who has been rendered such a monstrous freak.
Such things can be glossed over in comics and cartoons in a way that they cannot in a theoretically one-off live-action film.
2. In a live-action film, you can't have a real person playing a freakish, living, walking and talking, infinitely stretchable human rubber band, without showing some angst, to say the least, on the part of the person who has been rendered such a laughably silly freak.
3. I think we have to admit to ourselves that in a live-action film, the power of invisibility isn't very cinematic, is it? Is it?
4. By the way, the only character with a cool, cinematic super power is, of course, Johnny, The Human Torch.
What am I getting at? What does all of this mean?
What I am getting at is this: For a proper live-action film, the Fantastic Four story has to be completely rebooted!
What we would have to be conscious of is the necessity of getting the four (or five) their powers and fighting bad guys as quickly as possible. We want to do this while avoiding the traps that saw the Four drowning in self-pity for way too long in the latest film, to the detriment of things happening.
What is the Fantastic Four's "new" origin story to be?
Well, I would throw out all that stuff about Reed being some kind of scientist.
I would throw out all that stuff about the team taking some kind of trip into outer space, or a different dimension, or both, or neither --- whatever!
I would throw out all that stuff about the team suffering some kind of cosmic accident, which douses their bodies with "cosmic rays," or moon matter, or whatever, thus changing them and giving them "powers and abilities far beyond mortal men."
Blah! Blah! Blah!
All of that, my friends, is way, way, way too complicated. You see, I like to keep things simple.
I would set the story in the year 3000. Human beings are not only living on Earth, but the Moon, "terraformed" Mars, Jupiter, and Pluto (even if poor Pluto isn't an actual planet anymore!), and on some other asteroids.
But still we dream of galactic and even intergalactic expansion. To that end, The Vanguard Alliance (Humans and friendly, allied other species) are sending out colonial missions to the "farthest reaches of the galaxy and beyond..."
Anyway, those colonies must be protected from all manner of Hostile Forces. There are several layers to this protection. But the one that concerns us most, for our purposes are the... drum roll please... The Metastasized Human Ultra-Powered.
MHUs for short. Enter the five: Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm, and Victor Daniels (destined to become Dr. Doom).
All of them are, at this point, the very best of friends. I would not waste any time manufacturing some kind of conflict between Richards and Victor.
Here, I would take a page from Ryan Reynold's Deadpool. One thing we learned from Deadpool is that all seemingly ordinary human beings have fantastic powers lying dormant within our genetic codes. It seems there is a "mutant gene" that can be switched on with the right... shall we say, stimulus?
But seriously, it is a rather arduous process the patient must undergo.
So, after a battery of physical and psychological tests, our five are found to be suitable to undergo the mutant gene activation process. They undergo it and are granted super powers.
Two points to stress:
1. Our protagonists are expecting their powers. There is no surprise.
2. All of our protagonists are to continue to look perfectly human. Not one of them is to be rendered into a phenotypically monstrous or laughably silly freak.
The point is to completely remove the "body horror" element. That way there is no need for the movie to ever waste any time with the main characters feeling sorry for themselves. That means that we can make the four of the five superheroes fighting bad guys as quickly as possible.
Now then, when the group gets their powers they will need to be trained in how to control and use them.
However, because of their elite paramilitary background in interspecies infiltration, subspace reconnaissance, and interplanetary covert operations, their learning curve won't be very steep.
But once again, let me back up a step.
The opening scene of the film
Here is how I would begin to establish the characters, their relationships to each other, and how they interact. Here is how I would "sell it," in other words.
I would have an opening prologue montage showing the five as lifelong friends from way back in grade school. I would show them coming up on the same baseball, football, and basketball teams, with Reed Richards always in the leadership role.
I would show Sue Storm, also, as a standout athlete in tennis, lacrosse, softball, and basketball. She would never be the team leader, but always the star premier player on her teams.
I would show the five cheering for each other, challenging each other, working out together, supporting each other in victory and defeat, and celebrating together.
I would then show them attending the same university on the moon, still playing sports but also growing more serious about ROTC. I would also show the five attending a class on the history of first contact with alien species who both became our allies and enemies.
Then I would bring the team along, through the military, special forces, and so forth.
I would show them performing a successful interplanetary mission of some kind. Then I would put them in front of the doctor, who would perform the mutant gene activation procedure on them.
The procedure would happen and they would get their powers.
What kind of powers would they get? Well, in no particular order:
Johnny Storm (The Human Torch): His powers would remain the same. His powers, alone, of the Four, are already very cool and cinematic.
Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic): I would grant him superhuman speed, agility, coordination, and balance. He would be a speedster at the level of Quicksilver, with the agility of Spiderman.
Not only can this Mister Fantastic walk on his hands as easily as the most of us can walk on our two feet, he can walk on the five fingers of a single hand without much more difficulty.
He can get a superfast running start and then launch himself, vertically or horizontally, for many miles. Somehow, he is able to control the momentum of his descent, so that he can make the ground shake, rattle, and roll, and make a crater; or he can land as softly as a feather; or with a force of anything in between.
His bones and general physiology have been tremendously enhanced, also granting him, say, "Level 5" superhuman strength (out of 20 or so). Such fortification is necessary in order to allow Richards' body to withstand the rigors of traveling at such high speeds.
I would, perhaps, allow one tiny concession to previous renderings of Reed Richards, by making this character double jointed.
Susan Storm ("Wrecker"): I would take a page from the film, "Chronicle," here, and simply make her one of the most savagely powerful telekinetics in the galaxy, whose power includes the gift of flight.
Benjamin Grimm ("Grimm" or "Grimm Reaper"): The mutant gene activation procedure will have put a half a foot and a hundred and fifty pounds of muscle on the former 6'6" linebacker. However, at a constant 0.35 percent body fat ratio (which never changes under any circumstances; he cannot lose or gain weight), Grimm has a surprisingly svelte and finely sculpted looking appearance.
In this human form of his, Grimm has superhuman strength (say "Level 15 or 16") and invulnerability. His superhard skin can stop knives, bulllets, and lasers.
It is supposed that he could survive a direct hit from an Old Earth-style atomic missile, and make a full recovery with a week or two of bed rest.
We are not done with Ben Grimm.
Grimm has other abilities. He can turn into a ten-foot-tall winged werewolf, with claws that can shred metal; and his durability and strength level is jacked up to a Level 18.5-19.
In his ten-foot-tall winged werewolf form he has the ability to manipulate the dreams of other beings. He can communicate with others through their dreams and physical distance is no impediment.
His ability is, in a way, rather Professor Xavier-like. But of course, Grimm is not a telepath.
If Grimm is interacting with you in your dreams and he wants to know something from you, he has to find a way to trick or maneuver your Dream Self into revealing it to him.
He is still exploring the possible applications and limits this ability, which, again, is inaccessible in his phenotypically human form.
I think I know what you're thinking: Why is the plan getting weird like this?
a) I was inspired by Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing with the vampire that turns into the hideous winged, giant man-bat and the werewolf that Hugh Jackman (Van Helsing) eventually turns into.
And I thought to myself: "Let's mash them up and give the giant werewolf wings."
b) A little well-placed weird can be kind of cool.
c). The third reason is: Franklin.
Now then, those of you familiar with the original Fantastic Four source material, know that Reed Richards and Sue Storm married and had a son named Franklin . Being the child of two super powered parents, Franklin naturally has super powers of his own.
However, to call Franklin's godlike abilities mere "super powers" is to commit a gross understatement. Franklin has the ability to simply reshape reality itself into anything he wants and can imagine.
Anyway, the combination of a silly stretch-o man and an "invisible girl/woman" never "added up" for me, so that the likely progeny of such a match would be a child of Franklin's overwhelming power.
What I'm saying is, that for me, subjectively of course, a stretch-o man and an invisible girl is just not enough to give you Franklin.
Therefore, to my mind, the genetic "math" of combining the rebooted super powered Ben Grimm and Susan Storm makes more sense in producing a mutant of Franklin's power.
Does that make sense?
What of Dr. Doom?
What of Victor Daniels, he who is destined to become Dr. Doom?
Well, here I would take a page from a novel by Austin Grossman, one of my all-time favorites. I'm talking about Soon I Will Be Invincible.
I would have it that the mutant gene activation procedure endows our villain with the same powers enjoyed by "Doctor Impossible," the charismatic villain narrator/protagonist of Soon I Will Be Invincible.
This means that he who is destined to become Dr. Doom would find himself with superhuman strength, speed, endurance, and durability (his skin can stop small caliber bullets).
However, like Doctor Impossible, Doom is "really all about the science." You see, an inexplicable effect of the procedure was to open his mind to infinity, make him really, really, really, really smart.
He who is destined to become Dr. Doom has an I.Q. of approximately 420. He is one of only seven beings in the galaxy known to score above 400.
Doom's exponentially expanded intellect has exponentially expanded his already extreme sense of entitlement. Dr. Doom is now and forevermore dedicated to seizing the Earth and its inhabited satellites, and, more broadly, bending the entire galaxy to his will, making it yield to his iron-fisted rule.
Doom breaks away and forms new connections with species hostile to the Earth, Humans, and the Vanguard Alliance. He creates a dark, twisted, evil counterpart to the Vanguard Alliance.
Dr. Doom becomes the founding father of something called The Parallax Dominion.
This Dr. Doom is a schemer, a planner, a behind-the-scenes manipulator and orchestrator of events. Doom rarely "sullies" his hands or "allows" his "person to be insulted" by actually engaging in combat with "deranged lackeys," who have the "temerity to oppose" his "benevolent design."
Using genetic engineering, robotics, sometimes sorcery, and sometimes a combination of all three, Doom creates powerful and ferocious creatures, of all shapes and sizes, to do his fighting for him.
And that is my basic idea to redeem the Fantastic Four for the cinema.
Thank you for reading!