There seems to be this idea that the Fantastic Four just aren’t interesting anymore. When they popped up in 1961 they launched a new era for Marvel and comics in general. This was a super team that fought and bickered! Who were angsty as hell! They had an orange rock monster on the team for crying out loud! So much angst!
They had a long run, appearing in comics in one form or another for over forty years. Then something amazing happened. They made a movie! It was never released in theaters. Then in 2005 they made another movie! It did okay I guess. They made a sequel. They do that for okay movies right?
Things went downhill fast. In 2015 they made a special tenth anniversary reboot movie. It tanked. Hard. On the comics side, all things Fantastic Four were canceled. While individual members are still running around, the team doesn’t exist in-universe at all. In a word, things are going badly for the First Family of comics. Okay that was ten words but still. How did the monumental founders of the Marvel Universe end up in this sad state of affairs?
That is a whole can of worms we can open some other time. For now I want to address this lack of love for the Four in cinema. I recently saw the 2005 movie, the one with Jessica Alba and an unknown actor named Chris Evans who would later make his claim to fame as an evil ex in the exquisite indie film, Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
I haven’t seen the new 2015 one, but I’ve seen enough of the trailers to know that the two films lie on a spectrum from campy to gritty. A great Fantastic Four film can be found somewhere in the middle of these two poles. In fact, after much reflection, I have come up with such a movie that I hope shows that there is hope for these characters in both the cinematic and comic formats. And it doesn’t have to be another reboot. We don’t need filmmakers to drag out Doctor Doom for yet another ass kicking. Leave the guy alone. In my opinion, he works best as sequel bait anyway. Everyone knows who Doom is more or less so wait until the end credits sequence for Doom to grab the iconic mask and finally turn evil completely. In the meantime, keep people guessing. But wait, if it’s not taking place in a current movie continuity, how can it not be a reboot? Read on, dear readers. Read on.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR
We start with a cold open. An alarm blares as we see a rocket prepared for launch. It is a strange looking experimental thing that speaks of the brilliant mind behind its design. Suddenly, men dressed in early 60s military wear run past our field of view. This wasn’t an authorized launch! Every able bodied man on base rushes to the control room to stop the rocket. Men with guns burst in to find surprised and flummoxed control room personnel. Chaos erupts.
“Abort the launch!” A soldier shouts.
“On whose authority?” asks the mission control supervisor.
“That can’t be. He’s the one who gave the go ahead.”
“Shut it down!”
“Wait. We can’t. He’s done something to the controls!”
A timer ticks down on a nearby panel. 10. 9. 8….
In the rocket, four astronauts make final preparations.
“I’m having second thoughts about this,” says the pilot.
“Not too late to bail. Door’s right there,” says the younger sounding one.
“All right boys, focus,” says the female.
A voice hails them on the radio.
“Reed! Stop this now or we will shoot you down!”
“I’m now having third and fourth thoughts about this,” the pilot says.
“They don’t have anything fast enough to catch us,” says the co-pilot.
The rocket launches. It’s power belies its sleek design. The soldier on the radio sighs as he slumps into a seat.
“What just happened?” asks a mission support guy.
“Reed Richards is about to beat the Ruskies to the Moon.”
The rocket goes through its stages as it leaves the atmosphere. The astronauts take off their helmets revealing the Fantastic Four we all know and love.
“They’re going to hang us when get back,” says pilot Ben Grimm.
“They’re going to throw a parade! We’re gonna be Moon men!” says Johnny.
“You’re enough of a freak without being a Moon man too,” Ben replies.
“It worked. The rocket worked… What’s the matter, Reed?” Susan asks.
This is the classic Reed. Greying temples, thin professorial veneer. He looks thrilled, excited even, but also stressed and anxious. Or perhaps it was just the turbulent rocket ride.
“This is a big step for us. For mankind. Imagine what we could learn about the origins of the universe, of ourselves. The Race to the Moon has barely just begun and yet here we are about to finish it. It feels… I don’t know…”
“Cheap?” Susan asks.
“A lot of men and women put a lot of hard work into this endeavor. I am proud of what we’re doing, I just… feel like I’m missing something.”
“The Moon’s too small for Reed Richards? Why am I not surprised?” Ben remarks.
“It is very small compared to most objects in space. Actually, the Earth is only…”
“Hey, guys, the beeping thing is beeping,” Johnny says. Reed investigates.
“Oh no. It’s radiation,” says Reed.
A bright CG extravaganza of color explodes from Deep Space heading right for the rocket.
“Radiation? What kind?” asks Susan.
“I don’t know!”
“What da ya mean you don’t know? You know everything!” Ben yells.
“Helmets on!” Reed shouts.
“Ben, steer us clear!” Johnny yells.
“Can’t. We’re on a fixed course. Only way is through,” Ben says grimly.
“Reed. If we don’t make it, I want you to know…” Susan begins to say but is cut off by Reed.
“Not now, Susan! We’ve never seen radiation the likes of this. I have to make sure this gets recorded.” Susan is very upset by this.
Impact with the bright CG extravaganza of color is imminent.
“Hang on everyone!” Reed shouts.
The Cosmic Radiation hits the rocket, inundating the passengers with life changing rays. Much screaming is had by all. The four begin to change. Johnny heats up, Ben’s skin gets orange and gravelly, Susan starts to disappear. Reed looks at his hand and sees it warping and stretching.
“What’s happening to us?” Susan screams.
“Our bodies are changing at the molecular level. This is incredible. This is fantastic! This is…”
Reed’s face explodes inside his helmet. Ben bursts out of his suit and hardens into a statue. Susan bangs her fists against an invisible force field closing in on her. Johnny immolates and then goes nova, exploding the ship and ripping it apart. The Cosmic storm ends and the ship debris floats on Solar Winds toward the Moon. The Fantastic Four Title appears to triumphant music.
The scene glitches out as if being viewed on a screen. Big red letters appear: NOT A MATCH.
We zoom out from there, further and further, until we see a star cluster, then the Milky Way, then the whole universe. Then it shifts, and we see that this is in fact one of many universes. A cursor marks another universe and we close in on it.
Remote Nevada desert.
Two men are walking down a pristine hallway as the desert winds blow outside. One is dressed in a slick black suit with slick black hair. The other is a scrawny glasses wearing guy in a lab coat. Again we meet Reed Richards but he is not the same. Young, just got to college, lacking in confidence, he slouches as he hurries to keep up with the other man who also seems very familiar.
“I just think that you over corrected when you adjusted my numbers,” says Reed.
“The numbers. They do not belong to you, my friend,” says Victor. His accent is not thick but, noticeable. Think college transfer student.
“Oh, no of course. They belong to nature and the laws of the universe…”
“I mean they belong to me.”
“Right,” Reed says, sounding defeated.
“You were a great help. I put a lot of faith in you and I’m glad to see it has paid off so much, but it’s time you remember why I let you come with me to Nevada.”
“If we could get back to the real issue at hand…”
“The real issue at hand is that you’re forgetting your place.” Victor stops, making Reed almost run into him. He sees the look on Reed’s face and softens just a tiny little bit. “You’re the theoretical guy. The hard part’s done for you. So relax and let us take care of the rest. All the hours we spent turning your work into reality is about to pay off.”
We pan up and see a massive structure erupting out of the desert. It is fantastical but also grounded in a militaristic fashion. We get a Star Gate vibe from it as this is definitely a Black Budget military venture.
Inside the command bunker, we see military brass and top scientists waiting for the test to begin. One Colonel Storm has brought his daughter Sue because she loves this science shit. Ben Grimm is Reed’s plus one and he looks positively bored. Colonel Storm asks if anyone has seen Johnny anywhere. Sue remarks that he’s probably out joy riding.
Reed takes his seat next to Ben. He catches Sue staring at him. He meekly waves. She blushes an pretends she wasn’t looking at him. Reed thanks Ben for being there.
“You owe me for this,” Ben replies.
“You owed me. That’s why you’re here,” says Reed.
“Now you double owe me,” says Ben.
“So what are we watching?” asks an clearly uninterested general who is the Stan Lee cameo for this movie.
“They’re going to attempt to teleport an apple through the Negative Zone to a receiving location in Upper New York State,” a colleague replies. The general looks at him like he just spit in his coffee.
“Who the hell approves these comic book science projects?”
Victor picks up a microphone.
“Thank you all for being here. You might be wondering, ‘why an apple?’ Other than the fact that we chose New York for the receiving location *pause for laughter* it is also the fruit of Newton. The Law of Gravity owes its existence to it, so it only seems fitting that we dedicate this new leap in our understanding of physics to the very same fruit. Also it is small and organic which is exactly what we need for this test.”
As Victor speaks we see scientists and engineers in another location preparing for the test to begin. At the test site, a lone apple sits in the center of the teleportation platform.
“You nervous?” Ben asks Reed.
“A little yeah. The numbers are wigging me out.”
“You’re the smartest guy on the planet. If anyone’s numbers are good it’s yours,” says Ben.
“Victor gave them a once over and made some changes,” says Reed.
“Damn. What’s the worst that could happen if anything goes wrong?” Ben asks.
“We could open a hole in reality that sucks the entire universe into another dimension.” Ben exhales and wonders where it all went wrong.
“In less than three minutes, teleportation will no longer be science fiction,” Victor says. But someone interrupts and whispers in Victor’s ear. His face turns white. “There might be a slight delay.”
A cloud of sand and dust becomes visible outside the command bunker. Someone has breached the secure perimeter on a Harley Davidson Motorcycle. Ben leans forward.
“Is that my Harley?” Ben asks. Johnny Storm whoops and yells in glee.
“Jesus Christ, it’s Johnny!” Sue exclaims.
“That son of a bitch! No offense to Mrs. Storm,” Ben says as he charges out of there. Reed and Sue follow with Colonel Storm close behind. Victor implores everyone to remain calm.
Ben commandeers a military jeep. Sue jumps in after him and Reed barely makes it on before Ben takes off. Colonel Storm yells after them.
Johnny is doing wheelies and making a mess of Ben’s Harley but he’s loving every second of it. Then his front wheel catches on something and he eats dirt. He dusts himself off and realizes that in his joy riding haze he stumbled onto the test site.
“How’d I miss that?” he asks himself.
He tries to get the Harley to start up again but something got busted.
“No no come on girl. Aw, Ben’s gonna kill me.” He then sees a military jeep closing in. “Dad’s gonna kill me.”
A sensor panel lights up in the control room. A scientist notices and tries to figure out what went wrong. Suddenly, klaxons. Someone phones up Victor in the bunker. The core of the teleportation structure is destabilizing. They’ve got seconds before it generates a wormhole!
The jeep skids to a halt and Ben comes off running. Reed and Sue follow close behind.
“Ben! Buddy! Long time no… see…”
“Someone’s about to get clobbered if there’s even a scratch on Alicia… no. No!” Ben screams. He advances on Johnny who stumbles backward.
“Ben!” Sue says. She puts a hand on Ben’s arm. “You gotta wait your turn.”
Sue proceeds to beat the crap out of her brother while haranguing him about endangering everyone’s lives with his antics. Reed notices the structure’s power spires lighting up.
“Guys,” he says but no one listens.
The next moments are silent save for the haunting and elegant score as we witness scientists and engineers scramble to shut it down, military personnel rushing to clear the area, and Victor holding a silent vigil, watching as his colleague and almost equal is about to be violently teleported.
A field of bright glowing energy expands from the base where the apple sits. In a matter of seconds the apple turns moldy, fleshy and bloody, metallic, and then vaporizes.
Sue and Johnny embrace as the field grows faster than they could possibly escape from. Ben wraps an arm around Reed and says something we can’t make out. The field engulfs the four of them and we see them transform into a million different variations until settling on the familiar four. The score crescendos as the field reaches maximum size and activity. Then in a flash, the four are gone, leaving only bits and pieces of flesh and clothing. All is silent except for a curious beeping sound.
In big red letters: NOT A MATCH.
We zoom out again, another universe gone. The screen zooms into another universe but we the audience continue to zoom out to reveal a figure seating in front of a giant monitor. We cannot see his face. A robed woman approaches from behind.
“Time for a break, my dear,” she says, gently massaging his shoulders.
“My work is not yet done,” he replies.
“You’ll work yourself ragged. Come and clear your head,” she says.
“Leave me alone,” he says sharply. Almost mechanically she straightens and walks away. The figure sighs. “Not done yet. Not done.”
A new universe is chosen. We zoom in.
And that ends Part 1 of my Fantastic Four Movie
I’ll have more to share next time when we get to Part 2 and the meat of the movie where all the action and explosions are!
Do you have any casting ideas? Who would be a great 60s Johnny Storm or Modern Reed? Share in the comments!