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Yes, you read that question right. Last year's Fantastic Four - or Fant4stic, to give the film it's popular name - was hardly an unqualified success. The critics weren't impressed, box office receipts were disappointing, and many comic book fans were left fuming. Director Josh Trank quickly distanced himself from the finished product, although he swiftly deleted the tweet:
For some weeks now, there have been rumours that Fox and Marvel were close to doing a deal, and that the rights to Fantastic Four would soon be purchased by Marvel. After all, the 2017 sequel had been cancelled, hadn't it?
Today, Simon Kinberg poured cold water on that idea in an interview with Den of Geek. It seems the sequel isn't quite so dead in the water as we'd thought.
“We want to make another Fantastic Four movie. We love that cast - I mean if I were to say to you now Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, and Kate [Mara] and Jamie [Bell] are great actors - we love that cast. I love the comic, I mean I love it almost as much as X-Men.”
It's pleasing that Kinberg is still willing to back the cast, who really did a good job in a very difficult situation. The casting choices were actually controversial in themselves; Michael Jordan, for example, played a race-swapped Human Torch. Fox argued (correctly) that race had never been a core component of the Torch's character, so they didn't see a problem with that move. Neither do I; and I also thought the rest of the cast showed real potential.
Kinberg went on:
"We'll try to be truer to the essence of the tone of Fantastic Four, which is completely - well, not completely, but largely - distinct from the X-Men, which is brighter, funner, more optimistic tone. I think we tried to make a darker Fantastic Four movie, which seemed like a radical idea but we were kind of messing with the DNA of the actual comic instead of trusting the DNA of the comic.”
It's pleasing to see that the lessons of films like Deadpool are being learned - don't try to fix something that isn't broken, as the comics are successful for a reason. Unfortunately, Fox do need to face a concerning point.
It's been a long, long time since Fantastic Four comics sold well. In fact, Marvel Comics currently aren't producing any Fantastic Four comics at all; the series was cancelled in the run-up to last year's "Secret Wars" event, and Marvel show no signs of wanting to get it running again.
As IGN observed at the time Marvel cancelled the last series:
"Looking strictly at the sales figures of Fantastic Four and its former sister series, FF, it's clear the reader interest isn't where it needs to be. Fantastic Four is hardly Marvel's worst-selling book, but it also doesn't sell nearly enough copies every month considering the pedigree of the franchise and the caliber of talent Marvel brings on board. It's been a steady stream of A-List writers over the last decade, from Mark Waid to J. Michael Straczynski to Mark Millar to Jonathan Hickman to Matt Fraction to James Robinson. Waid and Hickman are responsible for the greatest FF runs of the modern era. And yet, the FF books always lag well behind the X-Men, Avengers, and Spider-Man franchises in sales. Even Marvel's cosmic books are pulling ahead thanks to their newfound Hollywood momentum."
Underneath all the controversy, Josh Trank was right about one thing: in order to make the Fantastic Four work, they need an overhaul. The problem was, he went too far in a direction that the fans weren't behind.
All this leaves the Fantastic Four franchise in a very difficult place. The franchise can't afford to just try to follow the comics; even the comics aren't working out. Nor can it continue in the direction Josh Trank started it off in. Instead, the franchise has to find a third way - a weird blend of Trank's vision, the comics, and some very, very creative writing. The film will also need real commitment from the studio, as it's going to be a very tough movie to market.
I admit that I'd never expected to read these comments. The most I'd expected from Fox was a rebooted version in a few years' time, but this shows a commitment to the cast and concept that I'd not thought they had. It'll be interesting to see how things play out.