Slow Death of the Fantastic Four

Why can't the studios get the Fantastic Four right? Three big-budget tries, three flops (or two disappointments and one dog, depending on how you look at it). They're a decent superhero team, with varied powers that are interesting. Moreover, they have a 60 year archive of story lines to choose from. Surely somewhere in there would be one that would work on the screen. My theory is that the writers are too focused on the set-piece trope of the FF vs. their most iconic antagonist: Dr. Doom.

One problem with movie adaptations of Dr. Doom is the same problem that Green Goblin had in the first Spider-Man movie: he cannot express much emotion under an obscuring mask. In the comics, this wasn't a problem, since the shape of the mask changes slightly to convey emotions. In a movie that's not possible. Iron Man's ostensibly fixed mug does the same flexible thing in the comics, but the movie solved that rigid face problem with the clever device of the in-helmet projection, which allows the audience to see the actor's face.

But beyond the muffled voice and flat face, Dr. Doom was a cardboard cutout supervillain for years before he grew into the remorse-driven, megalomaniacal dictator of Latveria with a meaningful set of motivations beyond I WILL DESTROY YOU REED RICHARDS AND TAKE OVER THE WORLD. A more complex and interesting backstory is tough to set up in a movie if you also have to spend a long time explaining why he wears the Doom armor.

So, when the high-level radioactivity of this year's terrible Fantastic Four movie cools off enough that another studio decides to take another crack at them (2025? 2030?), I hope the writers a) don't bother with an origin story beyond a three-minute opening montage, and b) ignore the siren song of Dr. Doom and go for someone like the Puppet Master or Annihilus.

||| Comments are welcome |||
Help keep the words flowing.


  1. So does that mean you've seen the newest one, the YA version? I was wondering about that. I mean, in the original movie they were adults that got their powers in space, so what could be the justification for making them teens? Or did I miss something?

    1. I've seen the new YA version, but haven't read it extensively. The justification is marketing - trying to loop in a younger readership for an old, flagship property.

  2. A friend had the idea that the FF should really be set in the same timeframe from which is originated. The 50's/60's vision of the "future" is a much better backdrop for it than trying to make it work in modern times.
    I am hopeful that they consider doing it, but I also heard that that was what was originally pitched and the studio nixed it :-(
    I've also noticed that the FF movies lack the ability the Marvel movies have to make super heroes wandering the street seem "normal." I think an earlier timeframe would help with that too.

    1. I've read various scuttlebutt versions of what went wrong, and the short version is "everything":
      - casting decisions were forced onto the director by the studio.
      - script changes were constant and last-minute, meaning cast & crew had to wait for new sets to be built, and character arcs were herky-jerky
      - studio didn't want to take chances with being too different but then demanded changes when it was too formulaic,
      - budget was cut from initial level, forcing scene and script changes
      - studio and focus groups hated original ending, forcing clumsy re-writes and re-shoots
      - relatively young director put in charge of a huge movie, who apparently cracked under the strain from the studio and a fanboi public pre-disposed to think the worst
      - etc., etc.

  3. I think, maybe even hope, that the superhero movie craze will have largely died out by 2025. Granted, this fad has shown some staying power, but it's still a fad, and it seems to be getting panned more and more, and for good reason. I think Hollywood has become too focused on "taking special effects to the next level" that they forget that the story is the most important part.

    I may be one of the few people to have high hopes for the upcoming Batman vs Superman movie because, if you can look past casting and effects, it looks like it could be a good story. Same thing for Civil War. Good guys fighting bad guys isn't satisfying anymore. The best stories focus on what it means to be human. You can't do that with special effects, and you can't do that if it's all about the powers.

  4. The Incredibles was the best Fantastic Four movie ever made.


Thank you for leaving a comment. The staff at Landless will treat it with the same care that we would bestow on a newly hatched chick. By the way, no pressure or anything, but have you ever considered subscribing to Landless via RSS?