The MCU Will Confront Its Greatest Challenge in Phase 5
The MCU — pumping out superhero flicks filled to the brim with action, humor, and just enough heartfelt sincerity — has retained a signature formula, and it’s one that works concerning critical adulation, audience reception, and box office records.
From Guardians of the Galaxy to Captain America, the characters at play may bring forward different personalities and possess independent narrative arcs, yet each successive Marvel installment owes its success to that identifying mark — that general vibe vibrating at the base of each production. While some DC enthusiasts attack the MCU for its risk-aversion — condemning the universe for a lack of cinematic ingenuity and genre variation — the formulaic adherence has proved strategic for Marvel.
The question: what will happen now that the Fox/Disney merger has placed characters — with understood personas and different energies — in the House of Mouse’s hands?
Some of whom — when considering the X-Men — have reached iconicity? Marvel’s most significant challenges moving forward: recasting Wolverine with Hugh Jackman’s presence looming over any decision and producing a Fantastic Four movie that manages to pay homage to the source material, without fumbling and falling flat on its face, as Fox did, not once, but twice.
2. Why the ‘Fantastic Four’ will present a major challenge to the MCU
In the comics, the Fantastic Four earn their powers via gamma-ray on a mission to outer space; if anything screams over the top, it should be this plotline. It works in the comics, yet doesn’t exactly translate to the screen (without feeling cheesy), as past cinematic attempts have proven.
Putting their origin aside, the team dynamic also screams Guardians of the Galaxy, as Stan Lee once described the team as “heroes with hangups.” The difference: the humor in the Fantastic Four is supposed to be wittier, a bit more subtextual, and pensive. Unfortunately, both the 2005 and 2015 films failed to translate the comic book’s signature tone, resorting to cheap jokes that didn’t adequately depict the heroes’ relationships.
The MCU must manage two hurdles here: the studio must be the first to nail a Fantastic Four movie, avoiding the mistakes made in iterations, while separating the movie from the likes of The Guardians. The Fantastic Four is a beast all its own that; unless handled with care, the film often falls somewhere between an overzealous attempt to mimic the comics and an underwhelming filmic experience.
The MCU must reappropriate the Fantastic Four — make the heroes fit within its wheelhouse — without resorting to “formula” too much, as such a move may sacrifice what makes the heroes quite unique on the page.
1. Why recasting Wolverine could be the MCU’s first wrong move
Rumor has it that Marvel is leaving the door open for Hugh Jackman to reprise Wolverine. This should come as no surprise as the two are intimately connected, more than many other supers and their celebrity counterparts.
Unlike other superheroes who have been portrayed by different actors to account for different ages — Professor X, Magneto, etc — Jackman played Wolverine for nearly two decades, taking on the hero throughout the ages. Jackman is Wolverine at every point in time — from the foolish, young, and hard-headed guy out to do it on his own to the selfless hero with a great degree of foresight.
If Marvel is forced to recast Wolverine, the memory of Jackman will loom over the actor. Logan only came out two years ago, and it will be quite some time until fans can imagine someone else donning the claws. Not to mention, Wolverine is dark, a bit brooding, and often boasts a “mature,” for-adults-only shtick; would the MCU, under Disney’s guidance, alter what we identify as true to Logan on top of recasting?