The MCU’s ‘Fantastic Four’ May Be a Farce: Marvel to Exploit Previous Iterations?

While several superhero stories become the subjects of superb cinematic spectacles — offering emotionally fraught internal conflicts, intricately woven narratives, and dynamic interpersonal relationships — others have failed to hit the same high notes. In the recent past, those behind the Fantastic Four films have – two times over — failed to discover an effective way to transition from the comic book to the silver screen. 

2005 Fantastic Four cast
Chris Evans, Jessica Alba, and Michael Chiklis at Japan Premiere of ‘Fantastic Four’ | Junko Kimura/Getty Images

In 2005, Fantastic Four — featuring a pre-Captain America Chris Evans, Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffud, and Michael Chiklis — aimed for a witty tone, yet stumbled upon mediocrity instead. From the “anticlimactic battle” to the “bland performances throughout,” many viewed the superhero flick as cheap and uninspired. 

A decade later, Fox took a swing at the Fantastic Four once more; the 2015 version currently boasts a 9% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, as it has been deemed a “woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series…” Said to lack the comic book’s humor and joy, the film misses on the magic. Ingenuity was dismissed in favor of a typical superhero formula, leading to a film that lacked any outstanding differentiating factors. 

Why have the most recent ‘Fantastic Four’ movies failed?

Is the Fantastic Four just difficult to translate to the screen? Why do the movies feel cheesy and over the top? Could it be because the superheroes get their powers via Gamma Rays on a mission to Outerspace, and then bicker like siblings upon their return? 

Stan Lee once described the team as “heroes with hangups,” and while those hangups work seamlessly in text, overzealous efforts to retain the comics’ signature tone often feel forced and misappropriated. Could difficult source material be the problem at hand, and, if so, what is the MCU’s plan for striking gold with a team that has failed to create positive reception? 

What is the MCU’s plan for the ‘Fantastic Four’?

Recent reports have indicated that the MCU is eyeing Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill for The Thing, and Will Smith for Mr. Fantastic. With these recent casting rumors, one could easily spot a trend: actors with comedic leanings are of interest to Marvel Studios when it comes to the Fantastic Four. All we need now is Rose Byrne for Invisible Woman!

If actors with ties to the comedy space continue sprouting up on Marvel’s wishlist for the movie, one may be led to believe that the studio is planning on veering in the comedic direction, mirroring Guardians of the Galaxy. However, the Fantastic Four cannot directly imitate Guardians of the Galaxy’s approach, as such would feel mimetic and lazy. Not to mention, the Fantastic Four have a dynamic all their own. 

In an attempt to break the trend of subpar Fantastic Four movies — which have tried but failed to capture the comic book’s wonder, wit, and horseplay — Marvel may go for a farce, capitalizing on the story’s inherent improbable nature.

The movie would, theoretically, aim to subtly mock the previous attempts, while poking fun at the source material as well. The film would pay homage the comics, without taking itself too seriously. The movie would tell the other films, “this is where you went wrong. Watch us do it correctly.”

A farce is defined as the following: a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations. Purposefully executed crude characterizations and ludicrous plot points — that highlight the superheroes’ comic book origins — would be reminiscent of the comic book world, yet stray from the sober realism that feels ridiculous on the screen.

Mocking the Fantastic Four’s shtick may be the very way to entertain fans who have come to expect more grounded approaches to their heroes — more mechanical and scientific, less magical and mystical.