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Despite negative reviews and what could, at best, be described as an “underwhelming” opening weekend, 20th Century Fox isn’t abandoning Fantastic Four just yet. “We remain committed to these characters and we have a lot to look forward to in our Marvel universe,” the company’s domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday.
Assuming that the characters will reappear on screen sometime in the near future, there could be four options for what the studio can do next to keep the Fantastic Four franchise alive.
Greenlight a Sequel: Fantastic Four 2
There is, of course, the option to just continue on as if nothing was wrong. For all the problems with Fantastic Four, the actors appeared to do their jobs the best they could, and with the origin story out of the way, the road is potentially clear for a more exciting, less expeditionary movie in a second outing. (Plus, a second movie would allow the studio to hire a director it’s on the same page with this time out.) With more than 600 comic books to use as source material — and a line-up of classic Marvel villains, including Galactus, the Mad Thinker, Diablo and Psycho Man, to choose from — there is definitely enough out there to draw upon to create future Fantastic Four movies using this new installment as a base. A second movie could even make a point of introducing the comic book’s trademark optimism, which may appeal to moviegoers.
Long before Fantastic Four was released, producers including Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer had teased the possibility of a crossover with Fox’s other Marvel property, X-Men. Such an event would definitely help raise the profile of Fantastic Four, and introduce the characters to a wider audience — compare Four‘s opening haul of $25 million with last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which grossed $90 million in its first weekend — and give fans the same “it’s all connected” impetus to check out every movie that Marvel has successfully created. Sure, the two franchises exist in parallel dimensions, but considering that Fantastic Four is literally a movie all about crossing into alternate dimensions, that really isn’t a bug: it’s a feature.
The idea of rebooting the franchise for a second time — immediately after this current Josh Trank-helmed reboot — might seem extreme, but it would allow the studio to start afresh and try and find a take on the long-lived comic book property that appeals to audiences more than what is currently in theaters. Sony has arguably legitimized this approach by rebooting its Spider-Man franchise for a second time after just two installments of Marc Webb‘s Amazing Spider-Man series, but it remains to be seen whether or not audiences will be willing to accept another do-over so soon after the last (The Amazing Spider-Man will only have been released four years before Tom Holland takes on the role in next year’s Captain America: Civil War). Of course, Sony’s Spider-Man plans include a very special X-Factor that Fox doesn’t have … yet.
Make a Deal: Give the Characters Back to Marvel
Given this second, seemingly failed attempt at bringing the characters to life, Fox could follow Sony’s lead and make a deal to allow the Fantastic Four to rejoin their comic book brethren in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would most likely mean another reboot, a la Spider-Man, but it’s possible that the potential of combining the currently-flailing franchise with the uber-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe would outweigh any executive concern about alienating existing fans with a third attempt at getting things right — especially when you factor in that fans are actively demanding that this happen in light of the current Fantastic Four movie.
For now, it’s unclear what it actually means to be “committed” to the Fantastic Four in Fox’s eyes — and what role the movie’s longterm success (or lack thereof) might play in that definition. If the movie does end up costing the studio $60 million, could anyone blame executives for being tempted to get rid of the property?
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Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Paul Walter Hauser