Let’s Reboot Fantastic Four – 770 Style

fan 4 COMPBy James H. Burns: A Fantastic 4 movie is relatively so simple, with no need to invent a whole new gobbledygook of an origin story… Last night, thinking about the generally poor reception to the new Fantastic 4 film, I wondered, how hard could it be to tell their origin story, which to me, remains pretty steadfast. I noodled this, in minutes….  (And without the comic in front of me, I could only not recall one crucial element, why Reed Richards lets a teenager join them on the trip to space…  But you’ll see!)

Why have all the producers through the years thought it necessary to muddle a rather elegantly simple story setup? Steadfast scientist, in his late thirties or early forties, who’s ALSO a brave decorated war veteran, his jet-fighting pilot best friend, the woman he’s in love with (who’s ALSO brilliant), and a smart young adventurer…  By the way, I don’t know that having Dr. Doom in the very first story is always the best idea, but here we go!

***      ***

Reed Richards is a brilliant scientist, with MEANS, due to a series of successful inventions and developments. Ben Grimm is his best friend; they both served fighting terrorist forces in the mid-East,

Grimm is a top notch pilot.

Reed has been in love with Sue Storm, for years, even though she is about twelve to sixteen years his junior. She is also brilliant, and with degrees of her own, has become a valued associate, as well as Reed’s girlfriend.  Her brother, Johnny, a teenager, or in his early twenties, often hangs out at the lab, although his interests tend far more towards gals, and cars. He is an EXPERT driver. And despite his glibness, a SOLID CITIZEN.

Reed is well aware of the pioneering private space programs, but he also believes that they are not big enough, or soon enough. He wants to explore space NOW.

And at a secret base in Long Island, on a private estate, he’s been building a rocket, to take him and Ben and Sue INTO the space between the planets. He’s found a way to do it economically, which will have great implications for ALL of the Marvel universe, enabling The Avengers, and others to easily travel to the planets…

Reed doesn’t want Sue to risk her life, but she insists…  Johnny, an adventurer at heart, also wants to go.

In  a decision he may always regret, Reed decides to let his friends of years, go along.

After all, if he is trying to prove that space travel is safe, what better way than taking his “family.”

At the Long Island Estate, someone has tipped off the government.  The fencing around the camouflaged rocket base is surrounded by police, federal agents….

The government should know that Reed only has good intentions. He is a valued AMERICAN PATRIOT. But the authorities may not realize that the base is Richards’.

Richards sees all this on a special vieiwscreen in his home in the Baxter Building, where he has  his incredible base of operations — research labs,  living quarters, etc. — on floors of a skyscraper  in Manhattan.

Remember, now, Reed is in his early forties — think Gregory Peck in his prime, or Charlton Heston with a bit more humanity — and can afford to do ANYTHING. He CHOOSES a life of science, and trying to broaden its frontiers, and help humanity.

Ben Grimm wonders if with all that Reed already has, a life of EVERYTHING he wants at his command, if all this is really necessary?  Reed explains why it is, and Ben is ecstatic, because HE’S always wanted to go to space, as well!  And he’s going to “fly” the spacecraft,

There can be only one solution.

On the roof of the Baxter building, the Fantasticar is revealed, a hovercraft helicopter that can go almost anywhere. NO ONE knows that Reed and Ben have built this.

Johnny wonders if this thing will fly…

And Ben Grimm tells him, as long as HE’S flying it!

At the Estate, agents are still milling around, when the Fantasticar appears from the sky…

FantasticarThey start shooting at it. But it’s bullet proof

And suddenly, the Fantasticar veers off, because Reed and Ben are taking it to the TRUE location of their rocket base–

The 1950s/1960s style rocket on the launch pad, was only a diversion. The Fantasticar lands WELL away from the police and army. The Four make their way, to a clearing of trees in the compound. Reed presses a control he’s taken from his pocket, and super solid metal doors open in the ground, revealing a staircase…  They quickly descend, and the impregnable walls close behind them.  Through the lit, orangey corridor, the Four descend, as chaos continues above.

At the heart of the base, is a glorious SPACECRAFT, sleek, like Jack Kirby drew it in its prime, shining beautifully in the full lighting. The Four make their way to the ship’s entrance, and cockpit.

“We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

On a loudspeaker system, Reed’s voice is heard outside, warning the crowd tp pull back to the road, that there is going to be a massive contained explosion, but no one will get hurt. But they most move beyond the perimeter. Suddenly, we see a SAFETY fence rising along the grounds. A secuirty officer in charge starts getting everyone behind the perimeter….

Someone among the authorities — perhaps more than one official — realizes that it’s Reed Richards, and feels far safer…

And, soon, the amazing craft lifts up to a gantry, and ABOVE THE GROUND glimmering just like in the moonlight of the original comics, the Fantastic Four’s rocket launches….

On their ascent, Reed asks Sue Storm to send the government their full trajectory, and plans (a process that due to high tech, happens immediately, of course).

Ben says it may be too late, nuclear warheads are already being aimed in their direction (from outerspace platforms?)

Reed says not to worry, their ship will soon be GONE!

In a military command base, a General, realizing it’s Reed Richards, decides to bet on Richards’ patriotism and all that he’s done for the world….  The weapons are called back.

Richards and Grimm and the Storms, are now beyond the Earth’s orbit!

And it’s beautiful

But —

There, somewhere,  a mysterious cloud, or nebula, or SOMETHING is encountered –

Cosmic rays, or something else?

And when the friends return to earth, they have gained their powers…

Meanwhile, on a viewscreen, in his castle in Latveria, a country somewhere in Europe, Victor Von Doom, hidden behind an iron mask, and cloak, watches the rocket climbing through the stratosphere, on his own, VERY futuristic, but also somehow medieval-looking, monitor.

He notes that Reed Richards, his old college roommate, has again succeeded….

AND WE’RE OFF.

Next, to the story’s McGuffin…

(Which could be particularly interesting, because maybe, in Reed’s debriefing with the government, he’s told that Von Doom is about to address the United Nations

Stay tuned.

31 thoughts on “Let’s Reboot Fantastic Four – 770 Style

  1. I’d have reed’s ship be fueled by a new reactor, using some sort of experimental element to power it. Once the four get the ship almost into space, something goes wrong and it interacts with cosmic rays or something and causes a meltdown. The reactor bathes them all in its cosmic ray infused radiation. As it plummets to the ground, each encounters a crisis that causes their powers to manifest to save themselves and the others. Finally, they hit the ocean, barely surviving, but with new powers. They abandon ship and make their way back to New York to regroup and evaluate what went wrong.

    The ship sinks spewing radioactive waste into the ocean. Sickening and mutating sea life. Then you see him. The figure brooding over the death that the surface dwellers have brought to his kingdom: Namor. He tracks the miscreants who caused such destruction to new York, and brings terrible monsters from the ocean to exact revenge. Manhattan is flooded. Giant sea creatures fight alongside Namor against the new quartet of heroes. Eventually, they realize that they are the cause of Namor’s rage and forge a compromise that stills his wrath.

    Then just as the film closes, Reed goes back to his lab to reveal who supplied the experimental element that caused the crash: Doom Enterprises.

  2. I like Aaron’s variant for two reasons. First, because it keeps outside influences to a minimum. When things happen to your heroes, they should happen because someone made a decision, not because there’s a negative-space-wedgie out there that happens across their path, and Second, because it puts our heroes in the wrong (not exactly new to the larger superhero world; look at all the civilians dead in Man of Steel), has them acknowledge this, and then has them seek an actual diplomatic solution.

    I’ve never been much of an F4 fan, but when I do read them, the reason I’ve tended to like them was that they approached things from a sane perspective. Negotiating a cease fire with an unintentional enemy seems like the perfect departure from the current superhero standard.

    ——

    edit to add my two cents. During the extended crash sequence, it would be quite easy to see Reed trying to reach through a small hole in a panel to connect an electrical component, and for us to see him reaching, but coming up short, straining a little more, and suddenly his hand elongates. Similarly, Ben tries to force a loose strut into place, but isn’t quite strong enough, until he is, Jonny tries to get to something that’s on fire without getting burned, and then he’s burning-but-not-burning, and sue trying to will the flames away from herself suddenly creating a forcefield…

    And of course, saving Doom for the sequel is one of the best things that could happen, though you would want to tease it earlier, perhaps have a couple old photos on Reeds desk…

  3. I’ve been a fan of the FF going back 40 years. I don’t think it works any more for Reed Richards to be a decade or more older than Sue. In the comics he was 23 and she was 12 when they met, and after she became a young adult years later they began a romance. Later it was retconned to a six-year difference, presumably to avoid Reed looking predatory.

    The new movie had an actress playing Sue who is five years older than the one playing Reed. It’s odd, but as a fan I see no reason why the Reed/Sue relationship needs to keep the older fuddy duddy/vibrant young woman vibe. That made it harder for Reed to be as cool as the rest of the team.

  4. It’s odd, but as a fan I see no reason why the Reed/Sue relationship needs to keep the older fuddy duddy/vibrant young woman vibe.

    If I were rebooting it as a movie, I would make them coequals. Similar in age, both scientists (just with different specialties), both necessary to build the ill-fated spaceship.

  5. If they’re all such solid citizens, why didn’t they apply for a license to launch space ships like Elon Musk did? And if Ben Grimm is such a great pilot, why didn’t he file a flight plan–through the middle of the busiest air-traffic region in the world–rather than putting the lives of tens of thousands of people at risk? If these are the heroes, why are they acting like terrorists?

    This sort of story doesn’t work in the modern world. We’ve learned that space is hard. (Look at all the effort Elon Musk has gone through.) Back when we really didn’t know that, a story about a secretive genius building a spaceship might work, but today it just seems like magic. Likewise, the volume of air traffic has grown enormously in fifty years. There just isn’t room for something like the Fantasticar anymore. Not in New York, anyway. And we all know that radiation makes you sick–it doesn’t give you super powers.

    The Fantastic Four really belong in the past, not the present, and I’m not sure there’s much anyone can do to fix that. The Lone Ranger would have similar problems in the 21st Century. If you really want to reboot the Fantastic Four, I think you need to set it in 1960 or earlier.

  6. Back when we really didn’t know that, a story about a secretive genius building a spaceship might work, but today it just seems like magic.

    I don’t think that’s the problem. Iron Man has loads of impossible tech and his movies are so popular they sparked the flood of Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbusters.

    But the FF have definitely faded in recent decades. This movie and Marvel cancelling the FF comic book because another company has the film rights may put a fork in them as major super-heroes.

  7. Uh, Greg…. Reed wanted no interference…

    Ben and Reed already KNEW a safe flight plan…

    The film’s sweeping camerawork of Reed’s lab would establish, subliminally, that he knows what he’s doing, as would the General’s accession to that expertise, and patriotism.

    THIS universe is one where a whole bunch of super villains could easily mess up one’s plans… Hence, the need for secrecy.

    Heck, this is a world where Dr, Doom is invited to address the U.N…..

    And the reason not to overcomplicate this, as some of you have suggested with your own synopses… Is the elegance of the original storytelling by Lee and Kirby.

    The brilliance of the very first SPIDER-MAN film was how it wound up compacting so many years of GOOD storylines, into one cohesive narrative.

    Sub-Mariner is too big an, ahem, gulp, for an audience to accept, in the same film as a fantastic four…

    The story needs to develop linearly, while keeping one foot in a reality the audience can relate to, WITHOUT removing any of the magic that have made these comics succeed.

    Oh. And Reed and Sue have a seperation of ages–

    Because that’s who they are.

    For decades.

  8. I don’t think Reed needs to be a secretive genius. Make him a commercial space-travel pioneer, world-famous. The FF were international celebrities by their second issue (and since no one actually knew they beat the Mole Man, that was impressive), and they have a name that sounds like they’re a boyband. Make ’em celebrities, not hermits.

    In the comics, early on, Reed was an ex-military-intelligence scientist so well-connected he had the ear of the President, Ben was a decorated war hero, Sue was a beauty pursued for actress-model work once she got famous (yeah, it was 1961, shaddap), and Johnny, the most teen-idol-like of the four…

    …well, he was a high-school student on Long Island with a laughably nonsensical secret identity that we later learned all the kids were just being polite about.

    Oddly, Johnny’s the one they treat like a star in later years, but with a team name like that, in the modern era, I’d say make ’em all famous, even before the flight. Or at least make the adults famous.

    I think putting together a modern FF movie shouldn’t be that hard; it’s just that someone at Fox doesn’t trust the core ideas. Done Marvel-Studios style, with action, humor, bickering and a we-are-family story arc, it’d work just fine.

  9. Kurt, it’s so amazing that decades later, the 1967 Hanna-Barbera adaptation still flows, and works, so remarkably well. It’s those voices I still hear in my head, when reading any FF story.

  10. Sub-Mariner is too big an, ahem, gulp, for an audience to accept, in the same film as a fantastic four…

    How so? He’s basically a slightly more sinister version of DC’s Aquaman, and no one has any trouble accepting him.

  11. Uh, Aaron, AQUAMAN has always had an extremely limited readership–as much as I loved him, when I was a boy!

    A Subby solo movie may well be a good idea… (Oddly, there should be a scipt kicking around for a NAMOR pilot, from the late 1970s, when CBS aired those other Marvel pilots: HULK, CAPTAIN AMERICA, DOCTOR STRANGE.. As a little kid, I always thought Yul Brynner would have been perfect…! ;-).)

    Of course, there was the big budget AQUAMAN movie we wer told about, without seeing, on ENTOURAGE….

    For an FF movie, a first one, you want the nemesis to be fantastical looking, and otherworldly, and another portal into the wonderful world of fantasy adventure…

    Not a human with wings on his feet.

    (Even if you gave me a cameo with Sophia Loren, as the Lady Dorma!)

  12. The weird thing is, Doc Doom’s Latveria is one of the happiest countries in fictional eastern Europe. Great tech, great health care, great standard of living … If he stopped trying to take over the world, Doom would be considered one of the planet’s most enlightened rulers.

  13. Whether you want to make Doom or Namor or someone else the villain in a first movie, you could make it work, but you’ve got to plant it in Act 1.

    You can’t do the origin as Act 1 and then reveal an undersea race or a whole militarized outsider-unfriendly tyrant nation or whatever, out of the blue. It’s both episodic, and it asks the audience to accept a whole new SFnal concept while they’re still chewing over the first one.

    If you want to use Namor, you start out with something like Reed not being into space flight especially, but into exploration, talking up the idea of parallel evolution on his Cosmos-like TV show and in Congressional hearings, as he shows fossils that indicate there may be human-like beings living deep in the crust of the Earth, meaning there could be Antarctic races, undersea races, all kinds of crazy shit.

    Exploratory vehicle is launched, accident happens, powers bestowed. The FF debut saving people from the aftermath, are hailed as heroes. But the shipwreck awakens Namor to rage against the surface world, battle ensues, and the Mole Man plays a background role.

    End message: The world is stranger than we know, but the Fantastic Four are the ones to explore it and keep us safe from its threats. Da-dah!

    If it’s Von Doom, you make the military threat of Latveria the reason the US wants to commandeer Richards’ work for the military, causing him to speed up the launch. Accident, powers, fame, Doom lures them to Latveria to steal their power (mixing together two later stories), but separated and powerless against a city full of marauding Kirby robots, genius and family bonds win the day.

    [Maybe include a plotline about how when Reed was a CIA analyst, he wrote the file on Latveria because he’s one of the few people who got at all close to Von Doom, back in college, before the incident.]

    Upshot: The world’s just turned a Science Corner, dangerous but full of possibility. Nothing’s going to be the same again, but the FF’ll tackle it like a family, because even when nothing’ll ever be the same again, some things are eternal. How about a celebratory dinner? Say, next month? On the Moon? Boom.

    Tag: The Watcher checks it all out from the Moon. Earth has entered a New Age. And the Skrulls, the Mekkans and the Celestials have all noticed. Hmm. This should be interesting…

  14. The weird thing is, Doc Doom’s Latveria is one of the happiest countries in fictional eastern Europe. Great tech, great health care, great standard of living …

    That’s certainly the story they tell, never knowing where those drone cameras are. But there’s been plenty of implication that things aren’t quite so rosy for all, and that if you don’t cheer in the parades and profess your love for your ruler, even if private, bad things may happen. And to those who try to rebel, very bad things.

    Doom’s pretty open about it — he takes care of his people as long as they give up silly things like freedom. And he does splashy good deeds, and his benevolence is the face of Latveria he allows the world to see.

    How much of it is true is one of the things that makes Latveria a fascinating setting. It’s true that Doom takes care of his people; he takes care of all his possessions.

    What he does with those possessions, though, is entirely his choice. Not theirs.

  15. Heh. I’ve been having fun working on my own idea for a FF origin story. Only instead of going back to the origin in Fantastic Four #1, where they got their superpowers, I’m going all the way back to the deep backstory hinted at in that comic. All the way back to World War II, when Ben was a fighter pilot and Reed was an undercover operative in Europe..

    (Yes, I’m working Sue and Johnny into the story as well. Needless to say, I’m playing fast and loose with traditional back-history, canon, and timelines, since Johnny wouldn’t even have been born in WWII.) (I may put in a cameo appearance by John Hammond, the original Human Torch, who realistically would be one of the Scariest Fucking Dudes You Ever Met.)

  16. You can’t do the origin as Act 1 and then reveal an undersea race or a whole militarized outsider-unfriendly tyrant nation or whatever, out of the blue.

    I disagree. Introducing Atlantis to an audience would be fairly easy. Atlantis is something virtually everyone in the movie-going audience will be at least somewhat familiar with. Plus, you can make the source of the invading sea monsters and the identity of the enigmatic water-breathing guy who commands them a mystery that needs to be solved. I’d have genius scientist Sue Storm be the one to add up all the puzzle pieces and figure it out.

  17. I disagree. Introducing Atlantis to an audience would be fairly easy.

    It’s not about the concept being difficult. It’s about it being bad story structure.

    Even FF #1 indicates that there’s a danger out there, then segues to the origin, then comes back to the danger, rather than having the Mole Man feel like Episode Two.

  18. I’d have genius scientist Sue Storm be the one to add up all the puzzle pieces and figure it out.

    Also, instead of Sue being “another genius scientist,” how about Reed is brilliant at the physical sciences and Sue’s brilliant at crypto-anthropology and languages and history and such? They’re both polymaths, but complementary, not duplicates.

  19. An important thing not to leave out of an FF origin is that it’s all Reed’s fault. Really, he and Doom have the same origin story – both proceeded in reckless disregard of better advice – and Reed hurt others as well as himself. What separates them is what they did with their guilt. (Not feelings of guilt. Actual guilt.) Dropping this angle was one of the things the 2005 movie did wrong. Reed is a would-be Ayn Rand hero who comes to grief for it, and struggles thereafter to reckon with the salience of other people, especially the three people whose lives he utterly changed.

    All the “Reed’s patriotism” and “defective parts from Doom Enterprises” stuff undermine the core story (Ayn Rand hero fucks up big-time. Makes amends.)

    Also, it’s interesting that the Ben Grimm of FF#1 is not a stupid man at all. After all, he’s the one who is more right about cosmic rays than Reed is.

    Also also, I love the fan theory that the Silver Age Sue is Johnny’s real mother. The page on this (at the “Great American Novel” site) sells the head-canon pretty effectively.

    I think Kurt’s changes go a long way to coping with the big problem FF has today, the one Greg Hollender discusses: space flight just isn’t a family affair and we know that now. Making them all famous and public – but still reckless – is a good way to set the core story in the present day. Failing that, the movie should be done as a period piece, a la X-Men: First Class.

  20. Come to think of it, Kurt’s comments in this thread indicate a real facility for rethinking superheroes while remaining true to their essences. What a wonderful if presumably useless talent!

  21. I think Kurt Busiek is right about Latveria — think of North Korea but with plenty to eat and health care, but still the Stalin-like dictatorship, albeit couched in Medieval feudalism. (The entire country is his fief, and all in the land are his serfs. He chooses to make sure they are housed, fed, and physiced well because it’s his responsibility as an absolute monarch, but still commands complete obedience and speaks of himself with the royal “We”, or in the third person a lot.)

    As for the rest, all of you, go make your pitches to the studio! Get the lead out, Mac. Schnell! DO IT!

    Any of these would be better than any other interpretation on film so far.

  22. As for the rest, all of you, go make your pitches to the studio! Get the lead out, Mac. Schnell! DO IT!

    I’m more of an ideas man.

  23. The Latveria being discussed here sounds somewhat like Franco-era Spain. One of my uncles visited Spain as a tourist during the Franco years, and when I expressed my politically-motivated concerns about this, he told me that the people he saw there seemed happy and non-oppressed, and seemed to be getting enough to eat, etc.

  24. Kurt wins the Internet Droll Award for a wit so dry it sucks up more moisture than Sponge Man.

    (I can’t believe I actually remember Sponge Man! Yet more proof that the knowledge I’ve crammed into my brain over the past 60+ years is 99% useless outside of a trivia contest.)

  25. Peter David writes, “I swear, if they had been given different powers, different names, and not been called the ‘Fantastic Four,’ I think most fans would have been fine with it.”

    If that’s the best that can be said of the film, it’s pretty ghastly. Nobody wants to see a movie about an iconic super-hero team and see characters who might as well have been entirely different people on an entirely different team.

  26. Morris Keesan wrote:

    The Latveria being discussed here sounds somewhat like Franco-era Spain. One of my uncles visited Spain as a tourist during the Franco years, and when I expressed my politically-motivated concerns about this, he told me that the people he saw there seemed happy and non-oppressed, and seemed to be getting enough to eat, etc.

    It seems reasonable to presume the Marvel and Ultimate Universes’ parallel Sarah A. Hoyts were born not in Portugal but in Latveria.

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