Haven’t seen the new Fantastic Four film yet, but from what I’ve gathered it wasn’t well-received at all. Many fans have started to ponder the future direction of the franchise, myself included. Figured I’d share some of those thoughts.
What appeals to me first and foremost is that these four heroes are nerds. They are driven by the scientific pursuit of knowledge and discovery; their idea of saving the world is working full-time in a laboratory.
As is typical with the FF origin, the foursome acquire their powers from a lab accident (in space or on earth, wherever). But instead of becoming “instant heroes” they are still very much scientists at heart — no predisposition towards fighting or combat. They are the furthest thing from being your typical superhero; their lone priority is to find a cure for their unwanted powers, failing that they want to continue working in a scientific capacity.
The Government has other designs for these enhanced scientists, opting to use them for espionage work under the CIA’s supervision. Sue Storm and Reed Richards, with their invisibility and flexibility respectively, are used for infiltration and gathering intelligence. The Human Torch and the Thing are the wrecking crew, destroying enemy installations or covering up the team’s tracks.
All the while the four are kept under the thumb of the CIA and the military. Their identities and abilities are top-secret and kept from the public at large. They live in a secluded military compound, where contact with the outside world is not permitted. When they’re not in the field carrying out assignments, they’re essentially prisoners.
The four heroes aren’t happy with this predicament. They want to go back to their regular lives, and to regain contact with their families and loved ones. They also want to resume their science research, something that has been denied to them during their captivity (for “security” reasons, but mostly because the CIA isn’t keen on them reversing their powers – all four are top-level assets).
The four plot an escape (elaborate escape sequence here!), but fear reprisals from the military and CIA. They feel their best protection is to go public in a big way: become a superhero team.
With limited resources, the team seeks outside help to shape their image. They are taught to fight at a boxing/MMA gym, they get public speaking lessons from a PR rep, and so on. Again, these are nerds, complete underdogs in every sense, they’re socially awkward even.
After much deliberation, the team name is decided: The Fantastic Four (of course). The costumes are designed to make a big impression with fans and media. It is decided that they will go by their actual names, and live in a high profile location (the Baxter Building), which will also made be made known to the public. The FF want as much transparency as possible, after being weary of all the secrecy they previously endured.
The Fantastic Four make a big splash by fighting crime in New York, while simultaneously going on a media blitz to drum up their “brand”. Gradually, they use their fame to talk up their other passion: science. Soon numerous sponsorships and grants roll in, allowing the FF to undertake some major research projects. They all agree the science makes the superhero duties worthwhile.
The grand scheme works perfectly. The FF have reclaimed their lives and become worldwide heroes/celebrities, the CIA is kept at bay, at least for now.
As for the villain, you could probably throw any random foe at the FF and call it a day. But given how the FF were created, why wouldn’t the Government/CIA/EvilCorp try to seize the ability to make even more superpowered people? That’s a tremendous opportunity for any nefarious outfit. I feel the villains would follow in the FF’s footsteps, like so:
Having lost their top assets in the Fantastic Four, the CIA decide to make some replacements by recreating the same experiment that gave the FF their powers. The procedure is called Project D.O.O.M. (acronym to be figured out later).
They decide to use army personnel for this experiment. It was felt that trained soldiers would be more beneficial to the espionage they’ll later engage in.
Before they undergo the experiment, the soldiers learn all about the Fantastic Four, now labelled as deserters by the CIA and military. The FF are assigned blame for intelligence failures that happened since they abandoned the CIA, and are also accused of trading secrets they learned while in the CIA’s employ.
The DOOM experiment works, giving four soldiers their own powers, each unique as well (also TBD), however their military background may have lead to more “weaponized” powers than the FF, with each soldier capable of killing scores of people on a whim.
The DOOM soldiers start off with success in their missions, but become more burdened by their powers, some even living in chronic pain. They also grow more resentful of the Fantastic Four, whose fame and heroic exploits are lauded by the entire world, while the DOOM soldiers toil in secret.
The two teams eventually meet and brawl, and it isn’t pretty. The nerds with powers get destroyed by the weaponized (and well-trained) soldiers. The FF barely escape with their lives. I’m really hammering home that underdog element.
How do they meet? The FF could try to shutdown the lab that makes superhumans after they learn of DOOM (a DOOM mission goes awry, lots of people are killed), or DOOM could lash out at the FF, but either way they face-off and the FF get their butts kicked.
The FF do prevail in the end, however I’d like to see them use science to help neutralize the DOOM bad guys, a brains-over-brawn scenario. A MacGyver ending, if you will.
Before we get to the end, there are several scenarios that might be interesting for the story:
- The CIA tries to supplant the FF with DOOM by making the FF a threat to society (sabotaging a bunch of FF science experiments for example).
- I’d like to see the FF find a cure for their own powers as well, but they selflessly give it to the DOOM guys in the end, making the ultimate sacrifice. Rules: once you’re superhuman for several months, you can’t switch back because your DNA is permanently altered. It takes almost as long to concoct the cure, forcing the FF to decide who gets cured.
- The DOOM guys could even strike it out on their own, seizing power of the military or ruling a small country (Latveria perhaps). They are essentially walking Nuclear warheads, makes sense they’d go mad with power or seek to become military-minded dictators.
- DOOM could even be reduced to one guy, your typical Victor Von Doom. But I prefer the team vs. team scenario.
I’m intrigued by the notion of 4 nerds who slowly evolve into being fighters, instead of being insta-heroes because they got their powers one day. I think that’s a more interesting journey because the characters grow — they have their backs to the wall and are forced to fight.
The theme is nerds vs. bullies, or David vs. Goliath.
This story could play up more elements hinted at in the movie Hancock. The whole PR element, the need to win over the public in a big showy way.
I’m hoping this approach would protect the franchise from being unintentionally campy. The name “The Fantastic Four” could be more at home here, instead of being a forced moniker.