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What's Next for The 'Fantastic Four' Franchise?

We look at the options available to Fox as the studio circles the wagons.

Story by Matt Cummings

It's clear that 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Four is a bomb of epic proportions, led by a series of creative disasters and poor decision-making that turned into the worst-reviewed comic book movie ever. Its second-place box office debut this weekend sends a stunning message: not all superhero movies are alike, and no comic book franchise can simply throw together a Frankenstein-ed plot, fill it with substandard acting, and then take away the director's creative control and still expect audiences to attend.

This sort of Box Office Roulette does have an end game, as Fox now circles the wagons in a desperate attempt to figure out what's next, going so far as to hand out surveys to those few who've seen it, hoping to glean some insight. What options do they have? SJF weighs several possibilities.

Give/Sell Fantastic Four Back to Marvel
Possible? Yes. Probable? It's more likely than ever before, considering two important aspects: moviegoer's growing disdain for origin films and $60-80 write-off the studio will have to incur by the time this is done. Fanboys everywhere will most likely push for this scenario as they have all the proof they need of Marvel's acumen. But there are a number of side questions: is there a 'cost' Marvel would have to 'pay?' We don't know if the lack of a produced FF movie means the rights are merely gifted back, or if Marvel would have to pay a 'pay off amount' much you would at the end of your mortgage.

But even if Marvel finally wins the day, what would they do with FF? Is there any desire on Marvel's part to accept them back? I think that answer is defintely yes. Remember, all the contracts for the trio of Robert Downey Jr./Chris Hemsworth/Chris Evans end with Infinity War, which means Marvel will need a solid cast of Phase Four heroes. That could include Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Ms. Marvel, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther, giving them time to figure out how to re-sell the tattered franchise. My guess is that we would be ready for such a pitch a lot sooner than they think.

Push Through With A Sequel And No Cast Changes
Possible? Yes. Probable? No. Although it has a penciled-in release date of June 9th, 2017, the option is an ugly one. Burn everything but keep the cast with just a small reference to the first film. But in order to do so, Fox will have to go cosmic, which means bringing in the planet-devouring Galactus/Silver Surfer. Plot a mission to the deepest parts of space and let the team become one, something they never did in the original. Stand tall and proud and be unafraid of the scientific geekiness that deep space research can provide. Yeah....that doesn't sound good to me either, and here's why: we already have a film called Rise of the Silver Surfer from 2007 which was as bad a comic book film could get. But Fox might not care, as it desperately wants its own Marvel connected universe, so it's possible they're considering moving forward. It's a suicidal move to be sure, and it's unlikely fans would get behind any such notion. One other note: that same Surfer movie more than doubled up on Trank's version this weekend, taking in over $56m in its first weekend. Ouch.

Push Through a Sequel With New Cast Members
Possible? Yes. Probable? Not really. Part of the problem with FF lay in its casting. Granted you have some of the best young talent in Josh Trank's disaster, but that's partially why it failed. Fans didn't accept a black Johnny Storm and an adopted Sue Storm, but you've already established they're related, so the only way to fix this is to either re-cast one or both. That feels extremely unlikely, as not many quality actors will want to touch this third rail. It's also unlikely that fans would support it; so we say adieu to this scenario.

Gift The Rights to Another Studio Not Marvel
Possible? Yes. Probable? Suicidal and might not even be allowed. According to our understanding of the agreement between Marvel and Fox, no one can step in to produce the film that isn't one of the two studios. That means Fox couldn't sell or even pass the rights on to Sony Pictures. This has to be a production by one or other...or both perhaps?

Make The Fantastic Four Supporting Characters in an X-Men Team-Up Movie
Possible? Yes. Probable? More probable than pushing forward with a new cast. Since this is supposed to be the end game anyways - a massive team-up on the scale of Marvel's Infinity War in 2018/2019 - it might be the most likely. There's a nasty admission tucked into that interesting idea: FF is not good enough on its own. At this point, we'd have to swallow that bitter pill, because they are in fact not good enough in their current configuration. This is where the Galactus storyline becomes more plausible, allowing the team to debate the ethics of mutanthood with Wolverine and Professor X, all while battling one another Avengers-style before coming together to save the day. But the risk is also great: what if their appearance pulls down the now solidly improving X-Men franchise, which has become bolstered via two great recent films, First Class and Days of Future Past. But if fans get a good team up, they're more likely to forget the situation which created the need in the first place.

Partner with Marvel/Disney ala Spider-man
Possible? No. Probable? Get real. There's a greater chance that an asteroid will smash into the Earth causing worldwide devastation than these two studios working together. The proof? Marvel recently cancelled its long-running FF comics in clear aggression towards Fox, who refuses to give up their share of Marvel's pie. Hasbro is not producing FF toys and Marvel probably has something to do with it. The good news is that (recently) Fox is on a good run with Director Bryan Singer back at the helm. With two more years before the Sony/Marvel Spider-man team up, it would be difficult to determine if any relationship like that is even a good idea. And Fox would rather die than partner with their living embodiment of Galactus, so we don't think this one will happen unless an obscene amount of money is passed between them.

What's the Next Step?
At this point, probably nothing, and for several reasons. Fantastic Four needs to complete its theatrical and home video run, which means we won't hear anything until at least 2016. In addition, the Sony/Marvel thing needs time to gestate before that scenario can be broached. But while the answers above are relatively straight-forward, it's possible that we won't know anything for quite some time. With 7 years left to produce something, Fox might not be in such a rush, hoping that audiences will forget this disaster as they quietly retool for yet another attempt. That would be a dangerous path to tread, so don't be surprised if this gets resolved a lot sooner.

Discuss this story with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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