Following Disney’s acquisition of Fox, many Marvel fans were excited about the potential of a Fantastic Four story set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This hope is intensified with the memory of the past failed attempts at Fantastic Four films. But perhaps film isn’t the best way to tell the story of the FF. Maybe the creators at Marvel Studios should start thinking long term and long form.
There is certainly merit to a film based on Marvel’s founding family, especially after Fox failed twice to make the team resonate with the audience. A film would have a wider reach, and a good adaptation would give general audiences a look at how incredible The Fantastic Four are as characters. But as the recent Disney+ shows have proven, television can be an incredibly effective way to make audiences care about the characters being portrayed onscreen. So maybe Marvel can take a different approach to what it tried in the past.
The Fantastic Four Aren’t Simply Crime-Fighters, They’re Scientists
Understanding why The Fantastic Four would work better as a TV show would require a deeper understanding of the Four themselves. Unlike other Marvel characters, they are not strictly superheroes. While they are always willing to help to defend the world, it’s not what they dedicate themselves to. They are, above all else, scientists and explorers. The adventures they go on are more akin to an episode of Star Trek than any issue of Superman.
Because they don’t concern themselves with crime all that often, the Fantastic Four’s adventures fit better in a long-form format. They are people who spend their lives traveling to other worlds, breaking the barriers to other dimensions, collecting knowledge and making discoveries in the hopes of helping mankind. Often they only fight when they are threatened directly or when the planet itself is at risk. And when they aren’t working, they are using their celebrity status either to enjoy life or to bring awareness to issues they care about.
Another reason why the team might work better on a smaller screen ties back to one of their iconic names: Marvel’s First Family. In fact, The Fantastic Four could also be considered one of the first superhero families in comics. Since their 1962 inception, these four individuals are tied together by blood, marriage and friendship, which is one of their most appealing traits. Reed is the husband/father, Sue is the older sister/wife/mother, Johnny is the younger brother and uncle, and Ben is both an uncle and best friend. The quartet works well together, with Johnny and Ben providing one of the most iconic examples of bickering brothers in fiction. Like typical families, they get on each other’s nerves often, but they do love each other. And while their relationship has never been perfect, Reed and Sue have kept their marriage happy and well since the ’60s. It’s these relationships that deserve more time to shine.
Marvel’s First Family Needs the Depth of Weekly Episodes
Not only would the closer relationships make it easy to enjoy the team, but it would also add more weight to the drama in the Four’s lives. For example, the blue-eyed Thing is an idol of millions, but he’s also a man constantly struggling with the changes forced on him after the accident in space. He is a man constantly judged by his rocky outer appearance, often treated like a monster more than a man. His condition is also an immense source of guilt for Reed Richards, who has never stopped blaming himself for the accident that left his best friend the way he is.
While this drama could certainly play out in movie format over two hours, having extra time to spend with the four members would help give the moments more power. Having more time to see Ben and Johnny mess with one another would make their friendlier moments all the better. Seeing Reed trying his best to make Sue happy and succeeding would feel sweeter. And seeing Johnny and Sue’s sibling bickering only to reaffirm their love for one another would feel more earned with more time to develop the relationships.
It should be noted that a Fantastic Four movie is slated to be released in 2025. However, that film will likely only be the origin of the team and the start of their journey. Marvel clearly wants to continue its streaming focus, which is the ideal format for longer Fantastic Four stories. And for fans who have been starved for good Fantastic Four adaptations, a weekly series that explores the characters and their interactions would be much appreciated.