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Marvel Studios and The Fantastic Four: Is it worth it?

*Forgive me, for my timing isn’t as relevent as it could have been with this piece*

This past summer twentieth-century fox released a reboot of the Marvel Comics property ‘The Fantastic Four’ to less than stellar results, and that’s putting it lightly. Rumors circled the production from day one as newcomer filmmaker Josh Trank was handed the reins to Marvel’s first family. Word had it the director behind ‘Chronicle’ had a particular vision concerning the characters, to introduce them as a ‘hard Sci-Fi’ in tone instead of the openly campy iterations from the 2000’s when Chris Evans was the Human Torch instead of Captain America. Oh, how the times have changed. It’s not fully certain yet exactly what the right circumstances were for this project to be the box office bomb that it became, but one thing’s for sure, we all await the eventual documentary about it. It seems as though that despite having excellent actors attached to this iteration, and a new perspective on the characters and their origins, that there isn’t any one set of shoulders that we can rest all of the blame can upon though. In fact, I’ve listed a link below to Kevin Smith’s podcast ‘Fatman on Batman’ where the indie director sits down with Trank before his Fantastic Four released. It’s the first of three long podcasts (and is NSFW because of language) in which the listener gets to know Trank’s story. It’s a worth a listen purely for better understanding where the director comes from. While Josh Trank may have gotten overwhelmed at the helm though, it seems as though heavy studio meddling could have been a major factor. With their changes to, not only the structure, but the entire third act, they scheduled massive and painfully apparent reshoots that only served to weaken the overall piece. If we take a step back though and see what possible futures the characters can have, we have to ask, even if Marvel Studios has the chance to reclaim the characters, is it worth it to them now that the characters’ image is marred even further?

As a comic book fan, as well as a fan of the films, I say yes. Admittedly, I didn’t see the new film in theaters, but knowing what could be done with the characters, and what implications they have for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, well, lets just say I wouldn’t waste any time signing them up for MCU appearances. The Fantastic Four could be an incredibly timely film if done in the right light today. With Science projects taking ahold of people’s imaginations again from the likes of an eventual mission to Mars and the potential mining of asteroids, the time is now for a superhero team that embodies that spirit of unbridled exploration. The best parts about their comics are the thrill of imagination and discovery and the power of family. Imagine the heart and morals of Captain America but with the deep space tech Iron Man dreams about, and throw a dash of adventure in too for good measure. They explore parts of the MCU that no other characters deal with on a constant basis, much like Doctor Strange does. From the Microverse to the Negative Zone and back Reed Richards and his family know no bounds when it comes to exploring new worlds. That, however, doesn’t even begin to measure everything that comes with them.

Doctor Doom is all well and good, but the real granddaddy of Marvel villainy is Galactus, Eater-of-Worlds! Obviously this storyline is the big, bombastic, showdown that everyone wants to see, and it is ultimately the Fantastic Four that save the planet from this menace, using science, and … well, err.. persuasion. Even without the cosmic terror that is Galactus though, simply having Doctor Doom around to play around with in the MCU would be sufficient. Victor Von Doom is a peculiar villain in that he is the ruler of an entire country and infinitely cunning in his knowledge of both science and magic. Not to mention the galactic thinker himself, the silver surfer, would be a fun addition. Even if only for cameos, he’s surprisingly powerful for someone so shiny. The Alien race known as the Skrulls might even be part of the net of characters specifically related to the Foursome, and truly, who doesn’t want to see the Skrull invasion onscreen, it was enough to make Nick Fury’s paranoia boil over!

Possibly the best part about integrating Marvel’s first family into the MCU would be integrating them into other series. Specifically Spiderman’s films would surely benefit from the added cohesion, plus the characters have a long history of teaming up, some of the best ‘Fantastic’ storylines include Spiderman. I still believe these heroes can be a unique part of the MCU. While a devoted ‘Fantastic’ film might not be in the books anytime soon, these characters could be excellent bit players, much like Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk currently exists within the MCU. They could even be devoted to Netflix where they could thrive in their own series that defines their exploratory nature and then ultimately be utilized in the event movies when a big bad such as Galactus comes knocking. A truly unprecendented move could be something worth doing with this property as well though. While this is incredibly unlikely there is the chance that because Marvel will have to prove themselves with this property they’d have to do something wildly different in their approach. SPOILERS In issue #587 of the comics Marvel killed off Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, the firebrand hot head went down heroically and saved the rest of the team so that they might escape the monsters of the unforgiving Negative Zone. If Marvel went with this route they would be doing something fresh, heart wrenching, and (hopefully) profound. It would also free up a potential Spiderman sequel arc where he is recruited to the newly christened ‘Future Foundation’ as the Human Torch’s replacement on the team.

The potential is there, but it remains to be seen what will be done with these characters. Hopefully they will not be pushed to the wayside, but given another chance to shine within the same world that ‘The Avengers’ inhabit. I have a feeling Kevin Feige has a contingency plan for this exact sort of thing anyways.

*Kevin Smith does a podcast with Josh Trank, Part 1 of 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s9xrzPLvm0

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Heroes: Kevin Smith

One thing I’ve begun to notice when bringing up my favorite directors is that people always seem to nod in approval when mentioning The Coen Brothers, Edgar Wright, Spielberg, Nolan, Abrams, but every so often when the name Kevin Smith is uttered, often alongside Tarantino, about twenty to forty percent raise an eyebrow, or their face contorts into a look of questionable reasoning. Now, I know the man is not everybody’s slice of pie, but I believe he’s one of the best, if not most well known, indie filmmakers that made it. He’s a goddamn sage of the indie film community for Christ’s sake! So, here’s my defense for Kevin Smith’s place on my mantle of inspiration.

One of the main reasons his films caught my attention in college was because he was doing something palpable with filmmaking. In my wide eyed early ambitions of deciding that film was something I wanted to do Kevin Smith’s work made it seem possible. Were the laughs somewhat childish, yet adult in content? Yes. Did I laugh every time Jason Mewes found a new way to incorporate the word “Fuck” into every other sentence? Yes, yes I did. In fact it was the first Clerks that really truly opened my eyes to the fact that if you wanted to make a movie, all you had to do was gather some well trusted close friends, find a decent location, and have at it!

After I became acclimated to Smith’s directorial style I found his Q and A series of videos starting with “Too Fat for 40” and seemingly immediately after came “Burn in Hell Kevin Smith”. Those two specials motivated and inspired me more than I could even imagine, because now not only had I seen his work and thought “I think I can do that” there was the former beloved Mute telling me, “Anybody can do this, Hell if I can do this, You can do this!” His encouragement of art was astounding, world breaking to me, but not in a negative light, it merely broke my perception of a world where only connected studio backed directors like Spielberg and the like were allowed to create magic behind that coveted curtain of movie making.

The next big moment of surprise from Kevin Smith for me came in the form of “Red State”. Here was a movie that was tonally, stylistically, and creatively different from anything he had done before. The fat guy from jersey did indeed have another ace up his sleeve, he had become a chameleon in his work, proving to me that if you are passionate enough and pour your heart and soul into something you can chase your heart’s fancy. That you can change and not be locked into an accepted version of you for the rest of your life. That was a powerful message to me. You don’t have to fit into the box that everyone expects you to fit in, if you simply accept yourself and follow your imagination with a vigor and unrelenting fervor, you can succeed, even if that success is a bunch of radical church nuts kidnapping teenagers in the middle of nowhere to cleanse them of their sins. I didn’t say success was measured by the amount of “fucks” you get out of a movie, cause if so Smith would have four oscars, just short of Scorsese, cause really, “Wolf of Wall Street” had a lot of “fucks”.

I haven’t even mentioned the podcasting phenomenon, his ruling of the social media that is twitter, his complete knowledge of Star Wars and Batman, or how he goes out to film fests, film schools, and everywhere in-between to talk about film, inspire new and upcoming filmmakers, and probably tell a joke or two about the gooey origins of every human being that we all so lovingly don’t want to mention in public. The man is a force to behold within the last five to eight years, he “quit” film, then found some inspiration of his own and came back into the fold. Not everybody went to see “Tusk”, the box office numbers proves this. But I did. Was it my favorite Kevin Smith movie? No, but it wasn’t horrible, and hell I had fun going late at night with friends to a totally weird monster flick. We had a good time with it. The most important part though was that Smith chose to make a movie that he was creatively invested in. Because of “Tusk” we’re now getting a sequel to “Mallrats” and a third “Clerks” movie. This, I am okay with. Not to shut down the True North Trilogy either because I’m quite looking forward to “Yoga Hoosers” and “Moose Jaws” in particular.

So Kevin Smith will be around for awhile creating more stories. Whether he will hit the highs of his original works or not is up to the future, but personally I’ll enjoy the ride as it happens. I’m glad to have the guy around, it just proves a good indie director’s merit and gumption can keep him around for the long haul. Oh and for the record, my favorite movie of his is “Dogma”, it’s just wonderfully written and was an excellent chapter in the book of his works. Write on Silent Bob, write on.