BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Before Marvel made their own movies, they licensed their properties out. This is why Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, Fox owns the X-Men, and the Hulk is unlikely to get a solo movie anytime soon. Fox also own Marvel’s Fantastic Four: Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic who can stretch his body super far), Sue Storm/Richards (Invisible Woman who can create force fields on top of the obvious power), Johnny Storm (The Human Torch who becomes a being of fire) and Ben Grimm (the rock like creature known as The Thing) were the first superhero team created by Stan Lee. The team was the first superhero franchise where the heroes faced problems. These were superheroes with flaws. Johnny was an egotistical hot shot teenager while Ben Grimm dealt with isolation due to a monstrous appearance.
Fantastic Four (2005) and it’s sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) were minor commercial successes. Tim Story directed Ioan Gruffudd (Mr. Fantastic), Jessica Alba (Invisible Woman), Chris Evans (Human Torch) and Michael Chiklis (The Thing) in two mediocre family films. The first was a forgettable origin story where the team gained and discovered their powers before fighting Julian McMahon’s Doctor Doom. Rise of the SIlver Surfer saw a threat from outer space threaten the Earth. This movie is remembered for turning Galactus (a giant, purple-wearing space entity who devours planets in order to survive and whose survival is needed to keep the universe going) into a giant cloud. Fans did not like that. At all. The franchise was forced into hibernation for 10 years. I’ll give a disclaimer that I did not see Fantastic Four (2017) so all my criticism is second hand. Josh Trank directed Miles Teller (Mr. Fantastic), Michael B. Jordan (The Human Torch), Kate Mara (Invisible Woman) and Jamie Bell (the Thing) in both a critical and commercial failure. I did not see the film because I was not interested in the younger cast. The commercials made the F4 come off as teenagers when they are usually adults. They were dealing with the US military in some dimensional-portal experiment. And Toby Kebbell’s Doctor Doom was a computer programer who got caught up in the same experiment. The project just didn’t feel like The Fantastic Four and the lines looked crap. Which is ashame, because a segment of fans (aka racist assholes) blame the film’s failure on the casting of Johnny Storm when the cast looks looks to be the strong part of the film. The plot and character development looked all over the place.
After two failed Fantastic Four franchises where does Fox go next? The studio is releasing 3 X-Men movies in 2018 but had no further plans for Stan Lee’s first superhero team outside of keeping the product away from Marvel as long as possible. As part of last week’s San Diego Comic Con, Noah Hawley (creator of the FX shows Fargo and Legion) announced he is developing a Doctor Doom film. Doctor Doom is the F4’s main villain. Previously Victor Von Doom (yes, this was the character’s birth name because “Victor Evil Guy” was apparently taken) was played by Julian McMahon and Toby Kebbell. But both versions were ill-received by fans. McMahon’s Doom was a billionaire similar to Lex Luthor with a crush on Invisible Woman Sue Storm while Kebbell’s was a computer programmer/scientist before gaining superpowers in a science experiment. So is Doctor Doom really able to carry an entire film?
The short answer is yes. The Victor Von Doom of the comics is Marvel’s most complicated villain. He is a walking contradiction. Doom is a man of science and magic. Victor has been both freedom fighter and dictator. He was born in the fictional country of Latveria. His Romani parents taught him magic from an early age. After their deaths (his mom was killed by the devil and his dad by a Latveria government official) Doom went to University in the USA. There he study science alongside classmate Reed Richards (the future Mr. Fantastic) and built a machine to talk to the dead. Doom used both magic and technology to take over Latveria. That story is more than enough for a film. I do wonder if Victor can be done properly without the rest of the Marvel Universe though. He is connected to more than just the F4. Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange fought to see who will be Earth’s new Sorcerer Supreme. Captain America, Nick Fury, and all of S.H.I.E.L.D usually keep an eye on the super villain who happens to lead an entire country. Iron Man’s technology is often compared to Doom’s to give fans a reference of his power. So can Doctor Doom work without the majority of Marvel? Under a good director and writer, yes. Doom is a brilliant and unexpected way to begin the Fantastic Four franchise. Victor’s origin is too deep to do correctly alongside the superhero team’s. That is why it was shortened and dumbed down. A proper Doom origin requires very little Fantastic Four. The film can build the Fantastic Four’s universe outside of Marvel’s first family. The team dynamic will feel different just because the audience knows more about the world. It will be similar to Fox’s last reboot of a Marvel superhero team, X-Men: First Class (2011) and hopefully it will rebirth the franchise in a similar way.