As many are aware, this isn’t even the first time this has happened. Fox tried to bring Marvel’s First Family to the silver screen almost exactly ten years ago in what was presumably a much less desperate bid to prevent their rights to the movie license from expiring and reverting back to Marvel. That attempt garnered one sequel, which this new film may yet also receive, but either way, it’s fallen through in a way that their other big Marvel comic-to-movie franchise, X-Men, has not.
While I cannot rightly address everything that has failed to allow the Fantastic Four to take their rightful place alongside their comic contemporaries on movie screens across the globe, I have noticed one common point between both versions which I think has unquestionably caused the Richards family to falter. Away from behind-the-scenes drama and questionable direction, there is one root problem that should be corrected before making another attempt.
In this, it’s amusing to think that the Fantastic Four have been foiled twice over by their greatest foe.
Dr. Victor von Doom.
To be clear: I am not condemning the character of Dr. Doom. In fact, he is one of my favorite Marvel characters, more so than even the Fantastic Four themselves, and he is without a doubt their greatest enemy. With that said, he has absolutely no place in a movie that encapsulates their origin story. This has seemingly been proven now twice over.
I understand the draw of including him; of the Fantastic Four’s foes, there is arguably none greater. In fact, he is so great that to effectively kludge him into their origin does him a disservice, and in turn, does the Four themselves a disservice.
CEO? Blogger? Apprentice? Such titles and roles are beneath Doom.
Ruler, master of science and sorcery alike, and — on occasion — a god. These are the roles which Doom was meant to fulfill.
Unfortunately, in order to fit him into the Fantastic Four’s origin story, the latter have been dismissed in favor of the former (though it seems “angry blogger” might have been changed during the production of this latest film). This does not befit Doom.
Doom’s story, in brief, takes him from his childhood in the European nation of Latveria on a quest to avenge the death of his parents and retrieve the soul of his mother from the grasp of Mephisto. This journey takes him to America, where he would attend Empire State University and meet his future nemesis, Reed Richards. In attempting to use a device designed to communicate with the dead, Reed tried warning him of an error in his calculations which Doom’s pride would not cede to, leading to a malfunction which scarred his face and led to his expulsion from the university.
Victor traveled the world before collapsing on a mountain in Tibet, where he would be found and healed by a clan of monks. Learning their ways and taking control of their clan, he would forge armor for himself and use his new resources to conquer his homeland of Latveria. As ruler of this nation, he would plot revenge against those he felt had wronged him — Reed Richards most of all.
Despite his ways, Doom has a certain — “benevolence” might be too kind, but he does take a certain care to those under his rule. Though his pride and self-interest often tends to push the needle towards villainy, Doom’s actions sometimes cast him in the way of an anti-hero as well. Dr. Doom has been the star of his own comic book stories, taking on the role of protagonist, and could no doubt carry an entire movie on his own.
And that’s exactly what Fox should do. Let the Fantastic Four have their own origin, and let Dr. Doom have his. Let Doom be Doom, because he can be nothing else, and nothing else is worthy of Doom.
I can see how it might be difficult to conceive of a Fantastic Four movie that does not feature him prominently, yet it must be done. And why not? Fox and every other studio in Hollywood has their eye on mirroring Marvel’s movie “universe,” and with their comparatively limited reach here, this would only strengthen their portfolio in such a regard.
Then, once both have been established, that’s when you want to bring them together. Not only would Dr. Doom facing off with the Fantastic Four provide that great Avengers-styled crossover moment that these “universe” concepts are built for, but you would also have the opportunity to actually let the two sides truly square off against one-another.
Or actually team up. Stranger things have happened.
On the other hand, if Fox absolutely must have Dr. Doom in their next attempt at a Fantastic Four movie, it would be highly recommended that they just skip the origin and have the team already established. Have Reed recall how they got their powers to a journalist or something early on, and allow Doom — the real Doom — to make his move.
What’s interesting — and not deliberate on my part — is that both approaches have been done successfully before. What’s more, both were done by Batman.
In 1989’s Tim Burton film, Batman is an already established crime fighter and we get his story told to us in flashback while Joker terrorizes Gotham City. In 2005’s Batman Begins, Joker doesn’t even factor in until a teaser at the end, setting him up for the second movie in which he stole the show. Both worked out pretty well at the time, all told.
Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four are not one in the same, nor should the origins of their costumed selves overlap. If Fox can separate the two, then maybe they’ll finally end up on a path to getting things right.
Or they can just end up striking up some sort of deal with Marvel, who would potentially do this very simple thing for them. Either way is good, really.