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Marvel's Fantastic Four reboot: everything we know so far

In the dear old days of our youths — a decade or so ago — the concept of rebooting a superhero movie franchise was a pretty foreign one. Sure, Batman and Superman had already seen a few actors and directors come and go, but caped characters getting multiple reinventions on the big screen still seemed like the realm of desperation. These days, Disney and Marvel Studios continue to enjoy their lofty privilege in not being subject to the age-old rules of film marketing. As such, we are going to get (and, in an unprecedented twist, possibly clamor to see) yet another reboot of the Fantastic Four. 

Fans of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm may approach this with their own wary and even cynical eye, but we are nonetheless certain that hope springs eternal from the breast of a long-suffering fandom — one that has for decades been denied a truly great film centered on what is essentially the Royal Family of Comics. Let's take a look at what we might be able to expect from the Fantastic Four's eventual introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What will be the release date for the Fantastic Four reboot?

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 that the studio was indeed planning a Fantastic Four film, and that it was in some phase of pre-production. The Phase 4 slate revealed at the convention only extends through 2021, but current smart money is on the F4 arriving in 2022. A schedule released by the Walt Disney Company in May of 2019 revealed dates penciled in for three then-untitled Marvel films: one in February, one in July, and the May 6th release that was revealed at D23 to be Black Panther 2. There's a good chance one of those two remaining mystery movies is Blade, since the casting of Mahershala Ali suggests it's not too far off. The other could very well be Fantastic Four.

That's still guesswork, but it remains a safe assumption that Marvel is eager to put their stamp on these cornerstone characters. Speculation about the Fantastic Four entering the MCU began virtually from the moment the purchase of Fox by Disney was rumored, gaining fervor since the sale ultimately went through in March of 2019. The demand is certainly there — perhaps even a bit desperately, considering the property's checkered history on the screen. 

Disney's purchase of Fox has made a new Fantastic Four possible

Yes, we have been here before — four times, in fact. You may not recall them all, though there is a measurable chance you saw the first Fox Fantastic Four film released in 2005. Chris Evans was in it, remember? We love him (now)! It did reasonably well for its time insofar as box office take, though it is generally regarded as unmemorable. We can tell our children of the era before the Cinematic Universe, when a comic book property was more often than not presented on screen as a lukewarm action film with more immediately-recognizable faces slapped on. Whatever darkness may come of Disney owning the media world, at least we (hopefully) won't have to suffer that fate anymore.

That 2005 jaunt received a sequel in 2007 called Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. It did more poorly than the first, and any trilogy consideration was abandoned in its wake. But the bottom had not yet been found for this beleaguered piece of intellectual property. No, that came with the disastrous reboot attempt in 2015. Riddled with alleged director tantrums, last-minute script re-writes, and the Infamous Reshoot Wig, Fox barely exceeded the production budget in its global take. They quietly swept it under the rug and hoped everyone would forget. Now, of course, Disney owns all that. The slate is effectively clean again… and what's more, there is an entire universe of context to refit these four heroes into with little difficulty. 

Oh, right, we said four times, didn't we? Well, the doomed 1994 Roger Corman production of Fantastic Four is a story all its own.

The Fantastic Four will bring a key villain to the MCU

Disney's purchase of 21st Century Fox has given Marvel Studios newfound and long-wanted access to a lot of Fantastic Four-centric characters — most specifically, villains — that provides some major potential future plot vectors they didn't have before. Galactus, for example, is one of the few cosmic threats that could actually top Thanos. The most significant by far, however, is Doctor Doom, the First Family's arch nemesis.

Doctor Doom was featured in all four previous Fantastic Four films as a villain, but his presence and iconic station in comics stretches much further than that. He even has a finished solo film script by Legion's Noah Hawley sitting in Fox's vault somewhere, caught in the shuffle of shifting ownership legalities over the past few years. Victor von Doom is the kind of big bad you can call in for everything from the biggest cosmic conquests to just showing up on a Tuesday to be petty for pettiness' sake. Pliable stakes and the high visibility of the character even to casual film and/or comic fans will likely be not just helpful, but essential in the formation of the post-Infinity Saga era of the MCU.

Rumors are already a-flowin' about Fantastic Four's plot

An unnamed source has fostered rumor that the general plot being kicked around at Marvel Studios introduces the Fantastic Four in the '60s, working alongside Hank Pym and already having attained their powers (recall that the Fantastic Four were exposed to gamma radiation while in space and mutated to gain their iconic abilities). Somehow, they will be lost in what is known in the original comics as the Negative Zone (not the Quantum Realm, where Janet van Dyne was lost for decades), and will reemerge in contemporary times. 

That's a lot of material previously unknown to the MCU, we know. So what is the Negative Zone? It's another piece of multidimensional space, like the aforementioned Quantum Realm first presented in Ant-Man, and other dimensions featured more fully in Doctor Strange. The Negative Zone, however, is entirely comprised of antimatter, making it difficult to traverse in and out. Reed Richards is the man who discovered this separate dimensional universe in the comics. Perhaps the MCU incarnations of Richards and Pym had a friendship that was forged over looking for these extradimensional worlds?

Is the next great MCU arc at hand?

The origin plot could potentially play into an overarching threat from a villain called Annihilus. Rumor suggests the next major arc of the MCU could use the Annihilation storyline as its foundation. The same rumor also indicated that Norman Osborn would become involved, but in the face of recent events vis-a-vis Spider-Man, perhaps take all of this with a small boulder of salt. If the rumor of incorporating the Negative Zone in a Fantastic Four adaptation is true, Annihilus likely comes along with it. 

The original Annihilation event features characters and places we already know in the MCU — chiefly Drax, the Nova Corps, the planet Xandar, the Skrulls, and the Kyln prison seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Annihilus, Lord of the Negative Zone, seeks to consume all life in the 616 universe with his Annihilation Wave, an army of insect aliens. The opposition force features characters not known to the MCU (with the most prominent of those being the Silver Surfer and Galactus), but this could easily come to fruition in a long-term story arc, as with Thanos in the Infinity Saga.

A curious directorial happenstance

Back in 2015, Peyton Reed (director of both Ant-Man and Ant-Man and The Wasp) revealed in an interview with Film School Rejects that he pitched a Fantastic Four movie to Fox in 2003. In his script, the general setting had indeed been the '60s and featured the lead quartet as the first modern superhero celebrities, getting their start performing clandestine missions before becoming household names. Fox ultimately rejected his pitch. 

This concept would be tailor-made for the backstory already presented in Reed's own Ant-Man movies, which have given us several flashbacks to the history of super-science and teased no shortage of colleagues for Pym and Van Dyne. It's a particularly curious twist, too, that the Ant-Man corner of the MCU does not currently have any publicly-announced material slated for the foreseeable future. Peyton Reed himself is not terribly busy, either, with no directorial projects — Marvel or otherwise — apparently on his plate at the moment. How neat.