An Open Letter to Marvel Regarding the Fantastic Four

Dear Marvel:

Please rescue the Fantastic Four from Fox.  What has been done to this series for over a decade now is nothing less than shameful.  Re-boot after re-boot, attempting to capture more and wider demographics by casting pretty bodies of various shades is not a method for great film making.  The way to make people believe that the superhero genre can be a true art form is to cast professionals and tell a compelling story.  Simply putting a hot blonde in a body suit does the brand, the fans and the genre a grave disservice.

Here is a solution that I will give you for free.  Start by casting actual adults who can lend a certain level of gravitas and believability to the characters.

Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards): Marc Maron

First, Marc doesn’t even need to dye his hair or put on fake glasses.  He looks exactly like Reed Richards.  Then, take his self deprecation, his negativity towards relationships with women, and his general sense of shame, and sprinkle in just enough humor to make us laugh and take pity on him at the same time.  You cannot ask for someone better to play this part.

Invisible Woman (Sue Richards): Naomi Watts 

A gorgeous adult female, with the ability to make you think she stays in a relationship with a scientist incapable of giving her the love she deserves because she knows he is a better man that he believes he is.  Naomi Watts can make you feel that she is both strong and vulnerable.  You can understand that she truly feels “invisible” in the shadow of Mr. Fantastic.

The Human Torch (Johnny Storm): Josh Holloway

Josh is an expert at playing a “heel.”  The guy who is handsome and usually right, but who you really don’t want to like because he is kind of a dick about it.  Basically, his claim to fame is being Johnny Storm.  Arguably the most egotistical of the Fantastic Four, the best written Johnny Storm arcs show someone is full of bravado, but really, is just a vulnerable little brother on the inside who will do whatever he can to look out for his sister.  Josh would be perfect for this. It also helps that he looks like he really could be Naomi Watts brother.

The Thing (Ben Grimm): Idris Alba

Last but certainly not least is Irdis Alba.  Unlike the other characters who you really have to stretch (no pun intended) to re-work their racial background, Ben Grimm can easily be darker toned if you feel the need to make a more racially diverse casting decision.  But he’s not just a “token” handsome black man.  In fact, by turning him into the Thing, you really never get to see just what a heart throb of a body he has.  Instead, you get his amazing voice and intense beyond words eyes.  And because in real life he carries himself as a man who has the kind of imposing physical presence of the Thing, motion capture will translate very well into the rocky form he develops.  The Thing is the really the emotional center of the team, the “rock” that they all lean on when things are at their worst.  Idris Alba can and does bring that powerful stage emotion to everything he does.  Cast this man!

The last thing you need is a great story to develop a script from.  A story that has drama and realism, not just flashy special effects.  A story that let’s you see who the “Fantastic Four,” really are and why they do what they do.  So do not waste our time with the “cosmic” origin story that takes up an hour of screen time.  The “super”-ness of the team is not what makes you care about them, it is their humanity.  So you need a story that highlights that.

And so, I give you, the “Unthinkable” arc by Mark Waid.  

Waid tells the story of a man who, as a result of his own pride, destroyed the lives of the people who cared about most.  A man who, desperate to keep his friends from being the objects of fear and loathing, essentially tries to trick them into being “heroes” – hoping that fame will keep them from growing to hate the monsters they have become.

And it is a tale of parent’s love for their child, capture, pain and eventual victory, but not without a cost.  It is a real human story about people whose powers make them more vulnerable, not less.  It is, basically, a story fans and newcomers to the genre would want to hear.

So Marvel, please, I beg you, take this and run with it.  Buy your heroes back.  Help us Stan Lee, you are our only hope.

PS:  I know Mr. Alba is currently Heimdall in the Thor universe but it is not necessary that he continue doing that.  First, they got rid of his eyes and his physique but putting him in a ridiculous outfit.  Then, they gave him a role that is effectively “cosmic turn-style operator.”  Marvel can correct that waste of talent.