Fantastic Four Would Work Better On TV

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It’s About Family

It’s held up as a universal truth that what distinguishes the Fantastic Four from the many super hero teams introduced in the 50-plus years since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first invented the group is that its members are truly a family. It’s hard to argue that, because Reed and Sue are married — and probably the strongest, most realistic married couple in all of super hero comics in the hands of most writers — and went on to have children who are fascinating characters in their own right. Sue and Johnny are siblings too, so only poor Ben gets left out of the legitimate family ties.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the Avengers, Justice League, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and any other teams we’ve seen on film are not families (the X-Men have some family aspects in the comics, as do the Inhumans, but it remains to see how many of them make it to the big screen). They’re random collections of individuals who bond out of circumstance. Thor’s movies have dipped into his family dynamic, Tony Stark had his daddy issues and Scott Lang tried to do right by his daughter, but those were merely ties used to propel the stories of individual characters forward.

Contrast that to the FF, where the family is the story, or at least a big part of it. Even the Johnny-Ben relationship is one that reminds you of real brothers. They laugh, bicker and even have honest to goodness fights based on rage and jealousy, but when the chips are down, they almost always come through for one another. The times they don’t ring true as well, as we can all attest from real life family experiences.

The ebbs and flows of familial interactions are difficult to pin down in movies. Really good films do it by serving up snapshots of particular moments that are so good that our minds can fill in the blanks, or somehow play tricks with time to show us more than you could reasonably expect in two hours. When the characters in question are also trying to save the world or all of reality with their super powers, you’re asking any team of screenwriters to tackle an almost insurmountable task.

Not so on television, where it’s possible to show all the ways a real family evolves with time. I mean that in a literal sense as well, because we wouldn’t be getting to Franklin or Val for quite a few sequels in theaters. On a TV series, creators would have the time and space they’d need to convincingly pull off the team’s key component without rushing to cram it into the running time of a summer blockbuster, even by their current, bloated standards.

Next: All the Final Frontiers