Marvel's Fantastic Four Movie Still Hasn't Solved Its Biggest Problem

Marvel’s multiverse is in trouble. The franchise’s First Family has been tasked with cleaning up the mess, but they’ll need a compelling villain.

Alex Ross' Fantastic Four #1 Incentive variant cover
Alex Ross/Marvel Comics

Marvel’s Cinematic Universe enjoyed 15 years at the top, but following the epic scale of Avengers: Endgame has proved elusive. With the franchise barreling towards what could be their most ambitious team-up yet, superhero fatigue taking hold, and no clear antagonist defined, Marvel needs to rally... and fast.

Fortunately, the studio is finally gearing up to unveil one of its most beloved superhero teams. Marvel’s long-awaited Fantastic Four film is officially in the works; the heroes have been cast, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, production is set to start in the summer of 2024. That’s exciting, but it might be a bit too soon to celebrate. The team’s big screen track record has been weak. Previous film adaptations struggled to capture the tone of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comics, and more recent runs have only taken the Fantastic Four in a more ambitious direction, making a faithful adaptation even more daunting.

The Fantastic Four also marks a crucial turning point for Marvel Studios. The franchise has spent the last five years working to rebuild after the events of Endgame, but replacing the MCU’s most iconic characters is easier said than done. Marvel finds itself in a precarious spot, and while a good Fantastic Four movie can’t fix everything, it would go a long way in restoring some much-needed goodwill.

Marvel has its new Fantastic Four. Can the film save the MCU?

Marvel Studios

Per THR, Marvel is still on the hunt for “characters and actors who can carry its universe forward after the exits of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans.” Recent movies have worked to introduce new heroes while priming part-time Avengers (like Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel) for bigger roles, but nothing has really managed to stick. The Fantastic Four cast could remedy this, as Pedro Pascal, Vanessa Kirby, Joseph Quinn, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach have each turned in charismatic performances elsewhere. But a fresh group of heroes can only take the franchise so far. They also need a villain as compelling as Thanos to anchor the final chapters of the Multiverse Saga.

Following the disappointing Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and actor Jonathan Major’s domestic abuse conviction, Marvel is reportedly moving on from Kang the Conqueror. The character and his many variants could have served as a strong villain for the Multiverse Saga and beyond, but with Marvel now retooling in earnest, it seems like another antagonist will have to take his place. With Fantastic Four, Marvel could introduce a villain with real gravitas and longevity. It doesn’t have to be the team’s most famous foe, Doctor Doom (though expectations are high on that front). Instead, antagonists like the Silver Surfer or Galactus could finally establish Marvel’s elusive cosmic side.

The latter might be the most fitting approach given that Silver Surfer already headlined a failed Fantastic Four film, but Galactus comes with his own set of challenges. As a cosmic being who traverses the universe devouring worlds, Galactus has a lot in common with the Celestials, who appeared in Eternals but haven’t been mentioned since. The 2021 film seemed to be priming Arishem the Judge as a viable villain for the Multiverse Saga, but after three years, we’re still no closer to seeing his return. (There’s also the little matter of the Celestial frozen solid in the middle of the ocean, the vast ramifications of which haven’t been mentioned since.)

Marvel has tried (and failed) to establish cosmic villains in the past, and Fantastic Four could run into the same problems.

Marvel Studios

Eternals and Fantastic Four share some connective tissue in Jack Kirby. The former is one of the artist’s less accessible creations, but the Fantastic Four are just as ambitious when it comes to the cosmic side of Marvel’s universe. Director Matt Shakman has been vocal about honoring the work of Kirby and John Byrne’s classic 1980s run, which implies he isn’t afraid to really lean into the material. That said, Fantastic Four could still struggle to defy Marvel’s house style and establish a true cosmic threat. The cosmic side of the MCU is simply weird, and Arishem’s aloofness showed how it can be tricky to make a villain as big as Galactus scary rather than confusing.

If all goes to plan, the new Fantastic Four could fix some of Marvel’s biggest issues in one fell swoop. The MCU has been steadily declining for half a decade, so there’s a lot of pressure to tell this story right. But to do so, Marvel can’t just cruise by on star power. They need to start with a villain worth caring about.

The Fantastic Four hits theaters on July 25, 2025.

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