When talking about the best comic book movies of all time, very few people are likely to rank any of the Fantastic Four movies very highly. There have been four movies to date featuring the fab foursome and it’s fair to say that they have all been…well…less than fantastic!
1994’s Fantastic Four was cheaply made and only put into production so German film producer Bernd Eichinger could retain the rights to these Marvel characters. Unbeknownst to cast and crew, it was never intended for an official release, although bootleg copies of the movie found their way into the hands of the general public after filming had ended.
In 2015, a bigger-budgeted Fantastic Four movie was released but despite being made at a time when superhero movies were all the rage, it failed to make much of a dent at the box office. The primary reason for this was the poor critical reaction the movie received but as the movie’s director Josh Trank criticized his own movie on Twitter on the eve of its release, this didn’t do much to encourage people to go and see it.
In between these failed efforts were two other Fantastic Four movies, both of which were directed by Tim Story, who had previously given the world Barbershop and Taxi.
The cast of his 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four movies, which included a pre-MCU Chris Evans as the Human Torch and Jessica Alba as The Invisible Woman, were set to reprise their roles in a second sequel.
But as we all know by now, a third Fantastic Four movie with the same cast and director never happened.
So, what happened to Fantastic Four 3? And what would the movie have been about? Let’s take a look at the movie that flamed out before it was given the opportunity to hit the big screen.
Who are the Fantastic Four?
This American team of comic strip superheroes made their debut in 1961 thanks to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who created the super-powered quartet for Marvel Comics. The team-up consisted of Ben Grimm (The Thing), Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic), Susan Storm (The Invisible Woman), and Johnny Storm (The Human Torch).
In the original comic book, the squabbling foursome jetted off into space after commandeering an untested spaceship that Richards had designed. But their mission ended badly when the group were struck by cosmic rays that genetically altered each of them.
After this accident, Reed gained the ability to stretch and contort his body, Sue could become invisible at will, Johnny was able to turn himself into a human fireball, and Ben mutated into a rock-skinned powerhouse.
The dysfunctional family decided to use their powers for the greater good of mankind and in the comic books that followed the first issue, they faced off against a variety of enemies, from the world-eating Galactus to the hideously scarred Doctor Doom.
Tim Story’s movies retained the lightness of touch of the comic books and featured the aforementioned villains. A third movie was planned, and possibly even a fourth, but the decision was made not to go ahead with them.
What would Fantastic Four 3 have been about?
In an article republished at IGN, it was reported that Tim Story was interested in bringing Black Panther to the screen for a supporting role in his third Fantastic Four movie.
At this point in time (around 2007), Chadwick Boseman wasn’t being considered for the part (he made his movie debut in The Express in 2008), but in an interview Story had with the LA Times (quoted at IGN), Djimon Hounsou, who is no stranger to the world of comic book movies after starring roles in Guardians Of The Galaxy, Captain Marvel, and both Shazam films, was a possibility for the role. Story said:
“I’ve got to tell you, to get the Fantastic Four and turn it into a franchise, the first thing I thought was, ‘Will I get the Silver Surfer’? Or someone like Black Panther, who was introduced in their book, get Djimon Hounsou and go do it?’ But there are so many other great villains and stories – I feel like I hit the jackpot.”
Unfortunately, we never got to see Hounsou’s version of Black Panther but as 20th Century Fox, the studio behind Story’s two movies, didn’t have the rights to the character at that time, we may never have seen him in the third movie anyway.
Screenwriter Don Payne, who co-wrote Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, expressed an interest in bringing the Inhumans, the Skrulls, and the Puppet Master into the franchise, although we’re pretty sure they wouldn’t all have appeared in Fantastic Four 3. It would have been rather overcrowded if they did!
Sadly, Payne didn’t get the opportunity to write a Fantastic Four movie featuring any of these characters, although he did go on to co-write the two Thor movies before his untimely passing at the age of 48.
Jessica Alba wanted Franklin Richards, the mutant son of Reed, to make an appearance in the third movie, according to MTV, and there are suggestions online that we might have seen a development in the relationship between Ben Grimm and his blind girlfriend Alicia Masters.
But as plans for Fantastic Four 3 fizzled out shortly after the second entry in this now-moribund franchise, none of the plot components mentioned here were ever officially confirmed.
What happened to Fantastic Four 3?
There are a couple of reasons why the third movie in the franchise never happened.
The first reason is money. While the first Fantastic Four movie was a financial success, despite being badly reviewed, the second outing for the heroic foursome earned less than its predecessor and was considered a box office bomb.
This was bad news for Fox because the budget for the second movie was higher, presumably because of the special effects work needed to bring the Silver Surfer to the screen. Due to the financial risk involved with a third instalment, the studio, understandably, decided not to go ahead with the sequel.
Then there’s 2008’s Iron Man, which changed the shape of the superhero landscape. This first movie in the MCU was far superior to the comic book movies Story had directed as it treated its main character with far more reverence and respect than Story had afforded his super-powered quartet.
His movies looked silly and dated in comparison and this gave Fox further incentive to go back to the drawing board for their next Fantastic Four movie. As we now know, they opted for a complete reboot, with a new director and cast of actors.
We can’t imagine comic book fans were too distraught after hearing Story wouldn’t be back for a second sequel. His Fantastic Four movies didn’t do the characters justice and they lacked the core ingredients that make a superhero movie work, namely action, fun, and believable special effects. He just wasn’t the right director to take on a comic book property, which is why Fox replaced him with Chronicle director Josh Trank for the reboot. Of course, we all know how that movie turned out, as his movie tranked…erm… tanked at the box office!
What’s next for the Fantastic Four?
The Fantastic Four are now in the (relatively) safe hands of the MCU and a new movie featuring Marvel’s ‘first family’ is set to be released on May 2, 2025.
Casting has yet to be confirmed but Adam Driver, Margot Robbie, Paul Mescal, and Daveed Digs are rumoured to be in the running for the roles of Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing, respectively.
We expect more information will be released soon but whatever happens with the movie, here’s hoping it’s better than the previous Fantastic Four titles that failed to live up to fans’ expectations.
What did you think of Tim Story’s Fantastic Four movies? Were you hoping for a third? Let us know in the comments below.