How the ‘Avengers,’ ‘Ant-Man,’ and ‘Doctor Strange’ Franchises Set up Marvel’s ’Fantastic Four’ Reboot

The soon-to-close Disney-Fox merger will allow Marvel Studios to integrate the Fantastic Four and [...]

The soon-to-close Disney-Fox merger will allow Marvel Studios to integrate the Fantastic Four and archfoe Doctor Doom into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who could assimilate into the ever-expanding canon through ties previously established in Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Ant-Man and the Wasp. All three films are tethered to the Quantum Realm — which will next play a key role in Avengers: Endgame — a stand-in for Marvel Comics' Negative Zone, the rights of which are held at Fox for its ties to Fantastic Four mythology.

The largely uncharted Quantum Realm, which has already endowed Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) with superhuman abilities from their exposure to the energies contained within the alternate dimension, could similarly act as an origin for the Fantastic Four: primarily a team-slash-family of explorers, the Marvel Comics saw Reed Richards, Sue and Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm venture into then-unconquered space, where they were bombarded with cosmic rays and granted their fantastical abilities.

When the foursome reaches the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the characters are better suited having adventured into the new final frontier — the elusive Quantum Realm — at the behest of big-brained Reed, who sought a better understanding of a realm far more unknowable than space.

The Quantum Realm's energies, already established as being capable of granting superpowers, would then be responsible for the Fantastic Four's origin — already twice explored on the big screen in both iterations of the Fox-controlled franchise — tying the basis of their powers to a concept audiences are already familiar with and bypassing the need for an in-depth backstory, similar to Marvel's approach when rebooting Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

This hit-the-ground-running technique would also suit Doctor Doom, who in the film side of Fantastic Four lore is always endowed with superpowers, typically electric-based in nature, as a friend-turned-foe caught in the same freak accident that gives the Four their powers. In the comic books, Doom is a brilliant mad scientist type who, frustrated with his constant defeats to Reed Richards, turns to sorcery to best his arch rival. This gives Doom a dangerous advantage over the magic-phobic Richards, who says he "doesn't believe" in magic, instead calling sorcery a science he hasn't yet "bothered to explore."

Should Marvel depict Doom as the scientist-slash-sorcerer type, it not only puts the character closer in step with his comic book counterpart, but explores Doom from a new angle — one that further separates him from botched cinematic iterations, where he has twice now been presented as a scorned genius with sparkly fingers. Such a direction could also give Victor von Doom ties to the Doctor Strange movie franchise, as Doom has repeatedly clashed with the Sorcerer Supreme over his misappropriation of powerful magics.

Like Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who journeyed to Kamar-Taj in search of an atypical cure to his irreversibly damaged hands, Doom's mystical origins could be linked to those same training grounds, cementing his own origin story within already established MCU lore.

Tying the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom to concepts audiences have already familiarized themselves with through the Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Avengers franchises not only entrenches these all-new, rebooted takes on the characters firmly within the MCU, but it allows Marvel to skip tedious beginnings by retroactively tying these characters to years-old projects that were never originally intended to link to the X-Men or Fantastic Four franchises. Marvel most recently utilized this technique with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), retconning her into the MCU by using previously established concepts and lore to reveal her as someone who was there all along — we just hadn't met her yet.

Hank Pym star Michael Douglas once dubbed the Quantum Realm "the key" to the future of the MCU, teasing it "plays an important part in all the next chapters, I think, of the Marvel films."

Disney is expected to complete its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox Wednesday, March 20, at which point Marvel will be free to begin developing Fantastic Four and X-Men projects and utilize any characters falling under those umbrellas. Marvel next releases Avengers: Endgame April 26.


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