Why the New ‘Fantastic Four’ Movie Will Be a Hit for Fox

Even though the first attempt at launching "Fantastic Four" as a movie franchise failed, the results will be different this time.

Apr 2, 2014 at 12:37PM

The last attempt to launch a Fantastic Four franchise by Twentieth Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) was brought down not by a super villain but by something that has defeated countless films -- bad timing.

The movie with its light, playful tone, bright colors, and cast of vaguely familiar mostly TV stars was released on July 8, 2005, three weeks after Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins changed public perception as to what a superhero film could be. That meant that while public interest in the Fantastic Four characters was high, the actual film was sure to disappoint and kill the franchise before it even started. It's similar to how the rise of Nirvana made '80s hair metal bands look insincere. There was nothing wrong with Fantastic Four but it was a pre-Batman Begins living in a post Batman Begins world.

With its upcoming reboot of the franchise, Fox has a chance to reach the Fantastic Four fans who turned out for the first movie but were disappointed enough to lose interest and send its sequel to lower overall box office.

Fantastic Four was a hit last time

While the 2005 movie was not the hit Fox may have hoped for, it actually did almost as well as Batman Begins, taking in $330 million in global box office while the Dark Knight's film took in $374 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Four also had an estimated $100 million budget  to Batman's $150 million, IMDB reported. Neither was The Avengers, but both Fantastic Four and Batman Begins were successful.

Where things went wrong was 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which kept most of the now clearly out-of-tune elements from the first movie, taking in only $289 million globally. By comparison, the second Batman film, The Dark Knight, crossed the billion-dollar mark at the global box office.

The cast is not a problem

There has been a fair amount of Internet chatter over the decision to cast Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch because the comic book version of Storm is not black, which Jordan is. The character is also the brother of Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman, who will be played by the decidedly white Kate Mara. Though this particular story line "problem" can be explained away easily enough (mixed-race parents, adoption) the controversy should help the new film. If there was any audience question that the 2015 Fantastic Four is a reboot -- not a sequel -- some fanboy casting outrage will take care of that.

More important than the controversy is that the first film had only one semi-legitimate movie star in the core cast -- Jessica Alba, who is more a famous person who appears in movies than a movie star. The rest of the previous Four and the villain, Dr. Doom, were played by either unknowns (Chris Evans as The Human Torch well before his Captain America fame) or established TV actors, like Michael Chiklis who played The Thing.

The new movie will star Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, Mara, and Jordan who are either rising movie stars (with Jordan's career being particularly ascendant) or edgy stars of breakout hits (Mara stars in Netflix's (NASDAQ: NFLX) House of Cards). The cast of the first movie felt like it was a well-stocked TV movie of the week, whereas the new film has a cast that makes it feel like an event film -- a young, hip take on The Avengers cast.

"The new cast may not be household names or A-listers, but in terms of a next-generation 'best of class,' it can't be beat," The Hollywood Reporter wrote when the casting became public.

Fantastic Four will be a hit

When the first FF film was released it was not only pre-Batman trilogy, it was also pre-Iron Man. The public demand for and acceptance of big-ticket superhero films has grown exponentially. Avengers did $1.5 billion in global box office -- and as long as your movie does not star The Hulk, north of $400 million has become common for superhero films. The first Fantastic Four showed that the public has an interest in these characters and if that film had been better -- or even released a few months sooner -- it might have been closer to a $500 million hit. 

Rise of the Silver Surfer only doing slightly worse than its predecessor showed that even after a failed first film there was public interest in the adventures of these characters. That audience will come out to sample the reboot and if the movie is good it will be a hit. Of course a bad movie can spike the series, but with the cast in place and the wealth of stories in the FF universe available, it seems likely that Fox will deliver a movie that's true to the characters but not as instantly dated as the previous film instantly was.

As is often the case, my colleague Jake Mann disagrees with me, going so far as to claim it could kill the comic-book movie craze. Read his take here.

Boost your 2014 returns with The Motley Fool's top stock
There's a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He collected Fantastic Four comics as a kid. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information