A Fantastic Four Marvel Movies to Make Next


Face front, true believers: There are more Marvel Movies coming out!

Talk about an evergreen opening. That announcement is going to be operative for the next, oh, four years at the very least, when Marvel will complete “Phase Three” of their massively successful series of comic book films in 2019. So, yes: I am well aware that the Marvel movies plate is more than full. That doesn’t mean that this comics fan, who has more than enjoyed most of the films based on the Marvel Comics characters, can’t indulge a little Fantasy Filmmaker fun and lay out a dream template of megabudget Marvel movies I’d like to see emerge from the House of Ideas.

My Marvel movies wish list also came to mind because it nags me a little how much time and energy is currently devoted to rebooting certain properties while other more-than-deserving titles remain untouched. I’m sure the Daredevil TV show is as fun as they say, but I already saw (and, sorry: liked) that Ben Affleck movie; we’re already on our third iteration of The Incredible Hulk since 2003, and while Bana, Norton, and Ruffalo all gave us fine Bruce Banners morphing into expertly CGI’d Ol’ Greenskins, I’ve yet to shed the tears I shed at the end of the literate, exciting, and moving Bixby/Ferrigno telefilm.


Producers are hoping that the third time’s going to be the charm with the Fantastic Four, since both the Roger Corman and Jessica Alba-starring stabs at making movies out of the World’s Greatest Comics Magazine disappointed a fair number of fans. We’re now on our second Spidey reboot. The X-Men got a lot younger so they could start all over.

(I’d sigh at how we’re on our third Batman begins and our second Superman reborn, but those are DC Comics movies, and never the twain shall meet—Superman vs. Spider-Man notwithstanding)

Sure, these are many of my favorite comics characters; and it’s nice to be living in an Age of Plenty as far as comics-based movies are concerned, but I’m not getting any younger and there are plenty of Marvel movies I’d like to see before I turn into one of those cranky people who gripes about all the comic book films. (Come to think of it, I’m already one of those people, which grates on me as both a comic book collector and movie lover!) So, in spite of the fact that as a Marvel fan, I can absolutely get more than excited about seeing big-screen bows by Dr. Strange and Black Panther, and the small-screen debut of Luke Cage: Power Man, I feel extra-inclined now to act as cheerleader for the titles I’d most like to see added to the Marvel movies pipeline.


Moon Knight

Put The Shadow, Chuck Norris, and Taxi Driver into a blender and what comes out is Moon Knight. Though he first popped in the Marvel Comics universe in 1975 by way of a guest appearance in Werewolf by Night, I first discovered Moon Knight as a kid about three years later, reading his adventures in the pages of Hulk! Magazine; I got immediately hooked and was an avid collector of his solo title that debuted in 1980.

Unique among costumed vigilantes, Moon Knight has not just one secret identity, but three. He starts out his saga as Marc Spector—a boxer, Marine, and soldier-for-hire who amasses a small fortune while in the employment of African mercenary Raoul Bushman. Spector and his employer (a frightening, vicious, face-painted, metal-toothed menace) come to blows after they stumble onto on archeological dig and Bushman murders Dr. Alraune, one of the members of the expedition. The fight goes poorly for Spector and he is left for dead, only to be given a second chance by “moon god” Khonshu, who resurrects the fallen soldier with the understanding that he will change his ways and fight for justice.


Back in America with Marlene (the late Dr. Alraune’s daughter) and his pilot companion “Frenchie,” Spector now uses his considerable “blood money” to adopt his sleek Moon Knight disguise, also adding the cover identities of wealthy businessman Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley to his arsenal—the latter persona useful whenever he needs to keep his ear close to the streets for news of criminal activity.

Spector, Grant, Lockley, and Moon Knight—like the front cover of the first issue trumpets: They become one, to do what they must!

Not only would Moon Knight offer filmmakers an exotic, globe-trotting origin story, it would also give its lead actor a marvelous opportunity to play a richly three-dimensional part with an edge; throughout the run of the comics, Spector/Grant/Lockley/Moon Knight finds himself driven to fits of schizophrenia—understandably so, given the multiple personalities he is expected to keep intact to wage his war on crime. The character’s multiple identities naturally place him within entirely different film genres that are constantly bleeding into one another: It’s a war movie! No, it’s a crime film! No, it’s a spy picture! Oops, it’s a horror flick!

The Moon Knight comics lick this tricky blending of story types with style and sweep; along with a gorgeous leading lady prone to joining the action in a skintight black catsuit (she’s Margot Lane to his Lamont Cranston) and a loyal assistant (Frenchie is Alfred to his Bruce Wayne), we’ve also got a colorful array of supporting characters like Jake’s favorite waitress Gena and homeless informant Crawley (always charmingly depicted with flies buzzing around him), plus a truly memorable bad guy in Bushman.

Now for the tough part: Who do we cast in the lead role? Who’s today’s ideal mix of Clint Eastwood (Spector), George Clooney (Grant), and Ted Danson (Lockley)?


I’m going with Bradley Cooper, who showed us some tough-guy chops in American Sniper and his sensitive side in Silver Linings Playbook; he’s got a knack for impressions, which would lead us to believe he could work some subtle magic on Spector’s many different “voices.” Cooper already has his foot in the comics-movies door via Guardians of the Galaxy; as the voice of the computer-animated Rocket Raccoon, he’d have no problem at all pulling double duty in a meaty, live-action role that would make a powerful addition to the Marvel universe.

The character’s current revival finds him sporting a more “realistic” suit-and-tie look that fits into the book’s film-noirish approach; I’d work that into the film somehow while still keeping the cape-and-cowl attire to please fans who’ve stuck with him since the very beginning. Tough, sophisticated, and lively, Moon Knight is a perfect title to bring to the big screen.


Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu

One of the numerous corporate logos fronting the latest Mission: Impossible film belongs to a Chinese production company, the latest in a series of not-so-subtle signs that big-budget filmmaking is becoming a far more globalized affair. The resurrection of Marvel Comics’ martial arts hero for the big screen, then, seems like a no-brainer in an era when we’re seeing a great many more franchise films working multicultural appeal into their scripts.

But hold on, you say: Wasn’t Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, depicted as the son of Fu Manchu? Why, yes he was—your No-Prize is in the mail! Marvel had been looking for a way to successfully exploit its rights to the popular Kung Fu television program, when they managed to also acquire the rights to the Sax Rohmer characters of the Fu Manchu books. Thus was a comics legend born!


Raised by the long-mustached criminal mastermind to become a loyal ally in his campaign for world domination, Shang-Chi is sent to murder a longtime foe of the evil doctor’s; when his eyes are awakened to his father’s true nature, he becomes an ally of Nayland Smith, Fu Manchu’s arch-nemesis from Scotland Yard.

Because the Shang-Chi story involves the son ultimately turning against the father, I submit that this would be the perfect way to bring Rohmer’s famously troublesome character back to the screen in a way that wouldn’t violate PC sensibilities. (Well. It would offend somebody, I’m not that naïve.) The courage to deploy Fu Manchu as a big-screen villain would, in the eyes of some die-hard fans, maybe make up for the apostasy of recasting The Mandarin as a buffoonish Brit.

As to naming the actor who should front a movie version of the Shang-Chi comic? Back in the day, Jackie Chan would have been THE MAN. But Chan is approaching (if not actually already arrived at) retirement age, so that piece of fantasy casting will forever remain just that. Being utterly at sea with naming the hottest stars of the Asian action scene, I think I am going to take a backseat here and solicit the input of any loyal readers…or at least one loyal reader in particular—yes, you know who you are!—devoted to martial arts cinema.

Let’s hear it: Who plays the Master of Kung Fu in a series of Marvel movies?


Tomb of Dracula

At this point, you would think that second-guessing Marvel movies is a little bit of a mug’s game. It’s been going on since the very beginning, when so many doubted that a B-title like Iron Man could ever successfully launch a franchise (or a studio, for that matter); it happened again when naysayers thought Marvel had gone crazy by greenlighting the talking raccoon, only to see that movie rocket (ahem) towards the top of 2014’s year’s box-office chart. The brand was ripe for a dud, so they said, with the release of Ant-Man. I mean, freaking Ant-Man, for cryin’ out loud…so they said. And that film is doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.

My point here is that with each defeat of the now-they’ve-gone-and-screwed-it-up mentality, the bar for Marvel making Big Moves gets higher and higher, as each previous success looks like so much child’s play. So yes: it’s been 11 years since the last Blade movie; time to throw horror back into the Marvel movies mix.

And what better title to do that with than Tomb of Dracula? I’m dying to see Marvel rescue this character from the noble-but-failed effort to bring the Stoker character into a multiverse with Universal’s Dracula Untold, and show viewers just how brilliantly the Victorian-age bloodsucker can be placed into the modern era. The hugely successful 1972-79 comics series saw the Prince of Darkness battling against the descendants of his 19th-century foes.

Just as with Moon Knight, a Tomb movie comes with a rich tapestry of supporting characters including wheelchair-bound Quincy Harker (son of Mina and Jonathan Harker, the bearded vampire hunter is something of a cross between Professor X and film director John Huston), Rachel van Helsing (she’s handy with a crossbow), and Frank Drake (he fills the “vanilla leading man” role usually occupied by Jonathan Harker; I haven’t cracked the pages of my comics for a while, so readers with better memories can confirm my foggy memories of him having a relationship with Rachel)—not to mention Dracula’s wife Domini, his children Lilith and Janus, and the aforementioned Blade, the Vampire Slayer.


The appearance of Marvel’s Dracula was famously modeled after Jack Palance, who would play the role beautifully in Dan Curtis’ excellent telefilm three years after the comic’s debut issue. By that measure, maybe that’s as close to a movie version of Tomb of Dracula as we’ll ever get, but I hold out the hope that Marvel will pull the stake out of the Count’s desiccated cinema corpse and give us a Dracula like we’ve never seen before onscreen. “Who’s the new Jack Palance” is just as difficult a question to answer as the question of who could possibly follow in the footsteps of Lugosi, Lee, Jourdan, Palance, Kinski, and Langella to give us a Dracula For The Ages.

After quite some waffling on the subject, I’m going to give credit where credit is due and say that I agree with a blogger whose Dracula casting idea I stumbled across and offer up the choice of…Javier Bardem.


He could certainly play both the old-world-romance and menace of the part. As for Dracula’s enemies, we could port Jennifer Lawrence right over from the Hunger Games series to play Rachel van Helsing, though she might be reluctant to engage in another franchise where she’s wielding a bow; if Bradley Cooper can’t see his way to playing Moon Knight, we could always re-team him with Lawrence and have him play Frank Drake; as for the colorful role of Quincy Harker, I’d steal from The Hunger Games series again and put the legendary Donald Sutherland up against the Lord of the Undead.

As a Dracula fan who has more than just a passing acquaintance with the source material and its many incarnations, I feel confident in saying that no Dracula adaptation has ever, and I mean ever, been as successful as transplanting the Count into the modern era as was the case with Tomb of Dracula. That’s why this title is positively aching for a movie version that is sure to please both comics and horror fans alike.


What If?

This title, in which an all-seeing, all-knowing, cosmos-hopping character known as The Watcher introduces readers to “alternate universe” stories—where the Marvel characters we know and love face fates much different than those we know from the regular comics—would make a very entertaining addition to the world of Marvel movies, especially since now we have an established cinematic universe populated by characters we’ve seen over and over again.

What If? allowed Marvel to play in their sandbox in ways that would shock and surprise, with readers secure in the knowledge that those stories weren’t “true” like the regular titles’ stories were; of course, the impact of seeing characters like Captain America die (or run for president) lessened as endless Secret Wars and other such reorganizations or reinventions in print rendered long-running canon something of a joke (at least to a certain generation of readers).


Spidey’s dead? Yeah, OK. In a year he’ll be back. Applying What If stories to the screen would allow filmmakers to indulge their wildest impulses with respect to established characters while simultaneously (and hopefully) encouraging a greater “integrity” in the main stories—as in, no more lazy killing and resurrecting of characters, and so on. It worked in the first Star Trek movies; anymore, not so much.

Casting this title’s one recurring character is a challenge. The Watcher, our bald, toga-wearing, Rod Serling-esque narrator of events has been depicted throughout his comics history with various physical qualities. Sometimes he’s a (somewhat) normally-statured, if muscular gent; other times he has a tiny body and outsized head—boasting bodily proportions you’re not likely to find at even the most eccentric SAG call. This wouldn’t stand in Marvel’s way in the least, however, having already successfully de-muscled Chris Evans to play the skinny version of Steve Rogers and de-aged Michael Douglas to play the Gordon Gekko-era Hank Pym.

There’s an awfully amusing rumor circling the web that Marvel comics icon Stan Lee, of course, is The Watcher; his delightful cameos in the Marvel movies makes that a highly entertaining piece of speculation. Sadly no longer a possibility, I’d have angled for Philip Seymour Hoffman to join the Marvel fold as Uatu (that’s The Watcher’s name, I’ve learned); we might have found a more playful Watcher in Toby Jones, but he’s already a well-established character in the Captain America films.

Smooth-pated Vin Diesel could pull double duty since his Guardians of the Galaxy role is just as camouflaging as Bradley Cooper’s…but let’s maybe bring in somebody new. Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/The Thing of the first Fantastic Four feature to be released) has the look, maybe, but surely not the voice; Kevin Spacey might have done well and given the character a wry touch, but his capital as a bald comics icon was used up across the comics pond in Superman Returns; it might have been tempting to go the Full Brando and toss a gigantic paycheck to cinema elder statesman Anthony Hopkins, but he’s already been conscripted into the Marvel army as Odin in the Thor films.

This is getting frustrating! We need the voice of Richard Burton, the physique (maybe) of Dave Bautista, and (possibly) the stature of Peter Dinklage, all in one performer!

fantastic-four-marvel-movies-john-malkovich-as-uatu-the-watcherOK. Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the (perfectly) good, as they say, and let’s tap John Malkovich for the part. Fans have long angled for him to play the Vulture in a Spider-Man movie, but it’d be worth giving those dreams up to allow whatever dark-magic mix of live action and performance capture would be necessary to have his serenely-cerebral-yet-mischievous presence lead us around the terrifically twisted pathways of the Marvel movies’ twilight zone.

I wouldn’t make these speculative stories at feature-length, by the way; I’d instead extend the concept of the mid/post-credits scenes that Marvel popularized and tell What If stories as short films—maybe placed as appetizers to a feature in the way that cartoons and newsreels used to play before the main attraction. What If? movies could run the gamut of offering us funny, touching, tragic, or simply way-out takes on the Marvel movies that could also act as in-between movie treats for fans, or just one more source of viral advertising for the features. Think of the What If? property as shawarma on steroids.

Not that there could possibly be any more “awareness” of Marvel movies; and as it is, we barely have time to catch our breath long enough to build up adequate anticipation for the next Marvel movie…but you know what? As a comics fan and movie lover who thinks that yes, we have more than enough comics movies already, I still can’t help but say: More Marvel Movies! And specifically, these Marvel movies.

‘Nuff Said!