Hopes were high in some quarters when Fantastic Four was released in 2005, after a half-decade in which Marvel superheroes had colonised multiplexes, wowed the crowds and even humbled sceptical critics.
Yet the fanbase had its doubts about the project, given the calibre of directors lined up at various stages. Big Momma's House 's Raja Gosnell and Bring It On 's Peyton Reed had both bailed, with the gig ultimately going to Barbershop and Taxi helmer Tim Story - not quite Singer or Raimi.
Casting choices were mostly vilifed: too unknown (Ioan Gruffudd and Chris Evans) or miscast (Jessica Alba, Nip/Tuck 's Julian McMahon). Only The Shield 's Michael Chiklis, a literal heavyweight and dead ringer for The Thing was praised.
It didn't seem that anybody was taking the film seriously. Sure, compared to other superhero tales the Four's adventures are bright and breezy, but overall the feeling was lightweight and lacklustre.
So the critical reception proved, with the only surprise being Chris Evans' assured performance as Johnny Storm. A creditable $330m worldwide take got the sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer greenlit, but that film took less than the first, bringing the franchise to a premature close.
At least, until August 2008, when Fox reported that it was planning to overhaul the franchise... But it wouldn't be the first reboot for the Fantastic Four.
The first 'reboot'
The initial reaction was that the swift reboot up the arse was a deliberate bid to keep the rights, just as it had been the first time that the Fantastic Four had been held hostage.
Most cinemagoers who saw Tim Story's 2005 film were unaware that it wasn't the first film version of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Marvel creations.
That honour - if honour's the word - goes to 1994 rarity, The Fantastic Four , a low-budget adaptation produced by Roger Corman at the request of Constantin Film, a production company that was about to lose the rights to the comics if a version didn't go into production.
The catch? While the cast thought that this was a bona-fide blockbuster, Constantin had zero plans to release the movie. It was an 'ashcan copy,' comic lingo for a cheap rush-job produced solely to hold onto the copyright.
The gambit worked. Although nobody saw the film, Constantin was able to keep the rights until they were in a position to do Fantastic Four justice. At least, that was the theory.
A matter of timing
So the current plan is the franchise's second reboot and the Fantastics' fourth film overall. Ironically, though, plans have quickly been overtaken by more pressing concerns at Marvel.
Firstly, the reboot of Marvel's biggest-grossing series, Spider-man , with Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield. Secondly, the imminent arrival of Joss Whedon's The Avengers (another Marvel property involving a team of superheroes) next year.
To some extent, although Fantastic Four was announced prior to the Spider-man reboot, it's been shunted to the back of the queue. A sign, perhaps, that it's still regarded as the weak link in the brand's arsenal? Or an admission that it's worth waiting to get this one right?
Most likely, with neither director nor cast in place, the earliest we're looking at is 2013, a whole six years after Rise of the Silver Surfer ...which should allow the film to tap into a mainstream audience that's either forgotten (or never seen) the Story duo.
It's easy to see why the directors circling Fantastic Four have always had comedic credentials, as the franchise is undeniably lighter and frothier than many of its peers.
For starters, there's the fact that the Four (mostly) embrace their powers and refuse (or, in The Thing's case, are unable) to hide behind alter-egos. So no mopey emo stuff.
Still, there's a danger of going too far the other way and removing all sense of threat entirely, and that was the biggest factor in the Fantastic Four films' lack of connection with the public. Amiable laughs aren't enough. Without memorable villains, jaw-dropping action or really charismatic actors, it just won't wash.
John Favreau's Iron Man films, especially the first one, have provided Marvel with a decent template of how to balance the fun with a dose of reality and a wallop of spectacular. The reboot would do well to look at what worked (RDJ) and what didn't (the sequel's clutter) in devising the Four's comeback.
Embrace the Incredible
An unfortunate side-effect of Fantastic Four 's own enduring legacy on the superhero genre is that it was beaten to the punch in cinemas by a film clearly inspired by and modelled on Lee and Kirby's creation.
Brad Bird's Pixar animation The Incredibles revolved around a family of supers with surprisingly familiar powers - brute strength, elasticity, invisibility, speed and fire.
But it was no pale imitation, building on the template with a scathing satire on the health and safety generation, and a culture clash comedy of superheroes trying to live as ordinary Joes.
In contrast, Story's straightforward take on the comics, reducing the subtle interaction of the Four into bickering and lamebrained celebrity cult, looked feeble in its attempt to please the crowd.
The reboot could do a lot worse than steal back some of Bird's thematic richness. The Incredibles owes the Fantastic Four a lot; it's time to cash in that IOU.
So we're looking at a helmer to replace Tim Story who, in no particular order, can:
Do funny in his sleep but has talent and technique enough to ramp up the drama when required. Bring together a strong ensemble cast with memorable roles for all. Impress to A-list standard. 'Get' the comic book mentality.
Look no further than Britain's own Edgar Wright, about to break America with the hyperreal action-comedy of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World .
His comedy consistently has bite (literally so, in Shaun of the Dead 's case), and Spaced is practically a textbook for how to bring together a bunch of dysfunctional geeks and make them smart, sexy and savvy.
Mister Fantastic (aka Reed Richards)
Ioan Gruffudd looked right for Reed's noble visage and bendy poise, but his pedantic, wet-behind-the-ears persona didn't sell the heroic leadership qualities of a man whose nickname is, after all, Mister Fantastic.
It needs somebody who can command. Enter Hugh Laurie, who can bark an order with the best of 'em and sound convincing doing the 'science bit.' Plus, Americans probably aren't aware that's he a really gifted physical comedian, so bendy limbs are no probs.
Too old? Maybe, for once, that's a good thing. With every other reboot trying to go back to the beginning, let's throw this one forward in time a little.
The Invisible Woman (aka Sue Storm)
Alba's figure-hugging catsuit hit the demographic firmly in the... well, let's no go there, but she wasn't remotely convincing as a genetics specialist. Plus, peroxide really doesn't suit her.
So we're looking for a natural blonde, bit of intellectual spark, and still sexy in the 'older' take on the characters that Laurie's casting insists upon.
Our nominee? Naomi Watts, an actress with blockbuster credentials but a cast-iron indie rep that might convince the nay-sayers that this version of Fantastic Four is being taken a little more seriously than the Noughties films.
The Human Torch (aka Johnny Storm)
It's a shame to lose Chris Evans, as the infectious enthusiasm of his performance was one of the few redeeming features about the Story films. However... he's already playing Captain America, so probably best to leave him to it.
Johnny's the hardest role to cast as 'old,' since his immaturity is part and parcel of the gig, but the eternally boyish Ryan Gosling might fit the bill.
Ironically, he's only a year older than Evans...and a whole 11 years younger than screen sister Watts, but what Gosling offers is the same electric presence, wry charm and unpredictable improvisation that, say, RDJ brought to the table in Iron Man .
Gosling is quite serious about his art, and might not want to slum it as a superhero, but if anybody can convince him, it'd be Laurie and Watts signing on.
The Thing (aka Ben Grimm)
Let's be honest. Michael Chiklis was The Thing, but therein lay a problem.
He was so exact a match in terms of physique that he was given full-body prosthetics to walk around in, which meant a) he wasn't as versatile in action terms as his CGI-enhanced buddies and b) arguably, the bulldog-sized Chiklis was too short for a role that needs a Cujo.
A full CGI Thing is already being mooted, which frees up the casting a little to anybody who can get the mannerisms and attitudes bang-on.
He's a slightly predictable choice, in that he's a go-to guy for primarily voice-driven roles (think V For Vengeance ) but Hugo Weaving's gravelly tones would suit fine. He's only a year younger than Hugh Laurie, which helps the college buddies backstory somewhat.
Plus he's odd looking enough in reality to convincingly be the human source for The Thing's distinctive apperance.
Doctor Doom (aka Victor Von Doom)
Julian McMahon's baffling, campy performance in the two Noughties film was, by common consent, one of their least effective elements, lacking in plausibility or threat.
It needs a big performer, capable of sounding menacing even in most ridiculous of scenarios, and ideally a European, to match the roots of the character. Something like Max Von Sydow's Ming the Merciless.
With Christoph Waltz already signed up for villainous duties in The Green Hornet , our choice would be Mads Mikkelsen, who has proven himself more versatile than the Bond villain tag would suggest.
Will The Unthinkable Happen?
That just leaves the small matter of a storyline big enough to justify bringing back the team and memorable enough to make an impact.
One storyline that would easily test the mettle of this cast is the 'Unthinkable' arc, in which Doom finally secures the (magical) powers he needs to defeat arch-enemy Mr Fantastic.
With Reed and Sue's son Franklin trapped in Hell and the Four powerless to help, can Reed turn aside a lifetime of science to learn the dark arts in order to save the day?
It's a big, tempestuous story for the Fantastic Four to make their comeback, and who knows? It might make the unthinkable happen, and give Marvel the great movie this enduring comic book team deserves.