Flame off? After Fantastic Four’s hugely disappointing opening earlier this year, Fox initially claimed they were still moving ahead with a sequel, keeping the planned June 9, 2017 release date. But, after a closer look at the situation and perhaps a good dose of common sense, Fox has completely removed Fantastic Four 2 from their release schedule.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that another Fantastic Four movie won’t happen. In fact, it’s probably likely you’ll see these characters (though not necessarily actors Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell) return some time in the relatively near future, and not because they have a really great idea, but because they’re contractually obligated to. Written into the original contract with Marvel, Fox has a certain amount of time in between projects to work with these characters and keep them in active development. They can’t let the Fantastic Four franchise go stagnant, otherwise the rights will revert back to Marvel and Fox definitely doesn’t want that. There would be nothing more embarrassing for them to fail multiple times at a Fantastic Four movie, only to give it to Kevin Feige who turns it into a huge success.

But is there any way for Fox to save the Fantastic Four? They tried to reboot the franchise, but the new reboot wound up making less money than the original. If they want to keep these characters, they should probably borrow another page from the Marvel playbook and look at what Marvel and Sony are doing with Spider-Man. Instead of another hard reboot, they’re introducing their new Spider-Man in another film, Captain America: Civil War.

Fox doesn’t need another Fantastic Four origin movie; we’ve seen two of those already and no one was particularly excited about either. Maybe it’s wiser to just drop a brand new Fantastic Four, as a pre-existing superhero team, into one of their upcoming X-Men films. The studio had been toying with X-Men vs. Fantastic Four and considering how audiences seem to enjoy their favorite superheroes doing battle, this is a good way to reboot the Fantastic Four while also expanding the Fox/Marvel Universe.

Or, maybe Fox’s loophole is to keep Fantastic Four in active development without actually making a movie. Spend as little amount of money and resources on scripts and concept art to satisfy the legal requirements. Then maybe in 10 years or so, when people have forgotten all about Josh Trank’s failed film, they try again for real. But by then, it may already be too late.

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