The FANTASTIC FOUR are back on the silver screen… minus the cheesy blue spandex. This new vision of the superhero team is focused on realism.
Director JOSH TRANK is the man behind the lens. He previously made the critic and fan favourite CHRONICLE. This found footage cult classic told the story of teens gaining powers from a crashed meteor. They chronicle the events of learning their powers and the pranks they pull. It was an original take on the superhero genre filled with laughs while also exploring darker edgier territory. I feel like the choice of Trank to direct this new F4 was a great decision.
Trank reunites with MICHEAL B. JORDAN, one of his stars from CHRONICLE. Jordan will portray Johnny Storm a.k.a. THE HUMAN TORCH. This casting decision informs the direction this new F4 movie will take. A more serious one. I welcome this. Jordan was so impressive in FRUITVALE STATION. He was a big reason that was my favourite movie of last year, over GRAVITY, WOLF OF WALL STREET, AMERICAN HUSTLE, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, etc.
Jordan holds the screen so well. Sure, he definitely has charisma, but he also has an emotional resonance. He can be the joker, but conversely the quiet dreamer, or the tortured soul. If F4 explores this sort of darker territory, alongside the fun, Jordan will prove an inspired decision. I really do feel like Jordan has largely untapped potential awaiting to be unleashed. This guy could be a leading man for years to come. His range of abilities are demonstrated from his earlier roles in dramatic stuff like RED TAILS and THE WIRE (one of the best shows EVER), as well as his comedic prowess in THAT AWKWARD MOMENT.
MILES TELLER is probably the hottest name out of these young actors cast as FANTASTIC heroes, especially regarding the Hollywood publicity machine. His Award nominated performance in WHIPLASH will bring a lot of attention to this superhero project. He plays MR. FANTASTIC (a.k.a. Reed Richards), the super-smart leader of the FANTASTIC FOUR, who can manipulate and extend his body to extremely warped dimensions.
Teller is given the trailer’s only line of dialogue. And it’s rather ominous. This leader seems unsure. He isn’t the know-it-all cocky confident leader like TONY STARK in THE AVENGERS. This realistic version of the F4 seems to ask if scientists gained superpowers how differently would they react than the highschool nerd (like PETER PARKER)? If they understand the ramifications of such powers will they be hesitant to use them, rather than excited and adventurous?
Teller started off as a more comedic actor in stuff like 21 & OVER and THAT AWKWARD MOMENT (with Jordan). However, he caught my attention with his dramatic/comedic/tragic role in the surprisingly good THE SPECTACULAR NOW. He played a young alcoholic (with an estranged father) who falls in love for the first time. He relies on his wits to get by, he puts up a false facade, while inside he is tortured and depressed. I can’t wait to see what he can do as a conflicted leader of a superhero team.
Now let’s get into the story and talk about how this new FANTASTIC FOUR appears to be different from the disappointing previous films…
I’ll examine the other 2 teammates first, and see how their back-stories connect…
KATE MARA plays the INVISIBLE WOMAN. She is perhaps most well known for her role on HOUSE OF CARDS, however she has appeared in several strong indie films over the past few years. One of my favourite performances of her’s was in the small crime film DEADFALL with ERIC BANA. The traditional comic storyline has her as Johnny Storm’s sister and lover of Reed Richard’s. Her superpowers include much more than simply turning invisible. She can manipulate matter and create force-fields, for example.
JAMIE BELL (from BILLY ELLIOT and more recently SNOWPIERCER) portrays Ben Grimm a.k.a. THE THING. Ben was childhood friends with Reed. Whenever the nerdy Reed would get bullied, Grimm would protect him. He’s his rock. Erm. He becomes a rock. A rock thing. You know what I mean. This super-strong mass of boulders is the equivalent of the HULK. Instead of smashing, this bad dude clobbers. I’m sure they will develop his character a bit more, and explore the BEAUTY & THE BEAST aspects in more depth.
If I remember right, the previous F4 had Grimm’s girlfriend be a blind girlfriend. A smoking hot Kerry Washington falls for The Thing? Really? This made me roll my eyes. I need more reasoning or development there to better rationalize this bizarre relationship. I’d rather a less TOXIC AVENGER sort of relationship. Fingers crossed, right. Bonus nerd points, if you know what I mean, and caught that TROMA reference.
The most appealing ideas shown in this first F4 trailer revolve around the mission. I really like that they shifted the scenery for this crazy experiment. The original comic created an origin story which reflected the science of the times (in the 60s). Their experiment involved a space shuttle mission and the effects of radiation. The ULTIMATE comics experimented with quantum physics and travelling to other dimensions between space, if you will.
I like the contraption for this interstellar travel. We see it briefly in the trailer. Their pods look like coffins. Actually, this device reminds me of those blood spinners in medical labs. I’m thinking it will spin so fast, they’ll somehow disappear into the NEGATIVE ZONE and gain powers.
We also see another person walk towards this strange equipment. Is that Victor Von DOOM? His role is pretty hush hush on the Interwebs. I believe TOBY KEBBELL (the bad ape, KOBA, from DAWN OF THE APES) will play the villainous DR. DOOM. Kebbell was so terrifyingly good in APES – and that was through performance-capture technology. I can’t wait to see HIM on screen portraying such a pivotal role.
I also enjoy this new version of the costumes. It seems like they are practical suits based on function rather than style. It’s sort of what the BATMAN suit became (in the CHRISTOPHER NOLAN movies), and how the Batmobile became the Tumbler. Spandex works as drawn art, but not on film. I really noticed the vents (for example) on the Human Torch’s suit. That’s cool. It’s like he needs this sort of suit to maintain his powers. Maybe these suits help them contain the danger within? Sort of like how CYCLOPS uses a visor in X-MEN. It’s practical. And nerdy cool.
While I’m aware of a lot of negative criticism from the Interwebs jabbing at the paint-by-numbers trailer copying INTERSTELLAR (for example), I feel like this vague slow brooding portrayal stands on its own. A lot of trailers copy the Nolan stuff, like MAN OF STEEL did recently. If the style matches the movie, why not market it in a similar fashion? This stuff doesn’t phase me.
The trailer for FANTASTIC FOUR actually got me excited. And I had high expectations due to the talent involved. Sure, I really enjoy MARVEL STUDIOS fun movies, but I also enjoy a more serious take on comic books like THE WATCHMEN and THE CROW. I don’t need my superheroes to be fun. They can be scared. They can feel lost. My heroes can be reflective. I don’t mind. I like a grounded approach to this genre fair. After-all, that’s what made me enjoy CHRONICLE so much.
The assembled cast of proven young dramatic talent promises quality performances within the superhero genre. Josh Trank, the young director, promises a fresh approach to what could be a stale genre soon enough. I’m thinking he will infuse new ideas and somehow make us wonder what gaining superpowers would actually do to us.
Unless you’re a vigilante dying to get revenge, superpowers might not come in so handy. The regular Joe doesn’t have an evil arch-nemesis requiring immediate defeat via supernatural abilities. For me, I’d be worried about who would find out about my new powers, and how they would want to manipulate or destroy me. It might be scary to actually get powers. It might be time to explore this new direction.
With the promising cast and creative team, I actually eagerly anticipate this new FANTASTIC FOUR. I’ve enjoyed the ULTIMATE comics before and their focus on cutting edge science. I’m ready for a cautionary tale about technology, and I feel like Trank’s F4 will deliver on that.
What do you think?
Can you get past the FANT 4 STIC title and the sour memories of the previous F4 movies?
How do you feel about a CG Thing? Would you rather Jamie Bell don a foam-latex/silicone costume?
Are you excited to see Josh Trank direct another movie?
Do you want science in your (mindless) superhero movies?
Are you disappointed the trailer didn’t show more story or more superpowers in action?
Do you think each role will get beefed up from the last incarnation? Will INVISIBLE GIRL do something?
Do you plan on seeing F4? If it does well, will you be first in line for an X-MEN crossover?