I’ve watched the first teaser trailer for The Fantastic Four at least five times, depending on when you’re reading this. The mystery is over. We finally know what 20th Century Fox has planned for the first Marvel superhero team.
And a lot of it is what we sort of expected. The story is clearly borrowing most of its narrative from the Ultimate universe of the F4, and that’s their best shot, really.
The Ultimate version of this particular Marvel lore is fresh and young. And from what we’ve seen so far in this teaser, that’s exactly what Fox is going for. A different take on superheroes.
The trailer opens with a voiceover by Reg E. Cathy, who plays Franklin Storm. As we’ll see later in the trailer, Dr. Franklin Storm (yes, that’s the name of Reed and Sue’s first child in the original comics) is one of the story’s catalysts for how our heroes are born.
His voiceover actually covers something I’ve been hoping for in this F4 reboot: the anti-MacGuffin plot narrative that's been the thrust of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far.
Instead of generating a superhero story about good vs. evil (a.k.a. every superhero story, pretty much), the story apparently wants to tap into something we don’t usually get in our comic book adaptations: curiosity.
In other words, discovery and human evolution are marketed as this film’s driving force. It’s what we see in every scene that has Miles Teller donning the soon-to-be iconic eyeglasses we recognize from Ultimate.
Most superhero movies resort to this trope as “science for the sake of science.” For example, most stories we’ve gotten about the Hulk have been framed as disaster movies, rather than exploring the quest for knowledge Bruce Banner once embarked on before becoming a monster.
That’s fine for Hulk, but if you’re making a movie based on a property as layered and reality-bending as “The Fantastic Four,” science alone doesn’t really cut it.
Simply put, The Fantastic Four is a superhero science fiction movie. And I think it might be the first one, unless Ant-Man beats them to it (Guardians of the Galaxy, it can be argued, was more space opera than sci-fi).
When you watch the trailer, you’ll notice many techniques and set pieces that remind you of something made by J.J. Abrams (well, Spielberg, technically). Specifically, the moment shared by a young Reed Richards and his best friend, Ben Grimm, as they stumble upon a huge discovery as children inside a garage in the country will spark a burst of nostalgia.
We finally get a glimpse of the studio's Sue Storm, played by Kate Mara from House of Cards. Before she becomes the Invisible Girl (or Woman?), she’ll be one of the key players in what I assume to be a government sanctioned teleporter based on Reed Richards’s technology.
If we’re to believe that The Fantastic Four is truly delivering the Ultimate comic book storyline, then this means that the future heroes will be traveling to the Negative Zone. And this will of course be where their powers manifest themselves.
It’s almost funny because the beginnings of the movie suggest a trip into space based on the melodic piano laced with Interstellar-reminiscent dialogue and imagery. But instead, The Fantastic Four is going for something much more grounded.
From what I can see, this movie doesn't look “gritty,” but it also doesn't look “campy.” It does look like a serious take on these characters, yes, but this isn’t Nolan’s world. This is, I think, is a science fiction movie that happens to have superheroes in it.
And it’s the perfect time to rebrand these characters, to be sure. Fox is clearly going for a younger demographic, but not in a pandering way. They seem to understand that they don’t need to only appeal to Marvel fans in order to make a good movie. Rather, they’re shooting for a broader appeal, which is incidentally a strategy Marvel Studios has found great success in.
By broader appeal, I mean that the world feels different and interesting. In the same way I fell in love with the lore behind Panem and Katniss Everdeen, I’m starting to really enjoy this new take on a familiar, but entirely different universe.
Seriously, the parallels are there. A group of young adventurers with one-in-a-million powers rising above obstacles? Got it.
This is great because The Fantastic Four can't do what Marvel and DC are doing, and I finally understand what Matthew Vaughn meant when he said this movie felt like Chronicle (Josh Trank's other directorial credit), even though it's not "found footage." Like Chronicle, this movie positions its heroes as relatable young adults scrambling to understand how their powers fit in the world.
I’ll admit that I’m a fan of this clunky, aggressive take on The Thing, whose form seems to match the grisly appeal Jamie Bell has going for the character in the shot of him up to bat.
I greatly enjoy Michael B. Jordan playing someone other than Chris Evans, in a role that will show him with what appears to be a darker side of the Human Torch than what we’re used to (including shots of him appearing to face off against his own sister). And watching him “flame on” is quite satisfying.
I want to see more of Kate Mara’s Invisible Woman (or girl?), though you can catch glimpses of her force-field powers taking shape in quick moments near the end of the teaser. Her expressions are looking solid, though, and I’m happy to be more interested in her relationship with her brother and adoptive father than I am with her inevitable romance with Reed Richards.
Speaking of Mr. Fantastic, I still think Miles Teller will bring a richness to this complicated character. We don’t see his powers take shape, but the scientific curiosity and fierce leadership behind his eyes certainly breathe the character to life. He proved himself in Whiplash, and it's clear he's also taking this role pretty seriously.
As for Dr. Doom, the arch-nemesis was not featured prominently in the teaser, though we can speculate he’s the figure strolling down the hallway in force. I also believe he is the man lying on the cart at the end, speaking to Reed Richards.
What are these “answers” he’s referring to? For a teaser that stresses discovering the unknown, it has certainly left me more curious than ever before. And I think that’s the plan.