ByNicholas Staniforth, writer at
Spewing film-related flim-flam and poppycock when necessary. Follow me @nickstaniforth
Nicholas Staniforth

History dictates that hell hath no fury like a comic book lover scorned and they've stayed as such ever since Tim Story's effort on The Fantastic Four in 2005. Saved only by Chris Evans' input lighting the way as The Human Torch, that adaptation of Marvel's beloved team is one that makes any fans blood boil if they even catch a glimpse of Michael Chiklis in that abismal rock and rubber outfit. Now 15 years and one equally ill-recieved sequel later the first bit of footage for Josh Trank's take on [The Fantastic Four](movie:34667), Marvel's cinematically stung super-family arrived online, and not a moment too soon.

Accompanied by one ominous voiceover and very little display of the quartet's fantastic powers, the first promo looks to be continuing in the mystery that its carried since the film was given a green light. Following the announcement of Chronicle director Josh Trank being confirmed to take on the rema...comic book adaption, comment feeds were flooded with doubt and doom (and I'm not referring to their arch-nemesis) over its arrival, and why wouldn't they be? With a wonderfully contructed Marvel Universe still going strong and the longing to see any property from the House of Ideas being added to it (fingers crossed for Spider-Man) what hope was there for Reed Richards and his cosmic-ray covered family? Well, here's where the recent teaser trailer and four strong reasons appear to hopefully suggest just that.

The Secrecy

In an age where a blurry on-set photo can stretch across the internet further than the limb of an elasticated science boffin, the studio force behind Fantastic Four have done a good job of letting only a few things slip through the net. Sure, a possible plotline may have leaked and half a Thing may have been spotted but that's internet scoop scraps for a film that's been six years in the making, which has been the main concern for fans during that time. Announced in 2009 and finally getting in front of the cameras last year, the common consensus has been one of major concern over just how little we've seen, but maybe that was the plan? For a project that's being handled by Chronicle director (a film that was shrouded in mystery until its release) perhaps it's that same modus operandi that has been but into action for Fantastic Four, proven by the trailer that's just as super secretive.

After multiple viewings it's clear that the teaser seems to be focussing less on the titular team and more on the science that creates them. Echoing Interstellar not only in its visuals but also its exploration (both look at the idea of inter-dimensional travel), we see very little of the super heroics you'd expect, leaning away from the 'fantastic' elements and more on the weighty dramatics that look to be heading our way. What that'll be specifically is unknown, what we do know is that the cast involved will certainly be able to handle it.

The Cast

Whilst there's still a slow disgruntled gang of fans of the original Marvel super team that aren't happy with the age of this new Fantastic Four (more on that later), there's no denying the young blooded cast they've slung together for this mysterious comic book movie is a promising one, particularly following their recent endeavours. 2015 should be a great year for Miles Teller following his incredible performance opposite J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (read my review here), so pockets of the audience should be drawn to this simply for having his name in the credits. There's also the addition of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/ The Human Torch, Teller's co-star from That Awkward Moment as well as Trank's Chronicle who wields a charm that was displayed in both the aforementioned films, as well as the heavy-hitting and emotional Fruitvale Station. We also can't lose sight of Kate Mara as Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman, who has had her fair share of good roles and displayed plenty of capability thanks to her turn in Netflix's award-winning [House of Cards](series:726551).

Even with two stars from award-winning films and a woman that was so cunning Kevin Spacey wanted her dead, the real secret weapons in Trank's super serious sci-fi are the very ones that were left the most damaged from the last adaptation. Thinking back to Story's take and the two factors that caused the most upset were Michael Chiklis in that rubblish rock suit as The Thing and Julian McMahon slowly becoming Doom-ed. So what's Trank doing to rectify that image that's imprinted on so many minds? Well two great British stars and motion capture for starters. Having already played with carefully placed ping-bong balls in Tintin (when are we seeing him again by the way?) Jamie Bell is sticking the technological suit on once again to bring Ben Grimm and his rocky transformation to the screen. Speaking to Yahoo, Trank explained that "it only made sense to use mo-cap [motion capture] to bring Ben Grimm to life," he said. "Being able to register the details and expression through the motion capture peformance because Jamie Bell is such a terrific actor. One thing that stayed the same are Jamie's eyes - Jamie's eyes when he's not in mo-cap and Jamie's eyes when he is in mo-cap." In retrospect, it's a surprise to even see Bell's eyes there at all. Given Grimm's brutish nature and the stone strong man that he becomes, it'll be interesting to see the something special he brings to the commander of clobberin' time.

The same can be said for Toby Kebbell as the films big bad Dr. Doom whose origins have also been tweaked to suit the up to date adaptation. Originally ruler of a fictitious country in the comic books, Victor Von Doom is now (if rumours and recent news scoop are true), notorious computer hacker Victor Domashev, who causes bother for our band of heroes and is only briefly seen and heard at the end of the new teaser trailer. It's a voice that might sound familiar considering you heard it growl and snarl against Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a sterling sequel that did the unthinkable - it gave Kebbell a good chance of knocking Andy Serkis of the motion capture pedastal as villainous vine-swinger, Koba. Both highligting his capability as well as giving his a career a long overdue jump start, it's this performance that should excite fans now that he's on the road to wearing (maybe) that iconic metal mask and the tyrannical role that comes with it. So, keyboard hammering madmen, firestarters with adjusted ethnicities, there was always going to be some grumbles here and there but that's where Trank's method to his madness comes into effect - and it paints just as much intrigue.

The Influences

"Why are they all so damn young?" went the comment feeds after a few casting announcements and one group selfie on Instagram went online. A good point, considering that when the original Fantastic Four were brought to life by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961 the team were seen as a surrogate superhero family; Reed and Sue were the parental figures of the group, with Ben as Reed's old college room mate, and Johnny the young blooded hot head of the group. This dynamic was given a dose of superpowers after a voyage into space left them colliding with cosmic rays and gaining the abilities they became famous for. That all changed(ish) in 2004 courtesy of Mark Millar's run in Ultimate Fantastic Four, which revived the team in the growing alternate universe and saw Reed and the gang as younger versions of their originals. They all gained the same powers as their predecessors but via a teleportation experiment gone awry. This is the world acting as Trank's blueprint for the latest adaptation, one that comes with a strong case as to why he's gone in that direction. During the Yahoo commentary Trank expressed his enthusiasm to take that route after a scene that stuck out for him in the comic books that of Reed experimenting in his garage. "I really wanted to tell the story of a young Reed Richards, the next generation - a younger Fantastic Four."

Trank's influences fell from the big screen as well as the snippets of source material too. Spilling some valuable beans to Collider, Trank explained that he'd looked to a specific director for inspiration to bring the Fantastic Four to life. "I'm a huge Cronenberg fan," he explained. "I always viewed Fantastic Four and the kind of weirdness that happens to these characters and how they're transformed to really fall in line more with a Cronenberg-ian science fiction tale of something horrible happening to your body and [it] transforming out of control." With that in mind? Could we see Bell's Ben Grimm devouring his food after throwing up wet cement all over his dinner plate? Who knows? Should we be afraid, very afraid perhaps? Heck no. Trank and the studio sound like constructed not only a solid film but one that's a future foundation.

The Sequel

For a film that has only just dropped a trailer in wake of its August release, there's still more in the pipeline for this Fantastic Four, starting with a planned sequel two years from now. Regardless of the negative opinion from fans (albeit somewhat silenced since the teasers arrival), 20th Century Fox have shown a huge amount of faith in both Trank and writer/producer Frank Kinberg and the world they've rebuilt, by planting a flag with a huge 4 written across it on July 14, 2017. Admittedly in this day and age, Hollywood is always keen to make space in their calendars regardless of how the first chapter to a franchise does at the box-office, so this might not come as a surprise, but it's worth considering that this isn't just any property - it's one that 20th Century tried to run with twice and failed, so there's got to be something special about all this.

With a cast this strong and a creative force behind it, Fantastic Four looks like the dark horse waiting to be set loose this summer. One that could cause just as much competition for Marvel Studios as 20th Century Fox's other superpowered X-Men franchise, which has had a revival over the last few years and to great effect. With second attempts at a Wolverine spin-off and bringing the gang back together for Days of Future Past, it's clear that the competing comic force has got its groove back, making even the idea of Reed and his family (should they do as well) crossing paths with Logan and the rest of the mutant gang. Now that would be fantastic.


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