Can you believe that in the fifty plus year history of the Fantastic Four that nobody has managed to really get it right on the big screen? That is, of course, unless you count The Incredibles, which nailed the spirit of the FF in ways that none of the movies that actually bore their name managed to do. The first attempt was the unfortunate, never-released (unless you’re into the bootleg scene) Roger Corman produced version, then there were Fox’s two big-budget endeavors, Fantastic Four (of course) and Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer. The latter two, while they were met with a reasonable amount of box-office success, failed to really inspire audiences, and the franchise just sort of faded away.
But if 20th Century Fox has proven anything in the last few years, it’s that they know how to keep their cash cows on life support. Did anyone ever imagine that the X-Men franchise would get back on track after the critical disasters that were X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine or the relative commercial dud that was X-Men: First Class? But here we are, not only still enjoying X-Men: Days of Future Past, but anxiously anticipating X-Men: Apocalypse.
Fox recruited Josh Trank, the director of the generally well regarded found footage superhero film Chronicle (and the future director of a Star Wars spinoff movie) to helm the Fantastic Four reboot. With a screenplay by Simon Kinberg (he of both X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse), things looked bright. But somewhere along the line, things appeared to get…weird.
Fans derided the project’s secrecy, and now are deriding what’s been put out in the open. Let’s have a look at all the details, and then you can make up your minds…
New International Posters
In preparation for SDCC 2015, FOX has released three new international posters for their big superhero flick of the year:
New TV Spot
There’s a new TV spot for the Fantastic Four movie, and it shows off lots of powers…and even a little bit of a sense of humor!
Watch it here…
The Fantastic Four Movie Trailers
We did a detailed analysis of this trailer right here.
We have a detailed analysis of this trailer right here.
The Fantastic Four Movie Cast
Fox found their Fantastic Four cast in the form of Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell as Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards, Sue “Invisible Girl” Storm, Johnny “The Human Torch” Storm, and Benjamin “The Thing” Grimm, respectively.
Reg. E Cathey is Dr. Franklin Storm, the father of Johnny and Sue, and he appears to be the man who helps facilitate the acquisition of their powers. Just in case you’re confused, he’s Johnny’s biological father and Sue’s adopted Dad. This is far from the most unrealistic thing about the storm family considering that one sibling can burst into flame and fly while the other can turn invisible and project force fields with her mind.
Particularly in the case of Reed Richards and Ben Grimm, the casting skews younger than the traditional depictions of the characters, but that was quickly chalked up to this version of the story taking its influence from the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics rather than the traditional Marvel Universe. The trailer certainly confirms the “Ultimate” influence, and we’ll get more into that as we discuss what we know about the story.
The Fantastic Four Movie Story
We’ll try and piece together what we know about the story from a few things, including the trailer. For starters, there’s an official story synopsis, so that helps:
THE FANTASTIC FOUR, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centers on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.
Fantastic Four writer/producer Simon Kinberg has been plenty chatty about various details while out on the interview circuit discussing X-Men: Days of Future Past. So far we know that it won’t be based on any particular storyline from the comics, but again, there’s heavy inspiration clearly drawn from Ultimate Fantastic Four.
Originally a group of astronauts (more or less) who get exposed to cosmic radiation, the Four’s powers are extradimensional in nature this time around. Simon Kinberg told us a little about it in our interview with him:
“We’re definitely telling a younger story that the original films did. It depends on what books you look at. There are some, like the Ultimate books, that tell this story. So it is an origin story of the Fantastic Four, and it does follow them before they really know what a superhero is.”
The trailer looks like they’re taking considerable time with the origin story, and it won’t be glossed over for the sake of getting to the action. But there’s something else you can glean from that teaser: a certain seriousness of tone. This seems to be rubbing many fans the wrong way, though.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve gotten used to origin stories that pull from different versions of character history in our superhero movies. The problem is that, historically, the Fantastic Four, particularly during their undisputed greatest era (by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby…arguably the finest sustained run by any creative team in comic book history), have an element of fun, even whimsy, surrounding their adventures. They’re a family. An out-there family, but a family, nevertheless. If you’re not familiar with their adventures, think of the most heroic moments of The Incredibles crossed with some of the most dimension-warping madness of recent Doctor Who, and we suppose you’re in the ballpark.
Josh Trank, however, defended his decision to take a different approach to the world of the FF:
I’m a huge David Cronenberg fan, and 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.
When he puts it that way…it makes considerable sense. In that same interview (linked above), Trank references Cronenberg’s The Fly and Scanners as inspirations for the film’s look. I feel like you can see a hint of The Fly in the design for this dimensional travel pod (or whatever it’s supposed to be) :
If you go back to the earliest Fantastic Four stories, particularly the origin sequence in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1, there is a hint of that transformation/body horror that Trank refers to. What’s more, Ben Grimm wasn’t a particularly lovable oaf for the first few years of his existence, and was quite bitter about the state he found himself in.
Note the shots in the trailer of Reed crawling painfully through wreckage while Johnny Storm, not yet in control of his powers, burns, seemingly dead behind him, the emergence of Ben Grimm from a rocky coccoon with a certain amount of menace, or the fact that Reed almost looks like he’s having trouble keeping his very form in a couple of stills. It will be interesting to see a movie that treats these abilities as less than a blessing for the majority of its run time.
There are some official character descriptions available for each member of the team. If you head over to the official website, you can also play around with some neat interactives that explain the nature of each member’s powers and get additional character details courtesy of some audio from Dr. Franklin Storm.
Anyway, one of the biggest selling points of the Fantastic Four concept is the fact that they have one of the greatest villains in history in their stable. We should probably spend some time talking about him…
The Fantastic Four Movie Villains
Toby Kebbell is the Fantastic Four’s greatest enemy (and arguably the single greatest villain in Marvel’s entire roster), Victor Von Doom. That’s him lying on the operating table in the above image. For the purposes of this movie, he’s Victor Domashev, though. That’s fine. We understand how audiences might be skeptical of a guy with the “Von Doom” surname.
But Kebbell revealed some details about the character that annoyed more than a few fans. Domashev is still a young scientific genius, but not quite in the way you might expect. He’s a “very anti-social programmer” with the blogging handle of “Doom.” Look, I’m a firm believer that you should “wait and see” with story details that are taken out of context like this, but even I have to admit that it sounds less than promising when you’re dealing with a character as important to comics history as Doctor Doom. Does Vic Domashev even have a PHD? He’d better!
There’s a little hope, though, hidden in this image:
That sequence of numbers in the lower left corner of Sue Storm’s screen…punch ’em into your browser and you’ll end up in Latveria. Perhaps young Domashev has some royal blood flowing through his veins, after all!
Domashev isn’t the only villain in the film, though. Tim Blake Nelson is Harvey Elder, the “eccentric and socially awkward scientist” who will eventually come to be known as the Mole Man. Are you tired of seeing the words Ultimate Fantastic Four on your screen yet? Well, he has a fairly minor role in the team’s origin in that version of the story, but I wouldn’t expect him to feature in a villainous role this time around.
Keep this in mind when you’re thinking about a sequel, though. The Four get their power via a trip to “the negative zone.” This means that the most logical bad guy for a sequel (assuming he doesn’t show up in some form here) would be Annihilus. Now that would be something different.
The Fantastic Four Movie Controversy
Then there’s what might just be the ugliest part about this entire affair: the persistent, increasingly credible rumors that Marvel Entertainment are sidelining the Fantastic Four in the comics and in their merchandising arms, in an attempt to undermine the marketability of this film. Marvel are ending the Fantastic Four ongoing series and disbanding the team.
This is all in service of a much larger story, mind you, and these events happen with clockwork regularity in comics. They just don’t usually happen the same summer that a movie with a nine-figure budget is about to hit the screens. The FF aren’t all that visible on current Marvel Comics marketing, either. We realize Marvel would probably love to make FF movies of their own, but perhaps this isn’t the way to squeeze the competition.
It’s best not to think too hard on conspiracy theories, though. Take a moment to watch the trailer again, and then we’ll bring this whole thing home:
Fantastic Four will be released on August 7th, 2015.
Philip Glass is making music for the film, along with composer Marco Beltrami. Glass isn’t a name you normally associate with a superhero film, but as we’ve already seen, Josh Trank is distancing himself from the superhero genre for this one.
Initially FOX’s intention was for their rebooted Fantastic Four universe to occupy the same world as their X-Men films, but the folks involved have waffled back and forth on that. “We are all very inspired by what Marvel has done,” Simon Kinberg recently said, before cautioning, “they have challenges…there are conversations. There is a coherence between me and some of the other people that are behind both franchises.”
I think the most likely scenario here is that this will take place in a world where mutants exist, but you won’t see any Reed Richards/Charles Xavier chess games any time in the future. Don’t forget that in addition to Simon Kinberg’s ties to the X-Men franchise, X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn is one of this film’s producers.
Fantastic Four 2 is already on the schedule for June 2nd, 2017, by the way. If the first film underperforms, don’t be surprised if the second one miraculously turns into Fantastic Four vs. X-Men or something similar.
Check out the posters:
Check out the latest character posters for the Fantastic Four movie…
You can also find our complete superhero movie release calendar right here.
We will continue to update this article with new information as it becomes available.