We’ve known about the Fantastic Four reboot for quite some time, but that hasn’t stopped it being a mysterious project which, until this week, we knew next to nothing about.
We knew that the cast, director and groundwork of the original 2005 film, and its 2007 sequel Rise Of The Silver Surfer, had been firmly thrown out in favour of a new visual look, some reimagining of the source material and an altogether more modern take on the Marvel comics property. Beyond that, many facets of the film remained a mystery.
The behind the scenes team
Even these basic facts are a little complicated. While the question of ‘who exactly is making this film?’ can normally be summed up in a sentence, the story behind the Fantastic Four reboot is a little more convoluted than that. Let’s start with an easy one, then – the new Fantastic Four is definitely directed by Josh Trank, the man who helmed the terrific found footage superhero-ish flick Chronicle, which helped launch the careers of Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Harry Osborn) and Michael B Jordan (more on him later) back in 2012.
The first name to be attached to the writing side of this intriguing project was Jeremy Slater, who was also penning horror sequel Tape 4 and teenage comedy My Spy at the time. His script for resurrection drama The Lazarus Effect will reach our screens this very year as well.
A couple of months after Slater signed up, Mark Millar joined Fox as their creative consultant for their Marvel properties. He told us recently in an interview for Kingsman: The Secret Service that he has met with Josh Trank to discuss the film, and that the director laughed upon hearing that Millar had cancelled his own Chronicle-esque project when he heard about Trank’s film back in the day.
Although many already expected more shaky-cam from Trank, Millar was the first to hint at it overtly, telling SciFi Now back in 2013 that “he’s contemporising it. I think he’s just making it work for the screen – he’s a great story teller.” Despite this tease, the rumblings of a found footage feel were only fully confirmed in June 2014.
That said, the trailer that appeared online this week definitely seems to utilise a tripod for the most part. We’d expect the final product to have a few sequences which are notably more shaky than what we’ve seen so far. Either that, or folk have been fibbing.
Soon after Millar joined Fox, his regular collaborator Matthew Vaughn (who directed Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) climbed on board as a producer for Trank’s Fantastic Four. Further scriptwriting talent followed suit shortly after, with Seth Grahame-Smith (who penned the Pride And Prejudice And Zombies novel and wrote the scripts for Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) signing up for some polishing duties. As the film’s shooting schedule (which kicked off on June 17th 2013 in Vancouver) drew closer, X-Men veteran Simon Kinberg jumped in to give the script a ‘substantial overhauling,’ according to some sources. He is also a co-producer of the film.
Rumours abounded around this time that Fox – who control the Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises – were being given the cold shoulder by Marvel, who were exercising their right to refuse merchandise manufacturing for Fox films and lessening the prominence of Fox-owned characters in their cross-promotional activity.
Recently, Kinberg confirmed that three to four days of additional photography would be needed to complete the film (which isn’t entirely unheard of) a few months away from its release. While this could be an extended post-credits sting, it’s perhaps more likely to just be odd bits and bobs.
It’s unclear exactly whose script remains most intact, but we’d wager that Kinberg’s expertise had a sizeable impact. Particularly as the trailer namedrops his work on X-Men: Days Of Future Past as one of its selling points.
The core cast
Things get really interesting here, with Fox using their casting decisions to firmly make a statement that this new Fantastic Four franchise would be as different to the last as possible.
The biggest headline here was that Michael B Jordan, Josh Trank’s Chronicle star, would be taking on the role of Johnny Storm. You might know Johnny better as The Human Torch, the fiery-but-cool role played previously by a pre-Captain America Chris Evans. Swapping the typical Caucasian Johnny for an African-American actor sparked some controversy from certain corners of the internet. Mr Jordan reacted by saying that “you just kinda accept it, it is what it is. You can’t make everybody happy.”
In minor detail news, the trailer recently suggested that Johnny will spend some time under the bonnet of a car, too, a nod to his mechanical abilities in the comics. Moving on…
In the same announcement as Jordan’s arrival, the previously-rumoured casting of Miles Teller as Mr Fantastic was confirmed. The new face of Reed Richards might have been an unknown entity to some at the time of the news breaking, but now many surely recognise him as the star of Whiplash. Teller also popped up in Divergent. Like the rest of this new version of the team, he will be younger and less experienced than his previous iteration as Ioan Gruffudd. He will still be a genius though, judging by the scale of the experiments shown in the trailer.
Taking the Jessica Alba role of Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman was Kate Mara (127 Hours). She’s front and centre in a lot of the trailer’s action, as well as sitting at a computer looking serious at one point. Becoming Ben Grimm/The Thing is Jamie Bell, the recent voice of Tintin and star of Man On A Ledge, who is nonetheless still best remembered as Billy Elliot from the 2000 film of the same name. We catch a couple of glimpses of his familiar rocky look in the trailer. He also plays baseball pre-accident.
Much speculation has been made of how much time in this film will be spent with the central quartet of heroes actual wearing their iconic blue costumes. Judging by the trailer, we don’t expect a huge percentage, to be honest. Instead, they seem to be wearing more grounded, less colourful uniforms. A third act transition into bright blue would be welcome, but perhaps isn’t hugely likely.
A while after the key quartet were confirmed, the rumours of a female Doctor Doom were put to rest when Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes alumnus Toby Kebbell was cast in the main villainous role (more on his rumoured modern twist in the next section). Encouraging faith that Kebbell can play a complete arse can be found in his stellar turn from 2011 Black Mirror episode The Entire History Of You. Seek it out if you haven’t already, he does very well as an unstable and increasingly unlikeable young adult.
Another villain who might pop up is Mole Man, as Tim Blake Nelson has been cast as Harvey Elder. We’re told that Harvey will just be a scientist in this one, who might be set-up as a villain for a future instalment. That surely gives Mr Nelson flashbacks to his role as Mr Blue in The Incredible Hulk, a slightly-unhinged scientist who was teased as a future villain but never got his teased pay-off. We’ve yet to see him in any promotional material whatsoever, so we wouldn’t expect too much screen-time for the man. A scientist who might get more minutes in the movie is Reg E Cathey’s Dr. Franklin Storm, spotted looking significantly worried during the trailer.
If you’ve read all of this, and have a decent knowledge of Fantastic Four lore, you probably think you can already start piecing together a framework of the plot to this reboot. Well, don’t expect all your clairvoyant predictions to come true, as there certainly seems to be some surprises to this one. For starters, we’ve been told not to expect a plot lifted directly from comics or the previous movies.
So what can we actually expect? Well, after a falsified synopsis did the rounds, we finally got a proper one in December 2014. Containing most of the predictable stuff, here it is:
“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.”
So far, so similar, then.
We can expect all the familiar Fantastic Four beats of ‘gaining crazy powers,’ ‘learning to control them’ and ‘working as a team to stop a baddie,’ it would seem. The only major differences in terms of the actual characters themselves will be their age and the fact that their relationships may slightly differ to the familiar version (Johnny and Sue could be adoptive siblings, or only share one parent, for instance).
If you fancy another mystery to ponder, consider how we’re actually meant to stylise this title. The synopsis (and IMDB) stick to The Fantastic Four, while most of the internet has been opting for simply Fantastic Four. The trailer, though, showed us a Tak3n-esque Fant4stic, which we’re assuming might be an attempt to look cool more than an official project name. It doesn’t look cool though, of course. Proper spelling is cool.
More drastic debates than title semantics were born when Toby Kebbell started talking to the press about his villainous role. He told Collider in November 2014 that there would be no Victor Von Doom (the infamous Latverian dictator and Fantastic Four arch enemy) here. Instead, he is portraying Victor Domashev, a ‘very anti-social programmer’ known as ‘Doom’ on blogging sites. He’s going to be American, with some foreign tinges, in this iteration, we’re led to believe.
This news shocked all nerdy corners of the internet, which is no surprise considering that Trank and co. have seemingly reimagined a core part of the Fantastic Four mythos very thoroughly. Can we assume that the threat the four face will be digital in its origins, then? We assume ‘Doom’ must program some pretty serious stuff if it takes a quartet of superheroes to stop him. Guesses on the back of a postcard for that one, please, as we didn’t learn a great deal from the trailer.
What we did find out from the teaser is that phrases like ‘human beings have an immeasurable desire to discover’ can be related to the plot of this new version of Fantastic Four, suggesting that an experiment gone awry will still be key to proceedings. ‘With every new discovery there is risk, there is sacrifice, and there are consequences,’ the trailer told us, which in turn leads us to believe that shit seriously goes down as a result of the Four’s experiment, possibly more so than in the previous big screen version. Many are already speculating that science-caused mayhem may well replace the familiar elements of celebrity parody here, but that remains speculation at this stage.
As our own James Hunt pointed out in his trailer dissection, the only experiments we see in the trailer begin in closed rooms. Will we see a fantastical transportation to Marvel’s mysterious Negative Zone, then, rather than a traditional rocket-based voyage into outer space? It’s certainly a possibility.
‘The answers,’ and the fact that they are coming, are key phrases from the trailer, suggesting that Reed Richards and co. will be asking plenty of questions – about how they got their powers, how to control them and what it all means for science in the grand scheme of things, perhaps.
Although he was seemingly absent from the trailer, we can deduce from the synopsis that Doom will be a ‘former friend turned enemy,’ and that his nefarious scheme will endanger our whole planet, but we are still clueless as to whether he will have any metallic elements at all. Will his blog-happy fingertips be endowed with superpowers too, we wonder? The presence of six experimenty pods in the trailer certainly suggests that two other people (one of whom might be Doom) could well gain extraordinary abilities, too. Or perhaps Doom will merely be acting out of jealousy that all his friends got cool space-given abilities and he didn’t? Only time will tell on that one.
One thing we can be sure of, thanks to the trailer, is that this plot – which ever form it may take – will be set against a brooding and dark tone, which seems pitched somewhere between Chronicle and the Nolan-verse. Lots of fiery action will unfold at one point, too.
The premiere date
Originally, this film was expected to hit our screens in March 2015. However, the film was later pushed back to the date of June 19th 2015. Even more recently, the Fantastic Four reboot was relocated once more to an August 6th 2015 slot. This decision bought everyone concerned a little more time and was presumably affected by the huge money that Guardians Of The Galaxy made in August 2014.
This puts the Fantastic Four reboot in a position where it will hit screens less than a month after Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man in a lot of territories, which makes it all the more vital that the trailer and some set pictures did eventually arrive. Still, the amount of marketing so far is vastly different to what you would normally expect for a superhero film in the modern market, which is interesting in of itself.
If you expected the promotional floodgates to stay open for Fantastic Four now that the trailer has appeared, don’t set your hopes too high. We’d be surprised if we saw any more for a little while, based on current form. Less is more seems to be the approach being taken. It might just work, too.
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The future of the franchise
So, there you have everything we know about Josh Trank’s 2015 Fantastic Four reboot which will be reaching a multiplex near you this August. However, as you probably could have guessed, a whole franchise is being plotted here, not just one instalment, so there’s a little bit more to discuss.
In fact, the sequel to Fantastic Four has already been publically mentioned, in a show of confidence that is fairly common for comic book movies nowadays. July 14th 2017, just less than two years after the first instalment, is the date that Fox have earmarked for the sequel, which may or may not star Mole Man as the central villain. Naturally, we don’t know much more than that at this stage, other than the assumption that the 2015 cast – and possibly Mr Trank – will probably return. We would bet against Silver Surfer, too. With the moviemaking rights to X-Men also owned by Fox, a crossover between the two franchises has also been mentioned as a possibility.
“To be honest, I’m so focused on each of the movies right now”, said Kinberg.”We’re [in] post[-production] on Fantastic Four, and making that the best movie it can be. And then we’re in prep on X-Men: Apocalypse, so those are kind of full time jobs,” he clarified.
“I love the characters. I love the characters in Fan Four, and I love the new cast. Obviously I love the characters and cast of X-Men. So, hypothetically, the notion of putting them together is really intriguing, and there’s some really fun stuff that the comics have done in the past. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”
A crossover seems likely to us, but the first post-reboot Fantastic Four movie surely needs to soar first. We’ll be sure to pass on any further nuggets of information as we hear them. In the meantime, here’s another look at that trailer which we’ve been banging on about…
Fantastic Four, The Fantastic Four, Fant4stic, Los 4 Fantásticos or whatever you want to call it, is due for release in cinemas on August 6th 2015.
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