I’ve been leery of this Fantastic Four reboot ever since it was first announced. I wasn’t a huge fan of Josh Trank‘s Chronicle, though I’m certainly willing to admit that it was good for what it was. I simply didn’t enjoy what it was, and the thought of Trank taking over the (admittedly not great, but in my mind not as bad as a lot of people seem to have thought) Fantastic Four franchise was not something that I found heartening.
Then came the casting news. At the time of the announcement, most of the cast were unknown quantities to me, but my problem wasn’t so much a question of their acting abilities – and having subsequently seen Miles Teller, who is playing Reed Richards in the movie in Whiplash and watching him hold his own against the incredible J.K. Simmons in that film, I have no doubt that he, at least, given the appropriate material certainly has the chops to carry the load- but in their relative youth. Yes, I understand the studio’s desire to go with a younger cast to draw in the proper demographic but, and this is where I call in that “given the appropriate material” phrase above, especially in casting Teller as Richards they simply seemed too young to really fit my image of the Fantastic Four.
Of course, here again is where I have to acknowledge that as an old fart who grew up on and with the original Lee/Kirby FF run and has followed their adventures ever since, I am, again, not the target demographic for this movie. And honestly, I’m okay with that. As I’ve noted before, both in my writing and in discussions with people on adaptations in general, I am not a stickler who says “but the book has blah-blah-blah…” or “but the comics have yadda yadda…”. I’m definitely willing to accept the fact that changes are necessary in bringing anything created for another medium to the screen. My only real requirements are that the movie stay true to the essence of the characters (that was my huge problem with Man of Steel, for instance – it seemed a complete betrayal of everything that makes Superman actually Superman), that it hew somewhere close to the appropriate tone for the material being presented, and that it tell a good story.
Which brings us to the second part of my resistance/hesitancy to this movie – tone. As I said above, I was not a huge fan of Trank’s Chronicle in large part because of its dark tone, and that is exactly what I feared he would bring to the FF movie, and I have seen absolutely nothing to assuage that fear, including reports that Fox executives themselves have used the expression “Chronicle 2” to describe the movie, and the director’s own admission that he has been influenced in making this movie by the films of David Cronenberg, a director whose films have always been kind of hit-or-miss for me, and who seems wildly inappropriate for what I think of when I think of a Fantastic Four movie.
When you add to that the reported changes in the very origins of the characters – drawn more from Marvel’s Ultimate Universe stories (and there’s a reason that series didn’t last long) than the classic tales, and the reported more “grounded” and “realistic” take that seems to be the direction that Fox seems to be wanting to take the franchise in, well, it simply hasn’t seemed to bode well for a movie that has the word “Fantastic” in its very title.
Still, with all of that said, I’ve been willing to give the movie at least some benefit of the doubt until we actually saw some footage. After all, up to this point, we haven’t really seen anything concrete from the film itself, not even a still.
Yep, finally today we got the first official trailer for the movie, and here it is:
Obviously, there’s not a lot to go on here, as – appropriately I suppose for a first trailer – it really is more of a hint, a tease for what the movie will be. And we all know that trailers, especially the first one out of the gate, can be quite misleading when it comes to the final product. This is a trailer full of hints and glimpses, and I’m hesitant to make much of a judgement from it. However, there is one thing I would like to note.
The Fantastic Four is the cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. Everything that has come since, everything that made Marvel Comics truly Marvel Comics springs from the FF. It was the trendsetter. It was the wellspring. It was – and this is really not hyperbole – the comic that changed everything, and its very likely that without its success, we would not have the other Marvel creations that we love today. No Spider-Man, no X-Men, no Captain America, no Iron Man, no Thor, no Avengers, no you-name-it. If you think I’m exaggerating, then remember that when Stan Lee first created the FF, he was on the verge of quitting the comics field altogether, and FF#1 was, in a way, his last attempt to try to create something new, something different, and had he not challenged himself (and co-creator Jack Kirby) to do that, well…
Yes, in the early pages of the Fantastic Four comic Lee was shooting for a more “realistic” tone to his own comic – at least in comparison to rival DC’s output at the time – but that was also a relative thing. The other aspect of those early comics, however, was that Lee and Kirby never lost sight of the fact that they were writing comic books. That they were writing fantasy stories (after all, even the words “fantasy” and “fantastic” have the same root) that were meant to excite and enthrall their audience, and to inflame the imagination of their readers, – there’s a reason that Marvel at the time was able to give themselves the moniker “The House of Ideas” without it seeming ridiculous, and that Marvel is said to have created a “modern mythology”- and that is the biggest thing that I wonder about when I look at this trailer. Because it doesn’t strike me, again at admittedly only a first glimpse, as the kind of movie that is going to inspire that sense of wonder, that continual sense of “where do we go from here?”.
In short, it doesn’t seem to be the kind of creation from which the Marvel Universe, be it the classic one or the current cinematic universe, would spring.
I know, that seems like an awful lot to put on what is, at the end of the day, just a two-hour(ish) movie. But then again, this is a movie that is calling itself The Fantastic Four, and with that title comes – whether the studio or the creators want it or not – a certain heritage and legacy that wouldn’t accompany something like oh, say for instance, Chronicle 2.
Of course, in the end, as I noted above, the movie is going to be what it’s going to be. And whether it succeeds or fails it will have to do so on its own merits as a movie. It’s not – as some often exaggerate – going to “wipe out a part of my childhood”, and it’s not going to erase or destroy what has come before it. It simply will be what it is, and even if it winds up completely terrible, well, the world will go on, and there will be – as is extremely obvious from the huge slate of comic book and superhero movies which are scheduled to follow it – plenty of other chances for Hollywood to “get it right”.
But I really would like to go see this movie and experience something Fantastic.
- Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration (shadowandflamewithmagik.com)
- First Official Trailer for ‘Fantastic Four’ Reboot Features Young Superheroes Preparing for What’s to Come (laughingsquid.com)
- Buried Treasure: Captain America’s “Real” Silver Age Debut (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com)
- Vin Diesel continues to tease potential role in Marvel’s Inhumans movie (digitaltrends.com)