Fox’s Fantastic Four movie reboot has been a mystery throughout most of its production, but now that the first trailer for the film has been unveiled, both longtime fans and mainstream newcomers are beginning to take note (and offer opinion) about Chronicle director Josh Trank’s new vision of Marvel’s first family.
We’ve still seen precious little of the new Fantastic Four, but for those who know next to nothing about what this comic book is, and its long winding path through Hollywood, we’ve put together a quick and concise primer to bring you up to speed. We’ll also go a step further to let you know what Trank’s version will do differently – and just how much of that difference was inspired by the comics.
Who Are The Fantastic Four?
The Fantastic Four are a superhero team first launched in 1961 by Marvel Comics architect Stan Lee and his iconic artist partner Jack Kirby, as an answer to DC’s Justice League (fun fact). Unlike so many other superhero teams, the Fantastic Four were a family unit consisting of brilliant inventor Reed Richards, his girlfriend Sue Storm, her hot-head brother Johnny, and Reed’s college roommate and best friend, Ben Grimm. In years since, various other Marvel characters including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Hulk, Ant-Man II – among others – have all been rotated in and out of the F4 roster.
In the original origin story, a trip into space and an encounter with cosmic rays gave Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny superhuman abilities. In later tellings like the Ultimate Fantastic Four of the 2000s (which Trank’s film is drawing on), the four (and nemesis Doctor Doom) gain their powers in a much different way.
The Ultimate Version
Judging from the Fantastic Four teaser trailer, the film will emulate the Ultimate Fantastic Four origin story: Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a brilliant young prodigy working on inter-dimensional transportation; Sue Storm (Kate Mara) is a talented scientist who bonds with Reed, and is the daughter of legendary scientist Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey); Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) is Reed’s BFF, a jock who grew up protecting the brianiac from bullies; Johnny Storm is still a hot-headed wannabe rockstar; and Doom is an aristocratic and arrogant European colleague of Reed’s.
When Reed’s exploration of portals to the “N-Zone” dimension goes wrong, he, Sue, Johnny, Ben and Doom are left irrevocably altered, facing an existence with powers that are arguably just as debilitating and dangerous as they are empowering.
The Ultimate Fantastic Four comic started out much more grounded in modern sci-fi – going so far as to abandon a lot of the original’s kitschy comic book-y elements (like the use of superhero code names) until later in the series’ run. It also did a major overhaul on the character of Dr. Doom, which this film may also emulate, providing a new identity and origin story for the villain.
That’s all to say: Trank’s film seems to be following the Ultimate Fantastic Four‘s lead, but it should not be assumed that the filmmakers are just making up their own version; this is definitely the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book being brought to life onscreen (albeit with a few tweaks).
How Is the Reboot Different?
Fantastic Four has tried to become a big-screen hit several times. Aside from four different animated series since the ’60s, the property had a mid-90s film that never saw the light of day (with good reason), and moderate success as a 2000s movie franchise that saw two installments hit theaters. So what is it that this latest film is bringing to the table that we haven’t seen before?
Well, oddly enough, even though a modernized reboot of the comic (Ultimate Fantastic Four) was available to them, the filmmakers behind the 2005 Fantastic Four movie chose to draw from the classic origin story and character profiles, resulting in a film with a campier and kitschy tone that arguably fits the 1960 – 70s era of the Marvel comic.
Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot, on the other hand, is trying to ground itself like the Ultimate reboot did for the comic; but even then, the tone seems a lot more serious, presenting a sci-fi character drama that just so happens to feature iconic superheroes.
As the tagline in the trailer states, this reboot definitely feels like it fits in the same world as X-Men: Days of Future Past. No coincidence in that: Fox eventually coming up with a Fantastic Four/X-Men crossover movie is still a possibility if Fantastic Four does well.
However, Ultimate connections aside, there have been some bold new changes to the material for Trank’s film:
The Storm Family
No small amount of controversy has been raised about this film’s depiction of Sue and Johnny Storm. Actress Kate Mara (House of Cards) and Michael B. Jordan (That Awkward Moment) are obviously of different races, which has stirred up debate about how they could possibly be related to one another.
Just going by the trailer, the premise seems clear: Dr. Franklin Storm (House of Cards actor Reg. E. Cathey) is a science-whiz; he’s either a widower with a step-daughter from his late wife’s previous marriage (Sue), or at some point just took the girl into his care (discovered her intellect, etc.). Either way, the resulting situation is clear: Dr. Storm’s biological child (Johnny) is a gear-head with dreams of fame, while his adopted (or surrogate) child Sue is more like him, into science and tech.
Taken that way, a brief scene in the trailer of Sue and Johnny battling it out with their powers makes sense; they are warring for their father’s love. It’s a dynamic vastly different from the comics, but also rich with great potential for conflict, resolution, true character arcs and bonds – not to mention metaphoric weight to their powers (Johnny’s angry bravado, Sue’s shyness and fear of standing out, etc.).
Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) seem pretty in line with their Ultimate F4 counterparts, but the team’s costumes will be something of a departure from the page. Maybe the big changes will be worth it in the end?
Probably the biggest hit to the new Fantastic Four‘s credibility came when a report leaked about what is presumably the new origin story for this film’s version of Doctor Doom – who won’t even be called Doctor Doom. Here’s what actor Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) had to say about his version of the iconic Marvel villain:
“He’s Victor Domashev, not Victor von Doom in our story…. The Doom in ours—I’m a programmer. Very anti-social programmer. And on blogging sites I’m ‘Doom.’
This quote of course sent die-hard Marvel fans into a tailspin, with usual accusations of ruining source material and childhoods being ruined, along with the standard calls for Marvel Studios to reclaim the property from Fox. Blogger Doom? #FAIL
Of course, more level-headed (and honestly, more studied) fans countered with the fact that in Ultimate Fantastic Four continuity, “Victor van Damme” is also a brilliant programmer / scientist who works with Reed Richards on the N-Zone project. In fact, it’s Victor who reprograms Reed’s machine, leading to the accident that gives the Fantastic Four (and Doom) their abilities.
Now, in this same continuity Doctor Doom is also living metal (with toxic gas insides), has hooves for feet, claws for hands, and does sorcery. The classic Doom is basically Evil Iron Man with over-the-top megalomania. Clearly a feature-film blockbuster hoping to present a more grounded interpretation will need to take some liberties with the character.
But if quick glimpses of the trailer are any indication, reboot Doom will be just as formidable as his comic book counterparts, exhibiting what looks to be “Technopathic” abilities (i.e., controlling machinery with his mind). In fact, word is that Doom’s iconic “Doombots” will be drone-like machines the villain wields mentally.
All in all, it remains to be seen what the final product is like, but some leaked set photos of Doom in costume suggest that the look of the character will be in the spirit of the source material.
For now that’s all the inside knowledge to actually know about the Fantastic Four reboot. It seems fears of a found-footage format like Chronicle, or the movie being an unwatchable mess, were all unfounded.
The reboot has at least piqued curiosity and even some enthusiasm, so it’s up to that next, full trailer to really sell audiences at large on the spectacle and visual composition of the film – not to mention the charisma of that much-debated cast, and a convincing villain in Doom.
Fantastic Four will be in theaters on August 7, 2015.