After a few years in development, Josh Trank's Fantastic Four reboot finally began filming on location in Louisiana at the beginning of this week. Scripted by Simon Kinberg, the film will be an origin story starring a younger team than was seen in the last two Fantastic Four movies, and has been described as a "coming of age" tale. The assembled cast includes Miles Teller (Footloose) as Reed Richards, Jamie Bell (Jumper) as Ben Grimm, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) as Johnny Storm and Kate Mara (Transcendence) as Sue Storm.
Whereas Tim Story's two Fantastic Four movies were based mostly on the Earth-616 version of the team, Kinberg has said that the reboot will be more inspired by the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics. Trank's first feature film, Chronicle, could almost be considered a prototype for Fantastic Four, since it also told the story of a group of young friends being gifted with incredible powers, and delivered the narrative in a very grounded and realistic style.
Speaking to Collider, Kinberg described the first few days on set with Trank and the cast of actors, which also includes Toby Kebbell (The Counselor) as Doctor Doom, Tim Blake Nelson (The Incredible Hulk) as Harvey Elder and Reg E. Cathey (The Wire) as Franklin Storm.
According to Kinberg, production is off to a good start:
"The energy on set is great. Josh Trank is fantastic on set. Really in command, really clear, and the thing that is most unique or defining about the new Fantastic Four is the tone. We’re approaching it in a much more realistic, grounded, science rather than science-fiction way. The playfulness or goofiness of those other movies is very, very different from what we’re trying to do.
"Just seeing those actors and seeing Josh, the way he’s articulating the tone and the way the actors are executing it gives me a lot of confidence that we’ll actually be able to make a cool Fantastic Four movie."
It makes sense for Trank and Kinberg to try and differentiate their Fantastic Four movie as much as possible from the two previous movies, which embraced the comic book superhero style with plenty of elaborate action scenes, matching uniforms for the newly-founded team of superheroes, and of course an origin story that takes place out in space. Kinberg hasn't revealed exactly how the Fantastic Four will get their powers in the reboot, but he has hinted that will "involve some sort of scientific travel," which makes it likely that they will go with the Ultimate origin story involving a malfunctioning teleporter.
Kinberg also confirmed that Fantastic Four will get a 3D release, as is pretty standard for Hollywood blockbusters these days, but it will be post-converted rather than shot in 3D. The writer added that he hopes the 3D will make the film more immersive, so that, "you feel like you’re with the characters looking at themselves and looking at each other with these bizarre powers."
The X-Men franchise is already a big earner for Twentieth Century Fox and the studio has a 2017 release date staked out for Fantastic Four 2. When asked if he planned ahead for sequels whilst writing the script for the first movie, Kinberg said that the sequel obviously isn't guaranteed yet, but he's optimistic that it will happen and has been writing the characters with a future in mind:
"If it’s a terrible disaster I don’t know that you ever get a shot no matter what the date is, but they have a lot of confidence in the movie and we have confidence in the movie.
"You want to tell a coherent, complete story in each movie, but you can also start to think about and build toward how these characters evolve five years from now, ten years from now, and that’s just a cool way to tell a story. It’s not that different as a sort of episodic storytelling than what comics do or what our favorite TV shows do. You get to project beyond the two hours of the movie... I think actually in some cases what it helps me do as a writer is it forces me to ask certain questions I may not do if I was just telling a one-off movie. Meaning I have to ask questions of, ‘What is this gonna mean to them when they’re 30, 40, 50 years old? Who are these characters going to become?’"
For what it's worth, the early reactions to X-Men: Days of Future Past (which was also scripted by Kinberg) have been extremely positive, and the first Fantastic Four movie performed moderately well at the box office despite not being a property that the average audience member would likely be familiar with. There has already been plenty of backlash from hardcore fans over some of the casting decisions, but since regular comic book readers only make up a very small minority of the total moviegoing public, the recent controversy is unlikely to have much impact on Fantastic Four's eventual box office performance.
Four days into filming is probably a little too soon to start making judgement calls on whether Fantastic Four will turn out to be a huge success or a total disaster, but it will definitely be interesting to see Trank's grounded, realistic approach to creating superheroes with bizarre and incredible powers when the first trailer arrives.
Fantastic Four is out in theaters on June 19, 2015.
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