Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and the Thing most recently appeared on the big screen in Fantastic Four and its sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, two movies which seem to have disappeared almost entirely from memory despite performing reasonably well at the box office. The quartet comprised of Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis attracted more than half a billion dollars worldwide, but the diminished returns and dwindling goodwill after the second movie led Fox to leave the foursome on the shelf.
Now they’re off the shelf, with a new cast and hopes for a revitalized franchise in Fantastic Four (2015). The cast is younger, hipper and more prestigious: Miles Teller (Whiplash) steps in for Gruffudd as Reed Richards, Kate Mara (House of Cards) is the new Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) picks up where Chris Evans left off as Johnny Storm, and Jamie Bell (Snowpiercer) fills Michael Chiklis’ big, rocky shoes as Ben Grimm. The director is Josh Trank of Chronicle fame, whose name initially inspired confidence, before reports of trouble on the film's set surfaced.
Naturally, there’s no evidence or mention of those difficulties in a new ninety-second Fantastic Four featurette, in which the actors make the case for the eponymous superhero group being particularly ripe for feature treatment. Why? Because each brings a different origin story to the table, they say. The cast also reflects on their chemistry with each other, and Mara teases that her three male castmates “don’t always act like men” on set. But Jordan insists, “The entire cast - we just work really well together.”
This featurette is enticing enough, but the argument that the Fantastic Four story is compelling because of its multitude of origins raises a red flag. After all, it’s become de rigeur to begin each rebooted superhero franchise with another origin story, to the point where origin story tropes have grown very familiar and tiresome to fans of the genre. Including four of them into one movie doesn't necessarily sound more exciting. And given the amount of press dedicated to detailing this movie’s production problems, Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot is already an underdog as it stands.
That being said, there's little point in rushing to judgement until the finished product is available for review. After all, Trank delivered what is generally considered a compelling superhero story with his low-budget Chronicle, so perhaps he’ll turn out another one with Fantastic Four (rumored filming complications and concerns aside). Audiences may yet take to these returning characters, with new actors bringing them to life.
Fantastic Four opens in theaters on August 7, 2015; Deadpool on February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit on October 7, 2016; Wolverine 3 (not the official title) on March 3, 2017; Fantastic Four 2 on June 9, 2017; and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13, 2018.