Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Thoughts on the "Fantastic Four" Teaser Trailer

So, it's finally here: the first official trailer for Josh Trank's Fantastic Four reboot. With the exception of the notorious and unreleased 1994 version, 20th Century Fox first brought Marvel's First Family to screens with 2005's Fantastic Four and then with the sequel, 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, both directed by Tim Story. Both films were met with negative reactions from both critics and fans. Now the studio, along with Trank, the director of the found footage superhero film Chronicle (2012), is attempting to reignite the franchise, likely hoping for this to be the Batman Begins of the franchise.

In an era where we knew the entire story of The Amazing Spider-Man before the films were even released, info on Fantastic Four has been sparse, and the production incredibly secretive. Principal photography on the film finished without any set photos of the actors in costume. It was only yesterday when we first got a picture of Michael B. Jordan (who plays the Human Torch/Johnny Storm and who starred in Chronicle) in his costume. And now, with the film coming out in August, we finally get our first trailer. August is still months away but it's rare it's taken this long for a superhero/franchise film to debut a trailer. Not that I'm complaining. I'm thankful we haven't been bombarded Amazing Spider-Man-style with too much marketing. I would keep as much info as possible close to the chest.

Trank and his film has had an uphill battle for some time now. Many fans have a vendetta against the film, trashing it every chance they get. This is due to comments from the cast which suggest the film is going to take departures from the source material, most notably in regards to the Fantastic Four's main adversary. Toby Kebbell (Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) takes the role of Dr. Doom in this film.  Kebbell said the character- who in the comics is the leader of the fictional country Lavernia- will be an "anti-social programmer," whom on blogging sites is known as "Doom." This information on Dr. Doom's new origin caused controversy. And rumours about back stage trouble between Trank and the studios added fuel to the fire that the film would be a complete misfire.

With the teaser finally released, I feel the tide may be shifting slightly, even though there's still  skepticism about the film. I know many want the Fantastic Four film rights to go back to Marvel so they can put them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I understand that desire- and admittedly it'd be cool to see the Fantastic Four interact with Rocket Raccoon- but I already know what a Fantastic Four film made by Marvel Studios would look and feel like. I'm more attracted to the idea of a Fantastic Four movie that exists outside of the Marvel Studios formula.

I would agree with anyone who said the Fantastic Four aren't inherently dark characters. Aside from the tragedy of Ben Grimm being stuck as a giant rock monster they are, in many ways, the most light hearted heroes in the Marvel universe.  The trailer have a more somber tone than what people would expect. I do hope this isn't going to be another Man of Steel. I like Zack Snyder's Superman reimagining more than others but I do consider it too oppressively serious.

That being said, I hesitate to fall back on "It's ripping off The Dark Knight," "It's trying to be too realistic," or using words like "dour," "grim." and gritty." I don't want to label the film and pretend it can only be one type of film. I like to think Trank will blend multiple tones instead of being monotone. What I personally inferred from the teaser is the film will have a similar tone to Bryan Singer's X-Men films- also produced by Fox. I see Trank's vision as low key and less colourful but still having humour and some exciting action sequences. The teaser is somber but I don't envision the film as "gritty" or the characters as "brooding."

In the trailer we get our first glimpse at the new iterations of the foursome. Miles Teller plays Reed Richards. Reed is typically the dad figure of the group- with Sue Storm as the mother and Ben and Johnny being the squabbling children. In this version the filmmakers are clearly going for a younger version of Reed- more of an eager young scientist than a established family man. Supposedly this version of Reed will be close to the Ultimate universe version of the character.

Kate Mara plays Sue, Johnny's sister. Much has been made of the fact that Johnny is African American in this version, and Sue and Johnny are said to be adopted in this film. Fans have taken issue with Sue and Johnny not being blood relatives, an important aspect of their relationship. I understand that criticism but I don't feel making the two adopted is an unreasonable change. What's most important- to me at least- is Mara and Jordan having strong chemistry That, and the script providing material that allows them to create a believable and emotionally tangible relationship.

The most unusual casting is Jamie Bell as Ben/The Thing. Bell looks a more muscular in the trailer but his previous roles don't suggest large similarities with Ben. However, Bell is a fine actor and I'm looking forward to what he brings to the role.


Coming back to Jordan, I think he has the right blend of cockiness and charisma to pull off Johnny.

This teaser is more about mood than it is about telling us what the plot/story is. And most of the superhero shenanigans are kept in the background. Moreover, costume-wise, the film is foregoing the traditional blue suits with the 4 emblems and going down the Singer X-Men route with plain black. There's also more a sci-fi vibe to the teaser than a superhero one, which I'm not against, considering Fantastic Four comics always leaned towards the sci-fi.

I am a little skeptical about them doing another origin story. As with The Amazing Spider-Man the film may be locked in to the constraints of being a set-up film. Ideally, Trank has transcended the mechanics of the origin story and craft something more than a simple origin story.  

Not being as passionate about the Fantastic Four as others, maybe I'm the real audience for this film. The best case scenario for Fox is if it can win over fans and non fans alike. We'll see how things turn out on August 7, when Fantastic Four will finally be seen by audiences.

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