2015 promises to be a year packed with comic book films, especially with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man both coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But in the scope of Marvel adaptations, one has remained an outlier in terms of what to expect; Josh Trank’s The Fantastic Four reboot. Promising to wash whatever audiences still remember from Tim Story’s Fantastic Four from 2005 as well as 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, this newly updated version of Marvel’s First Family had been shadowed in secrecy and rumor for most of it’s development, with the occasional plot description or horrible looking costume set picture being our only clue into what director Josh Trank has been cooking up for us. Now, the silence has been broken and 20th Century Fox has given the public it’s first look at the updated version of the classic quartet of heroes in the form of this new teaser trailer.
In this retooling, our heroes Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) are young outsiders who teleport to a strange alternate universe which ends up distorting their physical forms and giving them powers. While trying to get accustomed to their new abilities, they have to collaborate to stop a former friend who threatens to bring chaos to Earth. The trailer is embedded below for your viewing pleasure;
So, this is our first official look at this new Fantastic Four… and I’m not that impressed. Keep in mind, my limited exposure to these characters isn’t really from the comics as much as from the 1994 cartoon series (and even re-runs of the Hanna Barbera cartoon from 1967) and the earlier mentioned Tim Story films. In theory, my limited point of view is the one Fox is trying to hook with this trailer, not bound by continuity of the comics but familiar enough with the property to have interest, especially with a cast filled with great young talents like Whiplash‘s Miles Teller, Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan and House of Cards‘ Kate Mara. Still, even from the few bits of exposure I have had, this trailer presents little of what I enjoy about those characters. With a teaser trailer like this one, the most important thing to establish is tone. One obviously can’t fit a lot of character dynamics into this short an amount of time, so we’re supposed to get across the basic iconography and tone of what the film is going for. So from this trailer, I get the idea that this is a darker grittier reworking of the original characters, with the stakes high enough to ensure many moments of characters in torturous pain about their powers and the fate of our world hanging in the balance. Sound familiar? Well, it should if you’ve seen any number of the more lacking and lesser superhero films of the last decade, particularly The Amazing Spider-Man franchise with that final “ominous” shot and the very thin hollow attempt at an authentically gritty tone.
This more dour turn really does deflate much of any interest I have in this, with imagery like the car driving along the cornfields or Reed talking with someone in a hospital (who I presume to be our Doctor Doom or a victim of his attacks) that feels more in tune with a Christopher Nolan film than a Fantastic Four adaptation. In a post-Marvel Cinematic Universe world, we don’t need every superhero movie to be dark. We can have fun yet appropriately dramatic and engaging superhero movies. Many a comic book fan friend of mine has said that the best film version of the Fantastic Four is The Incredibles, mainly for it’s major thematic drive of a group of very different people feeling like one cohesive family team and little to nothing of this trailer brought on any of those vibes, instead coming off as bleak and honestly kind of dull. The announcement of Philip Glass helping out with the score does little to sway me from this reading either. I managed to get more of those thematics from the horrendous earlier films. It’s a shame that this reboot appears to be going for more of a sullen grand scale Earth shattering angle as more of a focus on the destruction and reorganization of a small yet powerful family unit would give this an edge that the MCU’s The Avengers doesn’t quite have, especially when two of the members are adopted brother and sister. Of course, often times a trailer will lie about what makes the film it’s advertising work. Maybe Josh Trank will be able to dig into the familial relations that made those characters relatable and translate that to screen much in the way he managed to do on his first film Chronicle. Still, as of yet, I’m not too excited to see this new Fantastic Four when it comes to theaters August 7th, 2015. Maybe I’ll just watch old episodes of Fred & Barney Meet The Thing instead.