After months of rumours of last minute reshoots, we have finally been treated to a first look at Fox’s new Fantastic Four movie trailer. The trailer does not show us much, but what it does show us is markedly different from the previous FF movie. Inevitably the internet has exploded with bile and hyperbole about what they have done with comics’ first family, but here at Pipedream Comics we are looking forward to it immensely and here’s why we have nothing to fear…
1. Genre films work
Superhero films have become their own genre thanks to the succes of The Dark Knight Trilogy and Avengers Assemble but with dozens of superhero movies flooding our cinema screens over the next few years they need to somehow differentiate themselves from the others to stand a chance, which is what the new Fantastic Four movie trailer is doing.
We’re already suffering from a case of too many heroes with films like The Wolverine and Man of Steel massively under delivering, while fan reaction to the recent Ant-Man trailer from Marvel was decidedly luke warm to say the least. For every Avengers Assemble there are a dozen Green Lanterns that fail to do anything new and simply blend in with the rest. So how do you stop that from happening? Simple – make genre movies!
If you look at Marvel’s most recent successes they have all been built around being genre films with strong characters rather than just being another superhero movie – Guardians of the Galaxy (sci-fi) Thor: The Dark World (fantasy) and Captain America: Winter Soldier (spy thriller) gave fans more than men in spandex punching each other.
Fox appear to be taking that theory and going to town with it as the new FF looks more like Interstellar with it’s mysterious dimension hopping pods and gigantic labs full of gadgets. If they can take a bit of the high end science that is making Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four comic so memorable then they could finally have unlocked the mystery of how to bring these iconic characters to the big screen!
2. The Fantastic 4 Being Chronicle 2 is not a bad thing
Comic book films are no longer B-movies, they are marquee events attracting some of the biggest names in Hollywood and utillising these big name directors can only help make superhero films like FF more distinctive. After all, director Josh Trank made his name with the movie Chronicle, a found footage film about a group of teens who acquire super powersand we follow how they cope with these new found abilities. Sounds perfect for the Richards/Storm family, right?!
Well reports online suggest Fox are unhappy with Trank’s take on the FF, describing it as ‘a mess’ and more like Chronicle 2 than the Fantastic 4. But if that’s the case then is that so bad? Chronicle was a refreshing breath of air for both the superhero genre and also the found footage genre, making a stack of cash and stars of its leads Dane de Haan and Michael B Jordan. However it was made without a big budget or the pressure of the studios. Perhaps those execs should just trust Trank to make the film he was hired to make instead of mould it into something it’s not.
After all you wouldn’t complain if Quentin Tarantino made a superhero film packed full swearing and obscure 70s songs would you? Putting an auteur in charge of a big budget movie isn’t always a recipe for disaster, quite the opposite, just look at the successes of Tim Burton’s Batman or Joss Whedon’s Avengers or even JJ Abrams’ Star Trek for proof that if you get great film-makers you will get great films (that also make a lot of money!).
3. The Fantastic Four are 60 years old they need an update!
It’s easy to forget that the FF are 60 years old and a lot has changed since they first appeared in their blue leotards. Keeping to the idea of a nuclear family that travel into space and are flooded with space rays seems awfully trite in an age of genetical engineered super foods, DNA sequencing and the large hadron collider. Add to this the social and political developments that have happened in the last 50 years that mean not all superheroes need to blond haired and blue eyed demi-gods (unless you’re in the Avengers) and not all women are doe eyed submissives (unless you’re Anastasia Steele). So making Johnny Storm black and Sue Storm kick ass are fantastic decisions to reflect the modern world we live in!
But what about the villain I hear you ask? How can they make a mainn iron suit and cape who fires lasers from his fingers fit this world? Well, with the cinematic landscape forever changed by Trevor Slattery in Ironman 3 the idea of an all conquering super villain with racial undertones is in very poor taste. So just as have Marvel handled this contradiction brilliantly with the Mandarin, so Fox must deal with Doom in a similar way in FF which they have done by making look and feel more like a normal person (and deliberately downplay him in this first look).
After all, in a world where The Interview is banned in Korea and Russia and the Middle East are politically unstable you cannot simply rely on a guy with a funny accent to be your bad guy. Instead you need smart, articulate super villains with skills and smarts that power their magical plans, not brawn and henchmen. Whether it’s Bane in the Dark Knight Rises or Skyfall’s Silva, villains these days need to be taken seriously and by repositioning Doom as something more believable it can only help make the film more plausible.
4. There is such a thing as being too faithful
Before The Dark Knight broke the mould, 90s and 00s versions of superhero movies attempted to keep faithfully to their subject matter, often with disastrous results. Comic characters came with a legacy of decades long back stories and anachronistic outfits and values which made telling compelling stories almost impossible. If it wasn’t battling with an age old legacy of stories, then fanboy appeasement meant films were packed full of too many characters and in-jokes at the expense of story.
The previous FF movies attempted to stick faithfully to the Lee/Kirby blueprint and ended up creating a naff childish version of the Richards family with Michael Chiklis is in a rubber rock suit. But what has made films like The Dark Knight and X-men work is breaking away from the comics and creating their own versions of this famous mythology, which Fox and Trank appear to have done with the new Fantastic Four.
Just as Shakespeare doesn’t have to be done in tights and a ruff (see Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet) so superheroes don’t always have to be dressed in spandex. The X-men franchise would never have been as successful if Hugh Jackman was running around in blue and yellow tights, rather than a leather flight suit and Heath Ledger would never have been have been allowed to give his Oscar winning performance if he’d been made to follow the blue print set out by Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson. By breaking the mould we got a new take on the character that is now informing the comic book, rather than the other way round.
For a lesson in how being too faithful can drag a film to it’s knees then simply watch Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, which spent so long trying to replicate every panel of Alan Moore’s classic, that it dragged on for over 3 hours veering from one lovingly created set piece to the next but with no coherent narrative to make it hang together as a whole.
5. The Mark Millar factor
If all this isn’t enough to retain your faith in the new Fantastic Four movie then there is one last trump card. Fox’s consultant in things comic book, Kick Ass creator Mark Millar, who has gone on record as saying the new FF will be ‘jaw-dropping’.
Now Millar knows a thing about superheroes, after all he not only revitalised adult comics with the shockingly gory Kick Ass but he also revitalised superheroes by creating the template for the modern superhero landscape with his work on Ultimates – the book whch first saw a black Nick Fury and informed Joss Whedon’s take on the Avengers.
Not to mention of course he wrote the Ultimate version of the FF which Trank and co are leaning on heavily for this new version. As a writer with an expert eye for genre and a bold streak in him that loves to take risks and push the envelope (Soviet Superman or villainous Reed Richards anyone?) and so if it has got his input, not to mention his seal of approval, then it can’t be all bad!
Decide for yourself by watching the Fantastic Four movie trailer here…