Film News

The New Fantastic Four Rumored to Be Casting Legitimately Good Actors – Will It Matter?

Sony re-booted Spider-Man after 5 years.  By the time Warner Bros. re-boots Batman in 2016 in the Man of Steel sequel we’re all calling Batman Vs. Superman until they give us a reason not to it will have been nearly 4 years since Christian Bale bequeathed the cape and cowl to a  successor in The Dark Knight Rises.  When Fox’s Fantastic Four re-boot arrives in 2015, it will have been around 8 years since the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer wiped out the franchise, leaving its mixed bag of a cast trapped in the undertow.  By comparison, Fox seems like the model of restraint.

That’s not necessarily by choice, though.  Fox first announced plans to reboot Fantastic Four back in 2009, a mere 2 years after the release of Silver Surfer.  The thinking seemed to be, “Hey, we just made a fairly mediocre if not downright bad Fantastic Four film and a 100% horrible sequel, yet they each managed to turn a profit at the worldwide box office.  People seem to like this franchise.  What would happen if we actually made a legitimately good Fantastic Four movie?”

The jury is most definitely still out on whether or not that’s even possible.  Yes, there is precedent for a comic book film franchise moving from regrettable camp (Batman & Robin, the 1990 Captain America) to badass feats of serious filmmaking (Batman Begins) or at least competence (Captain America: The First Avenger).  Fox’s new Fantastic Four director Josh Trank (Chronicle) undoubtedly has big plans for legitimizing the Fantastic Four as worthy film characters.  However, regardless of tonal shifts and advances in technology won’t someone like Reed “Mister Fantastic” Richards and his patented stretching ability always look kind of goofy?  Is he perhaps best either left as a cartoon character, or in more light-hearted material like the original Fantastic Four films to be enjoyed by less discriminating younger audiences?

Mister Fantastic stretching out in 2005 Fantastic Four
Mister Fantastic stretching out in 2005 Fantastic Four

And is there really a way to do the The Invisible Woman, and not have it on some level look this silly unless you just flat out make her completely invisible:

Jessica Alba, giving it her all but mostly cast for her ability to nicely fill out her character’s tight, blue spandex costume

However, if they’re serious about this the primary thing they have to improve upon from the original two films is casting.  When the thing is called Fantastic Four you really can’t afford to give us a fantastic actor in a thankless role (Michael Chiklis as The Thing), an up-and-comer not yet living up to his potential (Chris Evans as Johnny Storm), and the absolutely least convincing romantic couple since Liza Minnelli and David Gest (Ioan Gruffudd as Minster Fantastic, Jessica Alba as The Invisible Woman).  It’s not uncommon to find people who thought Evans was supposed to be Alba’s love interest based upon their chemistry until we realized their characters were brother and sister.

So, they’ve been seriously taking their time with this thing, writing the script, re-writing the script, hiring Josh Trank, re-writing the script, claiming their film will exist in the same continuity as the X-Men filmsbizarrely issuing cease-and-desist orders to websites reporting controversial, non-comic book book-based plot rumors that uniformly angered the internet, etc.  Now, according THR, they have cast Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) as Johnny “Human Torch” Storm and Kate Mara (House of Cards) as Sue “Invisible Woman” Storm, and are negotiating with Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott) to play Reed Richards and Ben “The Thing” Grimm, respectively.

Teller, Mara, Bell, Jordan
Teller, Mara, Bell, Jordan

Nothing is actually official at this point, but for the moment these are the most likely people to play these parts.  Jamie Bell will probably be on screen even less than Mark Ruffalo was as Bruce Banner in The Avengers, since this new Thing will most likely be completely CGI.  That’s a definite improvement over what Chiklis had to wear as The Thing in the prior Fantastic Four films.

These are all actors on the rise, particularly Jordan and Teller who both positively astounded audiences last year for their respective lead turns in indie dramas Fruitvale Station and Spectacular Now.  In fact, the only reason Teller hasn’t been locked down for sure yet is apparently due to his busy, in-demand schedule.   However, you know who was also a bit of an up-and-comer?  Ioan Gruffudd, and that didn’t turn out so well for his version of Reed Richards.

Comic fans are likely trying to adjust to the idea of an African-American Johnny Storm as well as struggling to figure out whether or not Johnny and Sue storm will still be brother and sister in this reboot.

Please forgive our lack of enthusiasm.  We have no sentimental attachment to the Fantastic Four characters through comic books or cartoons (give us X-Men over the Four every day), and just could not have cared less about the live-action films.  Well, that’s a lie.  If Julian McMahon wasn’t around as Doctor Doom we would have definitely cared even less.  This is not to say those original films aren’t without some entertainment value, more so the first one than the sequel.  However, they were mostly miscast, looked relatively cheap, and just generally seemed behind the times in comparison to what WB was doing with Batman at the time.  That would seemingly make them ideal candidates for a more mature remake, but if they remain faithful to the comics what grand story is there really to be told about a family of superheroes and their best bud who gain kind of goofy powers through exposure to cosmic rays from outer space?  Then again, you could also offhandedly belittle the premise of Thor as sounding incredibly goofy.  However, there you had Marvel and Kevin Feige in which to trust; here it’s a Marvel property being made by Fox meaning their’s no real implicit guarantee of quality.

We like some of these new actors rumored for roles in the reboot, and director Josh Trank delivered a legitimately strong superhero film with the found footage Chronicle.  However, we like this collection of director and actors to combine and make something different, not Fantastic Four.

Prove us wrong, Fox.  Prove us wrong.  Until then, every time I think of the Fantastic Four I will think of The Venture Bros. parody of them:

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