There’s a new Fantastic Four movie coming out next summer (6/19/15). You wouldn’t have known that from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, though. Heck, you wouldn’t even know that from any kind of promotion from 20th Century Fox. The only image we have of the new cast together comes from Twitter:
For the record, that’s Kate Mara (the new Invisible Girl), Miles Teller (the new Mr. Fantastic), Michael B. Jordan (the new Johnny Storm), and Jamie Bell (the new Thing). Some have taken Mara’s tweet to mean that the entire film has finished principle photography whereas others think it simply means Mara’s time on the film has come to a close.
The fact that Fox completely no-showed Fantastic Four at the only San Diego Comic-Con it could use to promote the film (2015’s SDCC will take a place a month after the film has come out) has thrown up a serious red flag for a lot of fans and interested on-lookers, although much of what Hollywood did at this year’s Comic-Con was a bit out of the ordinary. We’ve already had the internet lose its shit when Kate Mara made the mistake of stating in an interview that their film wasn’t based on any particular comic, and Michael B. Jordan seemed to indicate in another interview that the script was still being written as they were filming. Now, they can’t even be bothered to send a single person to Comic-Con or play some kind of video from the set let alone show actual finished footage?
Or is this much ado about nothing? While reading through Bruce Scivally’s Batman Begins chapter in his fantastic book Billion Dollar Batman: A History of the Caped Crusader on Film, Radio and Television, this section really jumped out at me in light of the recent hand-wringing over Fantastic Four’s “presence” at SDCC:
While shooting Batman Begins in England, Warner Bros. struck a sour note with Batfans at the July 2004 San Diego Comic-Con. The company came to the annual convention to promote Batman Begins but offered no footage from the film. Suspicious fans thought the lack of a film reel meant there must be problems with the movie. Fans had to be content with just a video postcard from director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, and appearances by screenwriting David Goyer and actor Cillian Murphy, who by that point hat wrapped up his scenes.
Granted, SDCC has grown immensely since then, drawing slightly less than 100,000 fans in 2004 compared to more than 130,000 fans this year. SDCC has become so influential on the marketing campaigns for movies and TV shows that director James Gunn actually filmed Guardians of the Galaxy’s now infamous police line-up scene early on with the specific intent to premiere it at Comic-Con. What ultimately ended up in the finished film is a more truncated version of what they showed at Comic-Con (and in the trailers). People weren’t doing that kind of thing 10 years ago when Warner Bros. sent Goyer and Murphy to SDCC for Batman Begins, but at least they sent them there and had a nice video from Nolan and Bale, right? The fact that Fox didn’t even do that with Fantastic Four seems all the more glaring.
That’s one way of looking at it. Another way is to realize that because of a disappointing Comic-Con presence there were fans back in 2004 who assumed the worst about Batman Begins. I’ll say that again: Christopher Nolan’s genre re-defining Batman Begins was once considered to have a bit of stink on it because they didn’t make a good enough impression at a convention. To be fair, fans of the time were entitled to their skepticism after Batman & Robin had trampled all of our Batman-loving hearts under the weight of neon, pun-loving Schwarzenegger, and one truly bizarre credit card:
But, still, we can now do as so many sports fans do and point to the scoreboard: Batman Begins turned out to be an amazing freakin’ movie, with an 85% RottenTomatoes rating and $374 million worldwide gross (as precursor to the $1 billion for Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises). Its disappointing SDCC appearance may have been a marketing blunder but it was not a sign of troubled production.
In some ways, Fantastic Four is in a similar position to Batman Begins, attempting to take a more grounded, realistic approach to a re-boot of a comic book franchise which had come undone due to an overdose of camp. Michael B. Jordan has described the movie they’re making as not even feeling like a comic book movie, which is largely how you would have described Batman Begins based upon what comic book movies had been prior to that point. Of course, director Josh Trank is even more of an unproven entity than Christopher Nolan was (he’d at least made 3 films prior to Batman Begins; Trank’s only prior film is 2012’s Chronicle), and its cast is even more green (Christian Bale had been around for a while prior to Begins, and he was joined by well-knowns like Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman). Plus, Batman in-arguably presents a far superior source material for adaptation than the impossibly comic book-y Fantastic Four.
So, I’m not saying that Fantastic Four is going to be the next Batman Begins. I’m just saying that whatever it did or did not do at SDCC this year doesn’t mean it won’t.
Fantastic Four is due out 6/19/15.
You can currently pick up Bruce Scivally’s Billion Dollar Batman for $3 on the Kindle in the U.S.