Saturday, February 22, 2014

Toaster's Ramblings - Fantastic Four Reboot Edition

I'm going to come right out and say it... I want the new Fantastic Four movie to fail. I want it to bomb hard. Why? Because if it bombs hard enough, Fox will abandon the franchise, focus entirely on the mutants of the X-men universe and the Fantastic Four film license reverts to Marvel and Disney! Oh, that will be grand day. Not only will Marvel be able to resurrect the "first family of comics" in the same world as The Avengers, but then they get such characters as Dr. Doom, Galactus, Silver Surfer and whatever other villains are part of the deal (Annihilus? Blastaar? Skrulls? Other heralds of Galactus?)

That said, it would appear Fox is making my wish come true. The new casting of the Fantastic Four is just weird. The reboot is directed by Josh Trank, whose super powered teen thriller Chronicle gives him some level of credit to helm a major comic book movie. But from there things get a little... weird. The first news was that he wanted one of his actors from Chronicle, Michael B. Jordan (from acclaimed series like The Wire, Parenthood and Friday Night Lights), to play the part of Johnny Storm AKA The Human Torch. Jordan is an African-American. I don't want to whine about how a black guy can't play the role of a traditionally white character and to his credit, Michael B. Jordan is one of my favorite young actors. I'm sure he would do a good job as Human Torch. But I don't know if various fanboys will agree with the casting. Enough bitching and negative word of mouth could sink this film before it's even shot.

The rest of the casting is just as puzzling to me. Kate Mara (sister of the "American" Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is set to play Sue Storm, the invisible woman. Based on her credentials of House of Cards, 127 Hours and the television show Jack & Bobby, I assume she can act, but I've never really seen her in anything. I do know that there's going to have to be some sort of adopted or step-brother reasoning for the black and white brother/sister pairing, but whatever. Plus, she'll probably do well to go blonde since Sue Storm is in the comics. But that's no biggie.

Miles Teller is cast as Reed Richards, who as Mister Fantastic leads the quartet of adventuring superheroes. This one makes me scratch my head. His previous work suggests that he mainly appears in raunchy "party" comedies like 21 & Older and Project X. His one work that looks artistic, The Spectacular Now, could give him some merit for such a role, except his character is apparently also a partier (I have never seen any of those movies by the way). I don't want to jump to conclusions that he will suck, because I honestly don't know. What I do know is that Reed Richards is a difficult character to write and portray for film. He is a brilliant man, a bit of an outcast, somewhat obsessed, and has a taste for adventure. He needs to come across as both a genius and a competent leader. He needs to make an audience believe that people would follow him (literally) into outer space or put on an outfit to fight crime. But he also can't come across boring, conceited, or obnoxious. Ioan Gruffudd didn't really pull off Reed Richards in the previous Fantastic Four movies, one of several reasons the franchise went bust. Time will tell is Miles Teller can make us believe everything I mentioned.

Lastly, Jamie Bell is (most likely) cast as Ben Grimm, who becomes the rocky brute known as The Thing. That one really makes me weary. One of 2 things that DID work in the previous FF movies was Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm/The Thing (For those keeping score, the second good thing from those two movies was future Captain America Chris Evans as Johnny Storm). I didn't like how The Thing looked, but Chiklis was the perfect Brooklyn accented tough guy. Jamie Bell is a British actor with a medium build. He's a good actor, having impressed me in the bizarre indie flick The Chumscrubber as well as playing a fellow teleporter with Hayden Christensen in Jumper. But I really don't know about him playing the big tough guy that Ben Grimm is supposed to be. Time will tell, but I just don't see it.

From there, information is few and far between. Trank has stated that the movie will be based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four series that featured a much younger team. I'm just not sure that making a film about four people who take a private rocket into space on a scientific research mission, and casting them as a young "hip" group, will make the film gel any better with moviegoers that the last set of movies. Then, you have the rumors... that I honestly hope are JUST rumors. For instance, the casting call indicated that the whole "space mission where they get bombarded with cosmic radiation" will be scrapped. Instead, Reed and Ben get transformed in some event, taken by the government to be used as weapons, where they meet Johnny and Sue Storm who also have powers. That might work for a movie origin, but it might turn off fans who could see it as turning a classic 'silver age' superhero comic into a dark 90's series where the government is evil and the heroes have to rebel against the system. 

Another rumor comes from the Hollywood Reporter that the studio is looking to cast a big name as Dr. Doom for the reboot and are not ruling out switching genders for the character. Yeah..., that right there would kill it for me. I want to be cool with flipping sexes, but Dr. Doom is one of my all-time favorite super villains bar none. I can't and don't want to imagine him as a woman. I just don't... I'm sorry. They could make Silver Surfer a woman and I'd be okay with it, but not Doom. What would she be... Victoria Von Doom? I have a feeling a lot of other fans would be irritated by that as well. For what demographic would that be catering to? Comic book fans have seen a lot of women join their ranks in recent years years, but not enough to warrant that kind of change! Plus, are we really going to be okay with seeing The Thing punch out a woman Dr. Doom? That would just be uncomfortable.

Here's the deal... I keep mentioning fanboys because they are going to make or break this movie. The Fantastic Four are not huge names like Spider-man, Batman, Superman or even the X-Men. Iron Man, who prior to 2008 had a popularity around the level of the Fantastic Four, only had a successful movie because it was (mostly) kept lovingly faithful to the source material with great writing, the perfect actor to play Tony Stark and amazing action scenes. At least the fan-irritating Mandarin twist didn't appear until the third movie, could you imagine if that had been in the first film? It would have ended up like Green Lantern did. Iron Man pleased both the fanbase and looked good to casual movie-goers and in the end led to comic sales for the character. The lesson here is don't mess with the established formula just to try to make it edgy or cater to certain demographics.

Part of me wants to see a good Fantastic Four film, but I would really rather Marvel get the license back. They will probably never get Spider-man or X-men back, but FF would go a long way toward building major parts of their universe... especially with their exploring space with Thanos reveal at the end of The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy coming later this year. Unless I'm very wrong about this reboot, the choice to avoid seeing the movie may not be that hard to make.

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