Friday, 21 February 2014
Who Are The New Fantastic Four?
Yesterday's announcement that Fox is close to announcing the leads in their new reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise got the Internet all a-flutter, a lot of it for crushingly depressing racist reasons. Still, for many the news led to a lot of questions, such as 'they're making a new Fantastic Four?', 'who are these people?' and 'Jesus, why are there so many racist pricks on the Internet?' Alas, the latter question will forever remain elusive, but hopefully I can at least shine a light on the other two.
Now far be it from me to go overboard judging a film before it's even come out, especially a superhero one but there are a couple of red flags to be noted about this reboot. First, it should be acknowledged that no, this is not a Marvel movie, well they're Marvel characters but this won't be put out by the same studio as Iron Man and Hulk and all your other favourites. Basically Marvel were so desperate to get their characters on screen for so many decades that the question of who owns the right to what when is super convoluted, which is the type of situation which leads to speedster character Quicksilver being in Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past this year and (Disney owned) Marvel Studios' Avengers: Age of Ultron next year. That b-list character being in both is essentially big movie executive dick-swinging.
Anyway, with Marvel Studios being so lucrative, other studios have been falling over themselves in recent years to keep their rights to those characters from reverting back to Marvel (which is what happened with Ghost Rider, Daredevil and Blade). This was actually one of the main motivations for Sony Pictures to reboot Spider-Man so quickly. Fox's eagerness to bring back the Fantastic Four franchise, which did okay financially but which wasn't exactly loved by audiences the first time around, is rooted in this thinking as well. I've mentioned this before but there's even been talk about Fox developing a shared universe between FF and X-Men, an uneven fit if ever there was one. If the people at Fox are thinking with their bank accounts first, then it could bode ill for this reboot.
As far as the cast goes, it must be said that they're an unusual bunch to say the least. They look like they belong more an a CW show than a big-budget blockbuster, which I suppose might be the point. Miles Teller as Reed Richards is the first puzzler. Teller's biggest credits to date are The Spectacular Now and Project X, a film that makes me roll my eyes so hard they're in danger of shooting out from the top of my head and into orbit, he doesn't exactly bring to mind the 50's sitcom dad of Mr Fantastic. I mean, he'll have the smug part down at least but it feel like they wanted to go with an obnoxious twerp, saw Shia LaBeouf going around with a bag on his head and decided to go with their second choice. Kate Mara as the Invisible Woman has been coming into prominence lately on House of Cards but has spent the last few years in the shadow of her sister Rooney. The noteworthy thing about her casting is how it contrasts with the Invisible Woman's brother, Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch.
As with Idris Elba playing Heimdall in the Thor movies, I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with casting a black actor in the role of Johnny Storm because being white didn't inform anything about that character. It would be great if there were more characters of his ethnicity to play because in cases like this you end up being seen as 'Black Human Torch' rather than 'Human Torch' but I'm not about to raise a pitchfork over it. Because I'm not a dickhead. Jordan is another actor with a rising reputation (Fruitvale Station) and in comparison to the others his young casting makes sense because of the age of the character. The thinking is that one of him or Sue Storm will probably be adopted but it's still a little iffy because a) the fact that one of them is of a different race makes it come across more like tokenism, like two non-white people was just too much to handle and b) the character they do choose to diversify is going to be CGI fire for the big money shots of the movie. I guess by default they couldn't choose the big orange rock guy, which brings us to...
Jamie Bell as the ever lovin' Thing. When you get the kid from Billy Elliot playing the big tough New York rock monster you start to think you're being trolled. Still, notice how no one complains about Ben Grimm being played by someone who isn't Jewish? I understand that the Thing is going to be CGI and so Bell being weedy and British shouldn't matter but it's the most confusing casting of the bunch and it's so off the map that it makes me suspicious that it wasn't a deliberately strange choice in order to generate "buzz", that nebulous concept that only movie executives understand, and only when they've done plenty of cocaine.
The basic set-up of the Fantastic Four as a dysfunctional family doesn't really seem to exist when the actors are all around the same age, which makes me wonder just how Fox are going to handle the source material. They have certainly succeeded in redirecting the online explosion in discussion away from Marvel after the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. Will it all work out? Stay tuned True Believers! Excelsior!
Image sourced from the Hollywood Reporter