Tag Archive | "Fantastic Four"

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Fox’s DEADPOOL Movie Is Finally Happening

Posted on 18 September 2014 by William Gatevackes

deadpool screenshotSo, blurry test footage from a proof of concept reel for the long rumored Deadpool is “leaked.” Fans go crazy for it, but Fox makes most of the sites take it down.

Then a higher quality version of that sizzle reel hits, it looks great and fans go even crazier. Fox has that one taken down too.

Now Fox has announced that they will in fact be making a Deadpool movie, that it will open on February 12, 2016, and the director behind that sizzle reel, Tim Miller, will direct the film.

I think we have been played. Either by Fox, looking to garner a little advance buzz for today’s announcement, or by Miller in order to have Fox realize what a potential hit they had on their hands.

Either way, I’m sure there are a lot of fans who don’t mind being used in this way. Deadpool is one of the most popular mutant characters Marvel owns and has a large and vocal fanbase. Many thought that the development hell the character went through, and the way he was mishandled in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, would have killed any chance their favorite mercenary had of reaching the big screen. I’m sure they are now proud of the role they played in getting the film on the big screen.

No word on whether or not Ryan Reynolds will return as Wade Wilson, but his voice acting is a big part of what made that sizzle reel so great. I hope he signs on.

In other Fox comic book movie  news, the studio also announced that their Fantastic Four reboot will be pushed back from June 19, 2015 to the August 7, 2015, the spot formerly held by their Assassin’s Creed adaptation, which will now be released sometime in 2016.

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First Look At New FANTASTIC FOUR’s Dr. Doom

Posted on 28 August 2014 by Rich Drees

Dr-Doom

There has not been a lot of news about Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot at Fox that has instilled confidence in fans of the property. And I dare say that this leaked set photo is going to turn things around on the groupthink opinion on the project. Below you will see a photo of Toby Kebbell in costume as the villain Dr. Victor Von Doom. Now, even allowing for the fact that this is a blurry cellphone picture and that there may be some additional CG work done to enhance the costume, though I don’t see any of the markers on it that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in set pics of other costumes that use CG extension like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, I am not enthused by this picture at all. Doom has been the go-to villain for Fantastic Four films and I can certainly see the attraction. He’s big and melodramatic and given that his animosity to the team stems fro his broken friendship with Reed Richards, there’s an element of tragedy there as well. But when it is starting to look like the best version of the character we ever got was in the Roger Corman-produced unreleased Fantastic Four from the 1990s, then maybe it is time for Hollywood to dig a little deeper into their FF backissues to find someone new to bring to the screen.

FFDrDoom

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Hammer And Shield

Posted on 15 August 2014 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we look at how Marvel Studios’ star rose to highest heights by overcoming some bumps in the road.

comic book cap and thorAfter the success of Iron Man, Marvel Studios was ready to take some risks. The next two heroes they would tackle , Thor and Captain America, had some name recognition, but also some drawbacks. The former was a figure from Norse mythology who had a day of the week named after him, but was a fantasy character, a genre that does not play well on the big screen. The latter was arguably Marvel’s third most well known character, being referenced in everything from Easy Rider to a Guns ‘n Roses song. But he was also a jingoistic character being introduced into a film world where foreign grosses are so important and anti-American sentiment is very high.

However, Marvel needed to introduce Thor and Cap into the cinematic universe if it wanted an Avengers film to be made–comic book fans would never forgive them. So Marvel willingly tackled these challenges and more that came their way–including release date changes, shifting directors and writer’s strikes–in order to get these films made.

Originally, Thor was scheduled to hit June 4, 2010, just under a month after Iron Man 2, and Captain America on May 6, 2011, just two months before Avengers was to arrive on July 15 in that year. Unfortunately, in March of 2009, Marvel announced that the films would be pushed back–Thor to June 17,2011 (although later moved forward to May 6, 2011 to take the spot of the cancelled Spider-Man 4), Captain America to July 22, 2011, and The Avengers to May 4, 2012. Marvel stated the change was to “strongly sequence Marvel’s movie debut dates, big-screen character introductions and momentum,” but surely other reasons played a part as well.

One of those other reason might be the changing of the directorial guard that Thor went through. The first director hired by Marvel to helm the film was Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn was hired in August of 2007 and set about rewriting Mark Protosevich’s script in time for a late 2008 shooting date. However, Vaughn was off the project by May 2008 when his holding contract expired. Official word had it that he was released, but this wasn’t the first comic book film he walked away from. Who knows what the real story was?

Thor_posterThis set Marvel on a search for a replacement. Guillermo del Toro briefly considered joining on, but chose to devote his energies to The Hobbit instead. Marvel eventually chose Oscar Nominated-director Kenneth Branagh to helm the film in December of 2008, just a few months before the release date change was announced.

Branagh followed the Marvel template of casting award worthy actors in supporting roles, including Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins as Odin, then-Oscar nominee and future Oscar winner Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, and Golden Globe winner Idris Elba as Heimdall, and casting relative unknowns in the leads. But what great finds those unknowns have turned out to be.

Chris Hemsworth made his name on Australian television at the time he signed on for Thor, but American audiences only knew him from his work playing Captain Kirk’s doomed father in 2009’s Star Trek reboot. But Marvel was ahead of the curve as Hemsworth went on to become a leading man of note in Hollywood, starring in films such as  The Cabin in the Woods, Snow White and the Huntsman, Red Dawn and Rush after Thor. But where he really excelled is in playing the God of Thunder, a man who was at once arrogant and charming, brave yet selfish, and cunning yet a bit obtuse. It was a hard role to pull off without the right actor. Hemsworth was the right actor.

But casting Tom Hiddleston as Loki was a stroke of genius. Like Hemsworth, Hiddleston was mainly known for his television work in Britain. He came over and auditioned for the role of Thor. He didn’t get it, but Branagh, who worked with Hiddleston before, most notably on the British TV series Wallander, offered him the role of Loki. Hiddleston attacked the role as if it was one of Shakespeare’s classic villains. Loki was vile and depraved, but Hiddleston made sure that audiences saw the hurt and pain that motivated all of his actions.

Casting Hemsworth and Hiddleston took away a lot of the risks involve in mounting Thor. If anyone else were cast in the roles, I doubt that the film would have been as successful. The comic book Thor and Loki were a bit staid and boring. Hemsworth and Hiddleston made them alive and vibrant.

ThorHammerThe film dealt with an exiled Thor, stripped of his position and power by Odin due to a poorly thought out attack on an ancient enemy of Asgard, stuck on Earth. While on Earth, Thor strikes up a romance with an astrophysicist named Jane Foster in preparation of his eternal stay on our planet. However, when Loki uses Thor’s absence and Odin passage into a deathlike sleep as a power grab, Thor must prove himself worthy to combat his half-brother, even if it kills him.

The film was good, much better than I’d ever think a Thor film could be. There was a lot of humor to go along with the adventure. I think making the Asgardians scientifically advanced aliens was a nice touch that kept the concept grounded with what had come before in the cinematic universe. The only major misstep the film took in my opinion was the romance between Thor and Jane. There was not enough time devoted to the pairing to make the love connection feel real.

The film was also a cameoapalooza. In addition to Stan Lee’s obligatory cameo, we had cameos from the film’s screenwriter and one-time writer of the comic J. Michael Straczynski, writer Walt Simonson and his wife Louise, and Marvel editor Ralph Macchio. But perhaps the biggest cameo was that of Jeremy Renner, who made an appearance as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Barton. Comic book fans instantly recognized him as Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye.

The post-credits scene focused on Nick Fury turning to Thor’s ally Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) to investigate a powerful item called the Tessaract. Unfortunately, Selvig appears to be in the sway of Loki, which could only mean bad things.

It took several months for movie fans to find out more about the Tesseract (comic fans already knew it as the Cosmic Cube) in Captain America: The First Avenger.

captain-america-international-posterThis film also hit a development snag, this time due to the Writer’s Guild strike of 2007-2008. Marvel decided to make a separate agreement with the union to avoid delaying their production schedule any more than they had to. Joe Johnston was Marvel’s first choice for a director, brushing off offers from former Marvel directors Jon Favreau and Louis Leterrier to helm the film.

For Cap, they cast Chris Evans, an actor who at the time had performed in no less than five comic book films, most notable as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four films. I have to admit, I had concerns with this casting at first. Evans was known for playing glib smart-asses with a heart of gold. Except for the heart of gold part, that wasn’t Captain America. I wondered if they were making a major personality change in the character from the comics or did Evans have much more depth in him as an actor.

Thankfully, it was the latter. Steve Rogers is a tough role to play, as characters with strong moral values are hard to portray, or at least hard to portray convincingly. But Evans nailed it. He made a nice, honest, forthright man captivating, and made sure that we knew that Captain America was a hero before he ever got the super-soldier serum, the costume or the red, white and blue shield.

The film followed Steve Rogers, a man who desperately wants to serve his country as it toils through World War II. Unfortunately, Rogers is 4-F, and no matter how many times he tries to enter the army, they won’t  have him. However, his dedication to serving for all the right reasons catches the attention of a Doctor Erskine (Oscar Nominee Stanley Tucci), who thinks Rogers is perfect for his top-secret super soldier program.

Rogers goes through the process and turns from a 90lb weakling to the peak of human perfection. Unfortunately, before the serum can be used to create even more super-soldiers, Erskine is killed by assassins sent by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a German who received an early version of Erskine’s formula.

At first, the government keeps Rogers safely away from the front lines until they can figure out Erskine’s formula. However, when Rogers’ childhood friend Bucky Barnes is captured by the Red Skull’s Hydra (an organization composed of Nazis that even Hitler thought were too extreme), Rogers defies orders to rescue his friend.

The bonus scene was essentially a commercial for the next year’s The Avengers.

Truth be told, I am a huge Captain America fan. He is my second favorite comic book character of all time, so I was predisposed to like this film. But I loved it. I loved the World War II setting, I loved Evans’ performance, and I loved the way they remained true to the comics while still making the film stand on its own. The only thing that gave me pause was the introduction of Hydra as an enemy to fight. At first, I thought it was a way to back away from having him fight Nazis, a classic film villain from Casablanca all the way through Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in order to make it more palatable for international audiences. However, I now see it as a way to give Cap and the rest of the heroes a tyrannical villain to fight even in modern times.

Next time up, we will close out Phase I with the film that changed Marvel, comic book films, and cinema in general forever–The Avengers.

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Kate Mara Apparently Confirms FANTASTIC FOUR Reboot Not True To Source Material

Posted on 15 July 2014 by William Gatevackes

kate mara mexican esquireI’ve devoted a lot of the server space FBOL takes up to hand-wringing over how bad the Fantastic Four reboot was going to be. My main concern was the plot synopsis that appeared on a casting announcement that indicated that the reboot will be almost 100% different than the comic book it takes its name from. Josh Trank went to Twitter to deny that the synopsis was real, but Fox legal still sent out takedown notices to any film site that reported on the casting announcement’s plot blurb, including us.

However, part of me wanted to believe Trank that this was not true, that the powers that be would not be so arrogantly stupid to change what made the Fantastic Four the Fantastic Four. But an interview with Kate Mara by the Mexican edition of Esquire Magazine most likely put the last nail in the coffin of that hope.

Wedged in between pictures of Mara lounging in vintage underwear, the magazine managed to ask Mara about her up coming role in the reboot, specifically dealing with the comics themselves. ComicBookMovie is there to translate:

Q: Do you like comics?

A: I’ve never been a fan of comics, I’ve never actually read one. I was going to for this movie but the director said it wasn’t necessary. Well, actually he told us that we shouldn’t do it because the plot won’t be based on any history of anything already published. So I chose to follow his instructions. The one fact is I am a fan of comic book movies, so it’s very exciting to be part of a movie like this.

Okay, the “looking-on-the-bright-side-of-things” Bill says that maybe this was just an error in translation. Or it could be willful misdirection. Or maybe Mara meant that the film will not be based on any particular story arc from the comics but that the origin will remain…will…ah, who am I trying to kid. The casting plot synopsis was right. Get ready for a loosely-affiliated band of super-powered government mercenaries as your reboot FF. I’m sure it will be kewl.

This of course begs the question of when does a FF film not become an FF film? And why didn’t they just create an original film around the concept instead of  just tacking the FF name on to something that bares little resemblance to the source material? Is the name that much of a draw? If so, why not pay more respect to it?

The trainwreck is set to hit theaters on June 19, 2015. Maybe we’ll find out how many puppies they’ve sacrificed to the Dark Gods next week at San Diego Comic Con.

 

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Josh Trank Set To Ruin A Stand Alone STAR WARS Film

Posted on 04 June 2014 by William Gatevackes

Josh-TrankJosh Trank is going from working on a Marvel Comics property at another studio, to the studio that owns Marvel Comics.

Disney announced today that they have hired the director to helm one of their stand alone, Star Wars spinoff films. No word on which characters Trank will be working with or when the film will be released.

Star Wars fans should be slightly concerned over the hiring. Trank is currently shooting his reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise, a reboot rife with selfish casting decisions and potentially damning changes to the mythos. One would assume that Trank will not have as free a hand to mess up the Star Wars franchise, but there’s always a chance that might happen.

It seems that the earliest Trank’s Star Wars film will hit theaters will be in 2017 or 2018, which means that his involvement in the presumptuously scheduled 2017 Fantastic Four sequel has been put in doubt. Of course, there might not be a sequel for him to be involved in, but still.

Via Collider.

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Is Marvel Shelving The FANTASTIC FOUR Comic To Spite Fox?

Posted on 02 June 2014 by William Gatevackes

marvel 75 years Could Marvel Comics be putting one of its longest running comic book properties  properties on hiatus just to get back at Fox? Or could there be another, more sinister reason for their disappearance?

It all started when Bleeding Cool noticed that the Fantastic Four was missing from a bit of promotional art for Marvel’s 75th Anniversary, seen to the left. This was a noticeable omission because the FF were vital to the history of Marvel and should have been definitely included in the anniversary celebration.

This caused Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnson to do some digging. His sources told him that the omission was deliberate and what’s more, Marvel would be putting its Fantastic Four comics on hiatus, relegating the characters to guest stars in other books. The reason? Marvel’s mercurial CEO Isaac Perlmutter issued an edict prohibiting the FF from being prominently featured or promoted by Marvel while Fox held the movie rights, because it meant promoting a movie franchise where the studio got the lion’s share of the profits and the comic book company got little.

marve artwork guidlinesMarvel, of course, denied this, which caused Johnston to come back with a letter an artist for Marvel’s line of trading cards received. The letter specifically states that the Fantastic Four members, villains and supporting characters are off-limits for inclusion in any set.

One major flaw to this is that the X-Men film license is still held by Fox and Marvel still hasn’t stopped publishing numerous comics featuring those characters. Johnston claims that the X-Books are safe because they are such good sellers. And after all, no mutant characters appear in that image either, and others have noticed supposed slights by Marvel towards the X-characters as well.

Of course, there might be another reason why the Fantastic Four, and only the Fantastic Four, are singled out for this type of hiatus.

On May 15 of this year, Marc Toberoff, lawyer for the Jack Kirby Estate, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, asking them to hear an appeal on the case of the Estate Vs. Marvel over rights to most of the Marvel Comics characters. I can’t find anything on the Internet on what the results of that petition were (The Supreme Court site currently only  goes up to April), but what if the Supreme Court decided to hear the case? And what if Marvel’s lawyers informed them they had a very good chance of losing the Fantastic Four in the ruling?

The Kirby Family staked claim to a lot of Marvel characters, some that historians say Jack Kirby had little or no role in their creation. Most of the rest fall under typical “work-for-hire” agreements, but the Fantastic Four might not.

ff#1Kirby claimed in a 1990 interview with The Comics Journal that the Fantastic Four was created solely by him and not as a work-for-hire. Kirby claimed that he came up with the idea and brought it to Stan Lee. Of course, Stan Lee has a different story of the team’s creation, but Kirby’s version of the creation does have a bit of credence to it due to FF’s resemblance to another team Kirby created for DC 4 years earlier–the Challengers of the Unknown. Both teams were a quartet of adventurers who faced off against monsters, aliens and weird villains. And both teams featured a genius scientist, a slow-witted muscle man, and a reckless risk-taker.

And if you made that letter above a little larger, you’ll see that the majority of the characters on the list first appeared between Fantastic Four #1 and #21, the issue numbers specified by the Kirby Estate lawsuit. The only exceptions are Galactus and Silver Surfer, two characters whom even Lee himself admitted were Jack Kirby’s sole creations.

And there is a precedent for this scorched Earth policy regarding these ownership disputed characters. During the brief period when the rights to Superboy were reverted to the Jerry Siegel estate, DC Comics killed off its then-current incarnation of the Superboy character, changed the name of another character from Superboy-Prime to Superman-Prime, and scrubbed out just about all mention of Superboy in DC books.

This is all just a theory of mine. But my theory makes more sense than the one Johnston’s sources are putting out. Of course, a theory doesn’t have to make sense to be true.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Tripping The Dark Fantastic

Posted on 16 May 2014 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, instead of looking towards the past, we look to the future to cover the forthcoming reboot of FANTASTIC FOUR and the serious problems it is already generating in the fan community.

FantasticFourRebootCastJoshTrankAfter a rough start (I’d call having the writer of Batman and Robin as your producer as getting off on the wrong foot, regardless if he won an Oscar since then), the Fantastic Four reboot seemed to be moving in the right direction when they hired Josh Trank as director of the film in 2012. Trank was the director of the 2011 surprise hit Chronicle, a found-footage take on three teenagers who gain superpowers from a mysterious item. It was a realistic take on the superhero genre, and earned the director great praise from fans and critics. It also earned him the honor of being the youngest director to have a film debut at #1 at the box office.

Having such a man at the helm of a licensed superhero movie was considered a good thing. He proved that he understood the genre and was able to bring fresh ideas to the execution of it. Trank’s hiring seemed at the time to be a sure sign that Fox was going to get it right this time around.

Unfortunately, that was the last piece of good news the reboot had. As a matter of fact, what came after turned that good news into bad news.

Michael-B-JordanThe first bump in the road was the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch. The African-American actor being cast as the Caucasian Johnny was sure to raise a roar of outrage in the fan community, as any deviation from the comic book-established-norm would. And it did. Only this time, the counterpoint to the protests brought up a racial element in them–that there was at the very least an underlying element of racism in the criticism of Jordan’s casting.

katemaraI don’t believe in absolutes. Could there be people who hated Jordan’s casting simply because they are racist? Yes. But you don’t have to be a racist to have issues about Jordan’s casting. I believe that Jordan is a great actor (I think it was a big snub that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Fruitvale Station) and I think that he will do well in the role. However I believe his casting, especially in regards to the casting of Kate Mara, is a dangerous break from what made the source material great.

Every great comic book film adaptation makes changes to the source material in order to make a good movie, yet remains true to the heart of the original concept. And the heart of the Fantastic Four concept is family. In every version, in every parody or homage, the fact that the FF is a family is a main feature of the team. And the family dynamic in the original FF works in many ways. First, you can break the quartet into pairs, each pair being extremes united by a family bond. The rough hewn, not-that-smart Ben Grimm and the scrawny, super-intelligent Reed Richards are not biologically related, yet become as close as brothers through shared experiences. The wild and unpredictable Johnny is the polar opposite of his sister, the calm and reserved Sue.  If it wasn’t for the fact that they share the same biological parents, there would be no connection between the two. And “how could these two come from the same parents” became part of that dynamic.

RegECathey2Now, in the reboot, they haven’t come from the same parents. With the casting of Reg E. Cathey, it appears that Sue is either adopted or a step-sister of Johnny. So that part of the family dynamic is changed for the upcoming film, and I imagine not for the better. It’s not that I’m saying that adopted children are not a real part of the families they join or that merged families aren’t real families. But they are different from a biological family, with a different family dynamic. This wouldn’t be a problem if I thought the film was going to have something to say about that dynamic. But in a big budget blockbuster? It will be a cosmetic change at best.

And an arbitrary one as well. Nothing against Kate Mara as an actress, but you mean to tell me that there are no African-American actresses as good if not better in Hollywood? Casting an African-American actress would have preserved the biological ties between Johnny and Sue and provided another high-profile role model in the film superhero world. Why wasn’t an African-American actress cast? Would an interracial relationship be too hot to handle? Is there some kind of Hollywood law that you can only have one African-American on a superhero team? Wouldn’t having a strong, central African-American female set a good example?

chronicle livestream chatThat is, of course, if Michael B. Jordon’s casting is meant to be a means of breaking down barriers and changing perceptions like his defenders say it is. I think there’s a simpler reason for Jordan getting the role–it’s comfort casting for Trank, pure and simple. As everyone knows, Trank directed Jordan in Chronicle. Jordan has gone so far as call Trank a “good friend” in media interviews. So there is a strong connection between the two.

What novice director (Fantastic Four will only be Trank’s second film) wouldn’t want his friend, a skilled actor who he has directed before, in the cast of the blockbuster film he is directing? At the very least, you have an actor whose style and work ethic are familiar to you, one you’ve already developed chemistry with. At the most, you have an ally working with and for you in the production, someone who will mold the other actors to your directing style and help your vision come through. Having Michael B. Jordan in the cast just makes Josh Trank’s job that much easier.

Having a personal muse, a repertory of actors you frequently use, is not unusual. Heck, Judd Apatow, Wes Anderson, Joss Whedon, and Quentin Tarantino are famous for it. Martin Scorsese has both Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio on his speed dial. But none of the above directors are willing to destroy the spirit, tone and feel of the source material to work with their favorite actors. That takes a certain kind of ego and hubris.

jamiebellAs egregious as some might consider Jordan’s casting to be, I consider Jamie Bell’s casting as Ben Grimm/The Thing’s to be even more problematic. Ben Grimm, in the comics, is the brawn to Reed’s brains. He is a bulky, linebacker sort of man who has the look of someone who would protect a science nerd such as Reed while they were in college.

Jamie Bell simply has a different body shape than you’d expect Ben to have. Granted, at 5’7″, he is the same height as Michael Chiklis, who played the role in the previous films. And the picture to the left shows that he does have a superhero physique. But it’s just not Ben Grimm’s. And if Miles Teller gets into superhero shape, the actor, who is five inches taller than Bell, might just make it  look like Reed’s the one sticking up for Ben.

This might seem like petty griping, but once again the way the characters are portrayed in the comics are what makes them great. Ben Grimm has always been a stocky, Lower East Side, everyman whose inherent goodness cause him to defend and eventually befriend Reed Richards. It’s not that the same dynamic couldn’t be on play here, it’s just that they will have to work harder to show it.

TwentiethCenturyFoxLogoOf course, this is running on the assumption that there will be any dynamic from the comics that make it to the screen. One of the most disastrous things to happen to the reboot was when a casting announcement revealed story elements from the reboot. Unfortunately, we are no longer able to legally quote the plot synopsis verbatim, because that is owned by Fox and a reprinting of it is violation of their copyright according to their lawyers (more on that in a paragraph or two). However, through the “Fair Use” provisions of  US copyright law (specifically section 107 of Title 17 of US Code) we can quote part of it to comment upon and criticize it. And, hoo boy, is there a lot to criticize.

The new story makes substantial changes to the Fantastic Four mythos, including:

  • Reed and Ben get their powers as teenagers, don’t meet an already superpowered Johnny and Sue until later: Every version of the FF’s origin, from the mainstream Marvel Comics one to the Ultimate Marvel Comics one, through every cartoon and film version,  the quartet get their powers at the same time from the same event. This is a fundamental feature of the characters and is what reinforces the family aspect that makes them great. The accident that gives them their powers is a shared experience that brings them closer together. It is the fickle hand of fate that creates an unbreakable bond between the already close foursome. Having them get their powers separately destroys this aspect of the characters, and they are weaker for it.
  • Reed’s genius-level intellect is now a by-product of the event that gave him his stretching powers: Once again, Reed’s smarts have always been part of his pre-accident characterization in every incarnation of the character. It is his defining trait. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for Reed’s reckless pursuit of knowledge, the Fantastic Four would not have existed. To have Reed’s high intelligence become a super-power he gains is like instead of having Superman being an alien, he was just some guy who got his powers from some alien rock. That change completely destroys the character from top to bottom and is a stupid move.
  • Reed and Ben are taken into government custody and are used as weapons: While the Ultimate Marvel version of Reed is recruited by the government to join a think tank, nowhere in the history of the FF have they ever been consigned into government service as living weapons. Once again, in what is becoming a reoccurring theme, this is a catastrophic break from the original concept. The FF are idealists who willingly use their powers to help protect their fellow man. Making them government lackeys takes away that nobility and weakens the concept.

Of course, after this hit and fan outrage went through the roof, Josh Trank went on Twitter to say in no uncertain terms that the synopsis was a fake (Trank has since shrunk away from social media since then. His Twitter and Facebook only have a few entries from 2012. Everything else has been deleted. Try to click on a link of one of his tweets and you get a message saying they’re not found.). This would be reassuring if it wasn’t for the fact that at the very same time Fox was sending out take down notices to everyone who posted the synopsis. This caused Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta to ask what many other film journalists were asking:

After this debacle, the FF reboot became a ludicrous train wreck where most any rumor, even ones later proved untrue, could get traction. Josh Gad as the Thing? He’s so not appropriate for the role that it has to be true. A female Doctor Doom? Well, they changed everything else, why not change that too.

Then came the rumor that Josh Trank was about to be replaced in the directorial chair and the reboot would restart over fresh. The rumor was strongly denied at the time and we now know did not come to pass, although it appears at least two directors were asked to replace Trank and refused.

One hopes that the synopsis is not correct, because it seems rather senseless to have a Fantastic Four reboot in name only. As far as I can tell,there has been no official confirmation of what the storyline will actually be, other than Josh Trank telling Badass Digest that “The only truth in that plot description is that there are four characters named Reed, Ben, Sue and Johnny” and  “You’ll see in June of 2015.” But even if the film does hew closer to the source material, based on what we have heard from the principles involved in making the film is still enough to cause us concern:

And I think what we’re going to do with Fantastic Four is going to be very grounded and it made sense to me. When I read the script, I didn’t feel like I was reading this larger-than-life, incredible superhero tale.  These are all very human people that end up having to become I guess what is known as the Fantastic Four.–Miles Teller

All I know is it’s going to be a very different take on the film than what probably people expect. I think we’re making a very grounded version of the superhero film.–Kate Mara

This will definitely be a more realistic, a more gritty, grounded telling of the ‘Fantastic Four’ and no matter what people think about the cast.–Simon Kinberg

SimonKinbergThis all has the air of studio mandated episodes of fan reassurance. I mean, they all use “grounded” for goodness sakes. And if they were making The Grounded Four then this would be reassuring. Unfortunately, they are making the Fantastic Four.

This all plays into the popular Hollywood misconception that all comic book fans want is grim and gritty imagining of their favorite heroes, because that was the only reason why Christopher Nolan’s Batman films were so gosh darn successful. What they fail to realize is that not all comic book concepts lend themselves to grim and gritty interpretations. And Fantastic Four is a prime example of this.

I mean, “Fantastic” is part of the teams name! They’re the heroes who face off against giant men who eat planets or insectoid malcontents from other dimensions or superhumans in royal palaces hidden in the Himalayas or a race of monsters that live underground. There have been periods of seriousness here and there, but even in the Ultimate Marvel version of the characters, the team has been about pursuit of the wondrous,  pursuit of the amazing, and pursuit of, well, the fantastic. In other words, the Fantastic Four cry out for a “larger-than-life, incredible superhero tale,” not a “more realistic, more gritty, grounded telling.” And the fact that all involved don’t realize that completely and utterly scares me.

What does this all this chaotic mess add up to? A Fantastic Four film I really am not up for seeing. Either we will get a Fantastic Four film that breaks entirely with the source material, or we’ll get a film that doesn’t not capture the proper tone. Filming has just begun and its debut is over a year away, so maybe there will be more than just Doombots and Mole Men to make fans of the characters happy. But based on everything I have seen about the project up to this point, Fox might be wise to find something else to put in its July 14, 2017 spot, because it’s not likely there will be a Fantastic Four 2 to put in theaters on that date as they planned.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: The Not-So-Fantastic-Voyage

Posted on 02 May 2014 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we cover Marvel’s flagship title, FANTASTIC FOUR and the problems its film adaptations have. 

ff#1Fantastic Four #1 has to rank right up there with Action Comics #1 as one of the most important individual comic books in the history of the medium. And as with most historical artifacts, the story of its creation have become legend in and of itself.

The concept was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961, and each man had his own view on how the series came about. Lee said that Atlas (as Marvel was then known) publisher Martin Goodman found out during a golf game with a DC Comics bigwig that that company’s Justice League of America was a huge success. Goodman then ordered Lee, the Editor -in-Chief and head writer at Atlas, to come up with a superhero team to cash in on the trend. Lee has said that he was willing to quit the business, but was compelled by his wife to give Goodman what he wanted, but the way Lee had always wanted to write it. Lee decided to make his new superhero team, the Fantastic Four, completely different than all that had come before.

Kirby, on the other had, offered another version. He said he had returned to Atlas/Marvel Comics after a contentious break-up with rival DC Comics and claimed that he came upon a despondent Lee, who was in charge of a failing Atlas and desperate for a hit to reverse the company’s fortunes. Kirby reassured Lee, then started to work on a concept that bore more than a passing similarity to the Challengers of the Unknown, a concept he created for DC years before. The artist tweaked than concept, made it a family with superpowers, and presented it to Lee as the Fantastic Four.

The truth is most likely somewhere in between, as elements of both man’s styles are in the final product. But what cannot be denied is the affect it had on the world of comics. The superhero comic book was just making a resurgence, but the heroes being presented were staid paragons of perfectness. The biggest challenge Superman had to face in his everyday life was Lois Lane trying to figure out his secret identity for the twenty millionth time. Batman had an endless supply of money in his civilian identity, and the luster and glamor that came with it. The DC characters resembled their reader’s lives as much as a block of wood resembles a house.

FantasticFour51Fantastic Four changed all that. Lee and Kirby gave their characters dramatized version of real world problems their readers might face. Sue loved Reed, but was resentful of the time he spent in the lab. However, Reed would often be overcome with jealous anger when the Sub-Mariner flirted with Sue–and Sue reciprocated. Ben and Johnny would fight like cat and dog, usually after one pulled a prank on the other. The squabbles temporarily took Ben’s mind off being trapped in the body of a monster. And Reed continually felt guilty over being responsible for Ben’s predicament.

The team often times had trouble making the rent, or had to deal with angry neighbors. Characters got married, left the team in a huff, had children, and developed friendships with other heroes. In other words, the Fantastic Four had problems, just like the rest of us.

The book ushered in the Marvel age of comics. Without the Fantastic Four, we wouldn’t have had Spider-Man. Or the X-Men. Or Watchmen. Or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or perhaps even comic books today at all. Such is the importance of the Fantastic Four.

The team had a number of successful animated adaptations, it took over twenty years for the concept to be optioned for a feature film, another 11 until an attempt at filming was made, and  another 11 on top of that before a movie was actually in cineplexes.

fantasticfourposterThe story of the aborted 1994 Fantastic Four film was the stuff of legend, but we spoke about that one in a previous installment, so we’ll pick up from where that story left off. While the Corman FF film would never officially be seen, it did buy rights holders Constantin Films more time to develop a bigger budget version of the film. However, things weren’t any easier after the rights reprieve, as the film went through a similar development hell. The script, while credited to Mark Frost and Michael France, went through many other hands–most notably Simon Kinberg, before production began. As a matter of fact, actors were still getting script pages while the movie was being filmed.

And when it came to getting talent on board, the film became virtual hot potato that most of Hollywood passed on. Directorial candidates when from the awesome (Chris Columbus and Steven Soderbergh) to the intriguing (Peyton Reed) to the underwheming (Raja Gosnell) before finally settling on Tim Story, a director who biggest resume listings were the comedies Barbershop and Taxi. Instead of getting George Clooney as Reed Richards, we got the relative unknown Ioan Gruffudd. Instead of getting Rachel McAdams or Scarlett Johansson as Sue Storm, we got the relatively wooden Jessica Alba (although her performance might not entirely been all her fault).

Not that all the missed opportunities were cases of diminishing returns. Paul Walker passed on the role of Johnny Storm, allowing Chris Evans to add it as the first of many comic book characters on his resume. His performance was a high point of the film. And James Gandolfini was offered the role of Ben Grimm, but the capable Michael Chiklis was eventually cast in the role. Chiklis brought a lot of the humor and pathos that made the comic book Thing great into his performance.

johnnystormThe plot involves Reed Richards desire to study a cosmic ray storm in space for clues it might hold to human evolution. He takes his friend Ben, a pilot, his estranged girlfriend and fellow scientist Sue, her brother Johnny, who is an astronaut, and the financier of the project and former classmate Victor Von Doom up to a space station to run tests. However, a miscalculation exposes them to the cosmic radiation, altering the quintet’s DNA and giving them superpowers. Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben have to deal with their powers and the attention they generate, while Von Doom tries to gain even more power for himself.

The film is continually lambasted by film critics and comic fans as one of the worst films ever. Personally, I don’t see it. Granted, it will never replace Casablanca as my favorite film of all time, but the film had a lot going for it. I liked the way they updated the origin for the film while still keeping it based in the world of science. I think they pegged the Ben and Johnny dynamic well. And I also like how the climax showed the characters working together as a team to take down the villain, which was a change from the X-Men films, where the team broke off to take down the bad guys on a one-on-one basis.

I even liked the update they did on Doom, a sore spot for many comic fans. I realized that megalomaniac Doom that always bombastically refers to himself in the third person would not translate well to film, and was ready to accept something different. I thought the eurotrash version the film gave us was a unique approach to the character,thought Julian McMahon did well bringing the sliminess this version of the character needed, and thought having Doom get powers in the same accident made him more of a threat to the team.

But bad reviews and fanboy griping did not stop the film from tripling it’s budget in worldwide grosses. That meant a sequel was on the way, and that they would tackle one of the legendary tales from the comic book with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

fantasticfour2posterStory and the cast returned as writers Mark Frost and Don Payne set about adapting “The Galactus Trilogy” from Fantastic Four #48-51, with elements of Fantastic Four # 57-60 thrown ion for good measure. The story begins with Reed and Sue contemplating leaving the world of heroics behind, as Sue is feeling neglected by Reed spending all his time in a lab solving the world’s problems. However, their retirement is complicated by the arrival of  the Silver Surfer, a surfboard-riding alien who appears to be terraforming the Earth for some nefarious purpose. Turns out the Surfer is preparing the Earth to be devoured by his master, Galactus, a cloud of cosmic energy that sustains itself by destroying planets.

The team’s efforts to fight Galactus are complicated when Doctor Doom returns and steals the Surfer’s powers for his own. The FF are forced to fight a immensely powered Doom, all the while as the doomsday clock ticks down to zero.

There are nods to the comic books aplenty here, but not all of them add to narrative. Yes, Sue being resentful of the amount of time Reed spends in the lab is taken from the comics, but A) in the films she is scientist too, so she can spend time in there with him, and B)the best time to make a stand on the issue isn’t when the Earth is in imminent danger of being destroyed.

And Stan Lee playing Stan Lee being refused entry into Reed and Sue’s wedding was a nice nod to a similar scene from the comic book wedding of the two, where Lee and Kirby were kept out of that wedding. But it seems like everyone forgot that Lee played the team’s mailman, Willie Lumpkin, in the first film. Those not in on the joke were wondering why they were being so mean to their mailman by keeping him away from the nuptials.

Regardless, while the film made less that its predecessor and only $1 million more than its budget domestically, it doubled its budget in worldwide grosses. Talk began of having a Silver Surfer spin off from a script written by J. Michael Straczynski, but it quickly became apparent that no sequels or spin-offs would be coming any time soon.

But Fox still had faith in the Fantastic Four, so much so that they were supposedly willing to let their rights to Daredevil revert to Marvel than letting Marvel have even temporary access to any part of the FF mythos. So instead of a sequel, we got a reboot, a reboot which is picking up steam even as we speak. That’s what we’ll talk about next time, as we look at the FF’s future, and how it might not be as bright as Fox thinks it is.

 

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Tim Blake Nelson In Talks To Play Mole Man In FANTASTIC FOUR Reboot

Posted on 01 May 2014 by William Gatevackes

nelson mole manMaybe the second time will be the charm?

The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog is reporting that actor Tim Blake Nelson is in “final negotiations” to play a socially awkward scientist named Harvey Elder in Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot. Longtime comic book fans might recognize the name, as it is the civilian identity of the comic book Fantastic Four’s villain, Mole Man, the bad guy the team faced on their very first adventure.

Mole Man is a scientist who was bullied for his looks, intellect and lack of social skills. He decided to leave the surface world and heads underground, where he discovers a subterranean race of yellow skinned creatures called Moloids. He crafts the creatures into an army which he uses to attack the surface world.

Sources say that while Harvey Elder will appear in the first film of the reboot, the Mole Man will not. The character is merely being set up as a bad guy for future FF films.

This scenario must sound familiar to Nelson as this is the second time he’s played a character meant to be a villain in future installments of a comic book film franchise. He also played Sam Stearns in The Incredible Hulk. Once again, comic fans know that name as the alter ego of the gamma ray powered Hulk villain, The Leader. In the film, the Stearns character was a scientist helping Bruce Banner to find a cure for his condition. However, a lab accident caused him to be infected with some of the Hulk’s blood and begin to change into a creature resembling his comic book doppelganger. Obviously, it was setting up Nelson as a potential villain for the franchise, but a sequel to The Incredible Hulk has not been forthcoming, and likely never will.

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Josh Trank Giving Us What Nobody Asked For… A “Realistic” And “Gritty” FANTASTIC FOUR

Posted on 21 April 2014 by Rich Drees

FantasticFour

For a while now, I have had a growing unease about Fox’s upcoming reboot of their Fantastic Four franchise and the latest word from screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg is only stoking those concerns. Speaking at WonderCon this past weekend in Los Angeles, Kinberg revealed that the film was already in production in Baton Rogue before commenting and bit on what tone director Josh Trank was heading for with the film.

As [Bryan] Singer created with the original ‘X-Men’ movies, Christopher Nolan created with the ‘Dark Knight’ movies, Jon Favreau and Marvel created with the ‘Iron Man’ movies, all the best superhero franchises – Sam Raimi did it with with ‘Spider-Man’ – they create a tone and that is the thing that defines them… It’s not the stories that differentiate them from each other. Sometimes the characterizations aren’t that distinct. It’s that the tone is different and in some ways [that's because of the] lessons learned from the original ‘Fantastic Four’ movies, but also because of Josh Trank’s natural instinct for more realism, for more of a dramatic approach to things. This will definitely be a more realistic, a more gritty, grounded telling of the ‘Fantastic Four’ and no matter what people think about the cast.

(Emphasis mine on the last line.)

While I will agree that tone is very important – see the differences between Nolan’s Batman films and the 1960s television version for perhaps the most extreme examples of how tone can affect how one uses a character – I don’t think that a “gritty” tone is the one to go for with a property like the Fantastic Four. If anything it is the exact wrong tone to be aiming for.

I would hazard a guess and say that Fox executives saw the grosses for Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy of Batman films and wanted similar results, so they found someone, in this case Trank, who was interested in delivering just that. But a read of any decent run of the comic, especially if one goes back to the series’ earliest days in the 1960s, quickly shows that the series isn’t about gritty realism. At the core of the series was the sense of family between the four heroes that was always presented in a lighthearted manner. The back-and-forth between Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm is the superhero equivalent of brothers good-naturedly horsing around.

Admittedly, this seems to be a hard dynamic to get right. Fox’s previous two Fantastic Four films were at least aiming for it, but whether it was the screenplay, the direction from Tim Story or a combination of the two, the films never quite hit the mark. If anything, the officially unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four, for all its faults, was closer to capturing that feeling than anyone else has been able to so far. And it sounds to me that the record may remain unbroken for some time to come.

Via HitFlix.

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