Well, here at last is our first look at Josh Trank’s The Fantastic Four. The film unveiled its first teaser trailer in advance of the UK debut of Kingsman: The Secret Service, and this is the first glimpse of any official footage or even images from the much-discussed 20th Century Fox reboot. And how is it? Well, it actually looks pretty decent. Now a teaser is a teaser, but it’s clear that the film is going for something resembling hard science-fiction that just happens to be based on a comic book. And considering how much I (and others) talk about how the comic book superhero film can only survive if it diversifies in terms of genre, well, this looks like a step in the right direction.
Now we have all heard stories and rumors about how the film may or may not be a troubled and/or disastrous production, with people along the lines of Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar (who of course, with Dave Gibbons, wrote The Secret Service comic book on which Kingsman is based) piping up to defend the unfinished film. Of course, notions that the film basically plays like Chronicle meets Fantastic Four have me troubled mostly because I didn’t necessarily want Josh Trank to follow up the superb sci-fi/superhero found-footage film with another superhero film that basically played in the same sandbox. But this looks pretty interesting and it indeed looks different than what qualifies as a traditional comic book movie in this day and age.
For the moment, I find it refreshing that we are getting our first peak at the film a “mere” 7.5 months before its theatrical release. Back in my proverbial day, that was business and usual. The first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace dropped in November, a good six months before its theatrical debut. The various 80’s/90’s Batman teasers all dropped just a few months before their respective June debuts. Yes we started seeing 10-12 months out teasers in the early 2000’s, with Pearl Harbor or Spider-Man, but they were basically bonuses and not what anyone would consider standard marketing practices. What we’ve seen here, fair or not, is the presumption that Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot is “in trouble” because they haven’t drowned us in images or teasers a year in advance.
Now there is nothing wrong with studios dropping very early teasers if they have the goods and want to offer a sneak peak that much earlier. I certainly loved that first iconic Superman Returns teaser that dropped nine months before the film’s July 2006 debut. But I think there is a real danger in such a thing becoming not just standard but a proclamation of competence. I don’t much like the notion that a major project like this basically has to play the long-game lest it face accusations of production turmoil. Besides, as I have discussed before, the only thing worse than not releasing a trailer is releasing a bad trailer, so kudos to Fox for waiting until they were good and ready.
Now to be fair, the tidbits they have tossed out in terms of plot and character haven’t exactly thrilled the fandom. Bits about Dr. Doom being D00m: the Angry Blogger (who I assume will attempt to destroy the Fantastic Four to make a point about ethics in videogame journalism) and origin story alterations aren’t amping up the excitement level. But to be fair, we already had a somewhat faithful variation on The Fantastic Four back in 2005 and 2007, at least in terms of tone and spirit (it was a family melodrama with sci-fi action tossed in), so we really shouldn’t expect a redo of the Tim Story franchise (which I can and will somewhat defend sometime in August). If you’re going to do Fantastic Four again, you might as well be as different as you can because otherwise you just end up with The Amazing Spider-Man. I’d rather have a noble failure along the lines of Ang Lee’s Hulk than a generic rehash along the lines of Universal’s The Incredible Hulk.
To paraphrase a certain new-classic pop song, The Fantastic Four is gonna be a franchise or it’s gonna go down in flames. But I for one hope that the high is worth the pain. I would love for all the naysaying to be wrong and for Josh Trank to deliver a genuinely different looking and different feeling superhero film that stands out from the crowd. I would love for the film to click and for this seemingly very different superhero film to work both artistically and financially. Sure, Fox only made the film in order to keep the rights, but if we’re getting a new movie, it might as well be a vastly different one from what came before. Point being, this teaser does the key job of marketing. I want to see this film now more than I did before I saw said teaser trailer.
The Fantastic Four, written by Simon Kinberg, directed by Josh Trank, and starring Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, and Kate Mara, opens August 7th, 2015 from 20th Century Fox. As always, we’ll see.