Hello alternate realities!
In the midst of the fan-war between the heavily anticipated Marvel’s Age of Ultron and DC’s Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad comes the news for the movie that close to no one was vying for. For being Marvel comics’ oldest superhero team, the Fantastic Four is probably the one franchise that Marvel Studios hasn’t regretted selling off the rights to, considering its previous big-screen adaptation, the equivalent of stale cheesy popcorn. But to change that is the primary prerogative of any owner, and that is exactly what Fox is attempting to do by swapping out its nuclear exposure origins for a far easier to grasp concept: teleportation to an alternate reality. Today, the official plot of the new reboot was revealed to be thus [IGN]:
“THE FANTASTIC FOUR, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centers on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.”
The Fantastic Four are the epitome of the Marvel origin stereotype, which almost always includes radiation exposure, experiments or nuclear explosions. Just a few examples off the top of my head are The Hulk, Captain America, Peter Parker, most of the X-men, and oh, all of the Fantastic Four – Mr. Fantastic, Sue and Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. This was seen to work adversely enough in the 2005 Fantastic Four, where the same nuclear/radiation exposure resulted in the origin of all the four heroes as well as the villain. Now that’s one clean sweep. It seems they are borrowing from the Ultimate run of the comics which dismissed Stan Lee’s classic origins for a teleportation-induced alternate reality world called the N-zone (Hey, the word ‘nuclear’ starts with the letter ‘N’! Interesting. Oh well.) and a much younger variation of the squad. I have nothing against time travel, inter-dimensional travel and alternate realities, in fact very much the exact opposite, I love science fiction and the concept of the multiverse. But such an ambitious project demands skilled directors with vision, otherwise the whole affair will topple over itself and fail, possibly sealing off dimensional travel as taboo area for all superhero movies. Which would turn out to be very bad, especially considering the enormous potential the DC universe holds in its multiverse.
Another element I see taking away from the movie itself is the decision for the Human Torch to be a colored male, and for Sue Storm to be the adopted sister to Johnny. Do not misunderstand: I am not against non-white non-male heroes, I just resent the big deal the press makes out of these casting changes, to the point of overpowering the actual movie itself. We witnessed this very recently in the hype behind Black Panther vs. Cyborg and the Ms. Marvel vs Wonder Woman talk. (which studio will radically change the all-white landscape first?) I feel the press these revelations received were more than partly owing to the social messages implied by the casting. In fact, there are close to 20 articles I have read in the past couple of months that deeply analyze the shift from racial strictness of the superhero. This is extremely unnecessary, and the only element a movie should be judged by is just that – the movie itself. I imagine these people will have quite a lot to say about the new casting of Will Smith as the always-white villain Deadshot in DC’s Suicide Squad.
I had my reservations for this reboot ever since I heard the rumors floating around Dr. Doom’s character being an anti-social programmer. This trend of turning every character into brooding, socially shunned enigmas has to stop, or soon the very reason people got into comic books will be lost. A variety of personalities, powers and back-stories are the enticing value comics have to offer. It dawned on me when I heard the Dr. Doom revelation, that this was going to be one of those, styled around the reboot of Spider-man, adding a lot of technology, and turning everyone into adolescent hormone-raging introverts. I still hold onto the hope that the movie will not fall on its face as it looks to be, and we will keep the superhero culture in cinema held upright by pillars such as these. My inner fan-boy fears a possible dystopia where graphic novels will not be brought to life on the big screen for the world to experience.
The new Fantastic Four is directed by Josh Trank, and stars Miles Teller as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara as Sue Storm/Invisible Woman, Michael Jordan as Johnny Storm/Human Torch, Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm/The Thing and in the villainous role of Doctor Doom, Toby Kebbell.
[Is it just me or does Marvel have too many of its character with both names starting with the same letter? Sue Storm, Reed Richards, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Doctor Doom, Stephen Strange, Silver Surfer, Green Goblin, J. Jonah Jameson, holy shit, FANTASTIC FOUR themselves. WOW. Will come out with an article about this soon.]