In 2012, director Josh Trank impressed audiences with his found-footage superhero adventure, Chronicle. Now Trank is once again at the helm of another superhero film, tasked with bringing Marvel’s Fantastic Four back to the big screen.
The Fantastic Four comic was created in 1961 by the father of superhero comics Stan Lee, along with Jack Kirby. They predated many of Marvel’s most famous comic book heroes including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and X-Men.
Unlike the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films that had a camp quality and failed to impress audiences, Trank has sought to take the characters in a more realistic, and human, direction. Moving away from the blue and white spandex of the initial movie incarnation, Trank wanted to focus on the origins of this unconventional superhero family. “It starts with the movie that I really want to see as a fan,” explains Trank, going on to state that he wanted to make a “subversive” film that challenges the tropes that have become familiar to fans of comic book movies.
This meant going back to the very start. Trank, along with screenwriters Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg (who also serves as producer), show us the heroes in their youths.
We initially meet the future leader of the team, Richard Richards, as a young and highly gifted child who is obsessed with the idea of making inter-dimensional travel a possibility. Discovered by Dr. Baxter (House of Card’s Reg E. Carthy) at a science fair, Reed is taken to an advanced scientific Baxter Institute to perfect his invention.
Taking on the role of Richards is Whiplash star Miles Teller. Talking about his role, Teller says, “I get to play a character that everybody knows from a certain stage in his life and take him back twenty years.” This meant showing the human side of Richards before he would become Mr. Fantastic.
Joining Teller’s Reed Richards, are Kate Mara as beautiful and smart Sue Storm, who is the adopted daughter of Dr. Baxter, Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan as her strong-willed adventurer brother Johnny Storm, and British actor Jamie Bell as the tough as nails Ben Grimm.
Once Reed has managed to break inter-dimensional travel with his ‘Quantum Gate’, he assembles his team and travels to another dimension, arriving at a primordial earth. They are joined on this mission by Victor Von Doom, a gifted but troubled computer genius. The mission soon goes awry. Managing to make it back to Earth, minus Von Doom, who has gone missing, the four travellers discover that they have been physically altered in dramatic ways.
It is at this point that Trank’s film differs rapidly from the traditional interpretations that audiences have seen with these characters. Following the mission, they are whisked away to a secret government facility called Area 57, in an attempt to contain their newfound powers. Talking about how Trank developed the story, producer Hutch Parker, who worked on X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014), said, “Josh has a very specific idea of what makes the comic special,” adding, “He wanted to do something that he felt hadn’t been done before. He wanted his Fantastic Four to have an edge but still be accessible.”
What happens next for the heroes, once they have learned to come to terms with their powers, is how they come to terms with each other. The key to the on-going success of the Fantastic Four is the unconventional family dynamic. Once they have been gifted, (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with their powers they feel alienated from society, leaving them with only each other to turn to. Producer Simon Kinberg says of this interpretation of the film, “The principle thing we kept from the original incarnation of ‘The Fantastic Four’ by Kirby and Lee is the notion that they are a little surrogate family.” He finally adds, “The Four are not superheroes at the end of this story. They’re not public. They aren’t even comfortable with their powers. They don’t have code names or their costumes. This kind of origin story facilitates more nuance, character, and humanity.”
Talking about the heart of his version of the superhero team, Trank concludes, “If there is a core message to Fantastic Four it’s about going through things together, getting through everything life can throw at you, and enduing up on the other end without quitting on each other.”
Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is in Cineworld cinemas nationwide from Wednesday August 5 2015.