Still Skeptical About The Fantastic Four

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As I’m getting ready to watch the Super Bowl (mostly for the trailers and commercials, I have no stake in the Patriots or the Seahawks), I keep thinking about the trailer for The Fantastic Four that was recently released.

Twentieth Century Fox released it I think to quiet all the complaining from the genre community about how we didn’t have any info (not even an official image) from the controversial reboot. Seriously, they needed to have done that for the longest time and I think some of the animosity towards the film can be blamed on the lack of marketing.

Anyway, looking around the Internet I keep viewing videos and reading articles stating how good the film looks and how we can all breathe easier knowing that director Josh Trank is going to deliver a superb film with a new take on the Fantastic Four.

Honestly, I wasn’t impressed.

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When Fox announced the cast last year, I was very skeptical about the film right away from looking at the cast. And I still am. Yes, I do admit that the actors are well regarded like Miles Teller (for his role in Whiplash) and Michael B. Jordan. But as I said in my old post, these actors look too young. It’s undeniable that this reboot is taking its inspiration from the lackluster Ultimate Comics version of the Fantastic Four from last decade. In that version, the team was made up of young prodigies who travel to another dimension and get their powers by doing so. It didn’t work because that family dynamic from the original team was missing. Reed is supposed to be the distant father figure, Ben the grumpy uncle, Sue the mother figure and soul of the team, and Johnny being the young kid brother. I didn’t get that impression from the comic book and I don’t see it in this trailer.

Obviously, something like that can’t be shown in a teaser, but the team is made up of youngsters to attract the Twilight/The Hunger Games crowd and that is a big mistake. Why? This choice to go young undermines a basic core of what made the Fantastic Four work.

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Another vital aspect missing or at least not shown in the trailer was a sense of wonder and good nature. Another reason why the Fantastic Four worked in the comics was for its light humor, fanciful sci-fi, and adventure. Those were missing in the trailer. Instead we were treated to a grim, dour and generic-looking sci-fi film that looks like it could’ve been directed by David Fincher. In past press releases, the filmmakers kept saying this film is supposed to have a more grounded and gritty approach, but that doesn’t work for the team. It seems like Trank and company wanted to copy the look and feel of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. The film should’ve emulated Guardians of the Galaxy which gave off a fun, adventurous vibe. That would’ve being a better match. Perhaps Fox should’ve offered the film to James Gunn instead. While I’m at it, for all the complaints lodged at Tim Story’s Fantastic Four films at least they captured the essence of the team. It’s just that those films were doomed with bad casting, low budgets and weak scripts.

I’ll admit The Fantastic Four trailer is well shot and doesn’t look like a disaster, but it hit all the wrong buttons for me. I’m not excited about seeing this and I doubt I’ll go to the trouble of seeing it in a theater.

T. Rod Jones

Marvel Comics’ Greatest Moments

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Marvel Comics turned 75 this year. As we celebrate Marvel’s 75th anniversary, it’s hard to imagine how long the comic book company has been around. Even though Marvel Comics first debuted in 1939 with Marvel Comics #1 (featuring decidedly different superheroes like the Human Torch, Ka-Zar and Namor), the company truly came to its own in the 1960s when writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko introduced the world to new and dynamic superheroes.

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These masked marvels like Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the X-Men quickly captured readers’ imaginations. Without exaggeration, Marvel Comics changed the comic book world and left a permanent mark in popular culture and its characters are still vibrant today. Incredibly enough, it can be said that they’re more popular today than when they were first introduced in the 1960s .

While Marvel superheroes have successfully transitioned into other media like films, toys, games and such, let’s not forget that the core of their appeal are with the comic books. Whether they’re just single stories in individual issues or epic mini-series and story arcs, the following are, based on my opinion, the best stories from Marvel’s 75-year history.

age of apAge Of Apocalypse: Spanning several different X-Men titles over several months, this massive storyline was about an altered reality where Professor X’s assassination in the past led to Apocalypse conquering North America, and Magneto leading the X-Men in a desperate attempt to stop him and correct history. Just seeing the alternate takes of our favorite mutants was a joy to read.

Avengers Disassembled: Boasting top avengers disassembledwriters and artists like Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Jenkins, Robert Kirkman, Steve Epting, Dave Finch and George Perez, this comic book crossover spawned from The Avengers #500-503 into other superhero titles and upended most of the Marvel Universe. The team is literally ripped apart from within by an insane Scarlet Witch. Many heroes are killed and the Avengers were catapulted into new popularity with this controversial story arc.

Born Again: Daredevil has never been lower or a more captivating read than in this classic story arc spanning Daredevil #227-231. That is due to the genius writing of Frank Miller and the art of Dave Mazzucchelli. Daredevil’s worst enemy discovers his secret identity and systematically destroys the blind superhero’s personal world plunging Daredevil into his own worst hell.

The Captain: This underrated Captain America tale by Mark Gruenwald, Tom Morgan and Kieron Dwyer spans Captain America #332-350 and has Steve Rogers abandoning his role as the iconic hero and going underground. Meanwhile, a super patriotic, though unstable, replacement is picked by the U.S. government to take over, but as we see, it’s not easy living up to a legend.

Civil War: Probably the last great mini-series produced by Marvel pits its most iconic heroes against each other. As Iron Man and Captain America took opposite sides against the U.S. government’s superhuman registration act, Marvel Comics was changed forever and the mini-series’ impact is still with us today.

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Deliverance: The famous “Demon in a Bottle” story arc from Iron Man #120-128 bravely introduced the notion of a superhero being truly human and becoming an alcoholic. Tony Stark’s (Iron Man) alcoholism would resurface to even greater effect several issues later after his nemesis Obadiah Stane orchestrates a series of attacks. Stark soon became unable to continue being Iron Man and hit rock bottom culminating in Iron Man #182 when a now-homeless Stark battles not only the cold elements, but his own inner demons.

wolverine kittyDays of Future Past: The greatest X-Men story ever made reflected the height of the historic collaboration of Chris Claremont and John Byrne. In this exciting two-part tale from The Uncanny X-Men #141-142, robotic Sentinels have hunted mutants nearly to extinction in the near future, so one mutant is sent back in time to alter history.

The Death of Captain America: One immediate aftermath of the Civil War mini-series was Ed Brubaker’s gut-wrenching examination of the death of an American legend. Coldly assassinated before standing trial, Captain America’s death led to another hero taking up his mantle and a serpentine plot by Cap’s greatest enemies.

The Death of Gwen Stacy: The two-part gwen stacy deathstory from The Amazing Spider-Man #121 & 122 is considered by some as the end of the Silver Age of Comics. This emotional tale about Spider-Man’s nemesis, the Green Goblin, killing his girlfriend  was a gut punch not only for Spider-Man but his many followers who were stunned by the tragedy.

The Doctor Is In: John Byrne wrote and drew some outstanding comic books during his Marvel tenure. Before Deadpool came along, Byrne’s rendition of She-Hulk had her hysterically breaking the fourth wall. In The Sensational She-Hulk #5 story titled “The Doctor Is In” she had to not only contend with Doctor Bong, but with literally walking across comic book pages (ads included). Marvel Comics was rarely funnier than with this particular issue.

The Hulk Vs. The Thing: Marvel is known for how often its superheroes fight each other. This early story from Fantastic Four #25 & #26 is one of the best since its primarily a battle royale between two of Marvel’s strongest titans. The Stan Lee-Jack Kirby classic is at the same time a story about determination and fighting against the odds, in particular with the Thing.

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If This Be My Destiny…!: The story arc from The Amazing Spider-Man #31-33 had Spider-Man run through exhausting trials to gather serum for his dying aunt. His quest culminated in issue #33 with a story titled “The Final Chapter!”.  In the issue, our hero is trapped under tons of steel and rubble and in danger of drowning with the serum just out of reach. Spider-Man has to find the fortitude to free himself and his effort was memorably inspiring.

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The New So-Called Fantastic Four

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Ruining the good vibe from the recently released Guardians Of The Galaxy trailer, 2oth Century Fox had to go ahead and throw this turd sandwich at genre fans. The cast for their reboot of the Fantastic Four will include Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic (gee Josh Trank, thanks a lot for lying to us since this past summer by denying Teller was in the running for the role), Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch (the PC casting of the year), Kate Mara as the Invisible Woman (the character should go back to being called Invisible Girl given how young this actress looks) and Jamie Bell as the Thing (ooh, this guy sure looks tough!). Forget about Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor. These are the worst casting choices for a superhero film since Halle Berry played Catwoman and Jennifer Garner paraded as Elektra.

Just seeing these people together makes me physically ill. This does not look like the Fantastic Four to me, but like a bunch of kids playing superheroes in a school play. Honestly, we were better off with the Tim Story version of the Fantastic Four, hell, even the cast from Roger Corman stillborn version looked better than this bunch.

It’s pretty clear that Fox and Trank fail to grasp the essence of the Fantastic Four. They are a dysfunctional real FFfamily unit, Mr. Fantastic is the father figure, the Thing is the grumpy uncle, Invisible Woman has the big sister/mother hen role, and the Human Torch was the brash young kid of the group. This cast looks like they’re just now able to legally buy alcohol. At least with the Tim Story Fantastic Four films, the cast filled out those roles to different degrees of success. Yeah, I’ll admit Julian McMahon and Jessica Alba were the most miscast actors in the bunch, but the rest captured the essence of their roles well. Say what you want about Ioan Gruffudd, but he did a fine job as Mr. Fantastic. OK, so he wasn’t the most dynamic character, but Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be a stoic, intellectual type and Gruffudd showed that. Miles Teller doesn’t look like the brainy type, but as the kind of kid who plays pranks on others. And Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be approaching middle age, that’s why he’s the father figure. You’re not going to get that from this whippersnapper!

What is more troubling are the rumors that Dr. Doom will probably be played by a woman (Lady Doom?!), and worse the leaked premise which goes against the traditional version of the team. Supposedly, Mr. Fantastic and the Thing got their powers as kids and were used by the government as living weapons! Then later on they meet the brother and sister team of the Human Torch and Invisible Woman. I’m just groaning right now thinking about this. I can understand wanting to update origins by making changes. But the core of the character and his or her situation must remain the same.

Look at Iron Man, Spider-Man and Superman. Their films had major changes done with the characters, but they were basically the same people that fans loved. Iron Man wasn’t born in the jungles of Vietnam as in the comic books but rather in Afghanistan. He was still a pompous a-hole who had to learn some humility because of his heart problem. The two film versions of Spider-Man were different with their origin stories; his Uncle Ben’s death was more tied in with Spider-Man’s callous behavior. The people he went to school with have changed from the comic books. Liz Allen is absent while Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in both film versions have filled in that high school sweetheart role. But the core of Spider-Man is the same: a geeky loner kid who gets super powers and doesn’t become a hero right away. With last year’s Man Of Steel there were changes done to Superman’s origin: his father dies in a tornado, Zod killed his biological father, but the main gist of Superman was intact. He was still an alien infant sent to Earth from a dying world and he grows up to become a superhero. Does it look like we’ll get a version of the Fantastic Four that is true to their nature with this reboot. Not likely!

I don’t like the idea of rooting for a superhero film to fail. But this just feels all wrong and at this point I refuse to reward Fox by spending my hard-to-get money on this upcoming movie. Why couldn’t the ffSuperman/Batman film come out next summer as originally planned? At least the hoopla for that would’ve drowned out this reboot. So after The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the next superhero film on my radar will be Ant-Man, because I’m bypassing this stinkfest altogether. The worst thing about this pending fiasco is that Marvel Studios won’t be getting back the rights for the Fantastic Four. Let’s all pray this reboot bombs at the box office so that Marvel can regain the rights quicker and eventually produce a more genuine version of the team that sticks to its roots.

So thanks a lot Fox for spoiling my morning. “Sigh,” I just hope Stan Lee doesn’t do a cameo in this DOA production.

T. Rod Jones

Recent Superhero Film Casting

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The big news blazing across the Internet lately has been over the recent spate of castings for roles in upcoming superhero films. Normally, the news would bring about satisfied grunts from fans all over, but some decisions and even just the rumors have been quite controversial.

Initial Grumblings

It all started in earnest late last year with the revelation that Israeli actress Gal Gadot will play Wonder Woman in the upcoming Man Of Steel sequel. Many were very surprised by this decision and some complained that she was too skinny. Guess what? So was Christopher Reeve and bulked up just fine and in time for Superman.

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There were some grumblings around that time when fans learned that Elizabeth Olsen will appear as Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch in next year’s The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. But in the end, most had enough confidence in director Joss Whedon to give the actress the benefit of the doubt. Besides, the main cast will reprise their roles, so how much screen time will Olsen have anyway?

Then, a couple of weeks ago, fandom started raising ire when it was announced that Michael Douglas will play Hank Pym in the Ant-Man movie that is also coming out next year.  pymWhile Paul Rudd’s casting as Scott Lang, the film’s main character was acceptable for many, a bunch of whiners started going off about Douglas’ age and that the choice veers significantly from the version seen in the comic books. In the end, the movie will be about Lang and it does follow the comic books’ canon. Scott Lang did take over the Ant-Man duties from Pym and made a name for himself. Douglas is an Oscar-winning actor of high caliber and he can add needed depth and pathos to Pym. So he should be fine.

After that the Internet really went into a tizzy when rumors about the potential cast for the Fantastic Four reboot started surfacing. Director Josh Trank has been working overtime on Twitter to deny many rumors, yet it wasn’t enough to satisfy Fantastic Four fans. Trank denied in August of last year that actor Miles Teller wasn’t in consideration to play Reed Richards, but recent rumors have it that he has the role locked up along with Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. Things seemed to calm down a bit when actor Josh Gad, rumored to be the pick for Ben Grimm, went on record to deny this latest claim. Continue reading

Let’s Recast The Fantastic Four The Right Way

ff21It looks like 20th Century Fox is going ahead with their reboot of the Fantastic Four, and many fans are already up in arms over that development. They fear the reboot will be as bad as previous attempts and the negative reaction is so intense that many are hoping it stays in development hell rather than being filmed.

What is so troubling for them and myself included are the casting choices being mentioned in the trade papers. While Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch is an intriguing, though out-of-left-field possibility, some like Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic just left me wondering what the hell is going on with the casting director. Has anyone looked tellerat this actor? He looks like a dweeb! I’m sorry but nothing about Teller gives the impression that he is a gifted scientist type. And given how young he is, it’s pretty clear that the filmmakers are going to emulate the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book, which if you ask me wasn’t good at all. The comic book isn’t even being published anymore! Making the superhero team a bunch of child prodigies was a mistake and took out vital parts of what makes the team so fun. See, they’re a family unit, with Reed Richards as the father figure, Ben Grimm as the grumpy but lovable uncle, Sue Storm as the mother figure and her brother Johnny being the impulsive kid in the bunch.

But that doesn’t seem to be the way that Fox is going. Getting a bunch of young actors for these roles is more important to them since they want the movie to appeal to the teenagers. The problem is that the kind of teenagers they’re trying to attract don’t care about the Fantastic Four and probably wouldn’t see the reboot anyway. Then many of the teenagers that do care about the FF will probably be so turned off by the radical changes that they will boycott the film.

Let’s pretend that we’re actually in charge of casting the Fantastic Four reboot. Forget about trying to get the popular young actor and let’s try to stay faithful to the comics. After all, the Fantastic Four put Marvel Comics on the map with their novel approach to super heroics. Now I know that the following choices won’t even be considered, but they’re who I would pick for a new Fantastic Four film.

hammReed Richards/Mr. Fantastic: Going with a twentysomething is the wrong approach to Marvel’s premier scientist. Reed is the 21st century equivalent of an Einstein and he should look the part. As the leader of the Fantastic Four, Mr. Fantastic should be portrayed by a more mature yet fit actor. There are many excellent choices out there for the role and even Ioan Gruffudd did a decent job as Mr. Fantastic. For the reboot Jon Hamm would be fabulous (pun intended) as Reed Richards. He’s the right age for the part (Reed is roughly in his early forties), looks intelligent and emotes a grounded and mature quality needed for the leadership role. Other choices: Casey Affleck; Misha Collins

Sue Storm/Invisible Woman: Jessica Alba, the previous actress to portray Richards’ fiancé then wife rankled many alice evefans who didn’t think she was right for the part. Putting aside her ethnicity, Alba lacked that motherly/big sister/peacekeeper quality needed for the role, but she wasn’t the worst casting choice–more on that later. Now hands down, Alice Eve, most recently seen on Star Trek Into Darkness is a perfect pick for Sue Storm. She looks the part and has the acting chops to pull off the role easily. Eve can do the more brainy and modern interpretation of Storm seen in the comics and can be a tough lady when needed. Other choices: Evan Rachel Wood; Blake Lively Continue reading