New ‘Fantastic Four’ on the way; what we want to see

Timed in part to generate buzz on the floor of San Diego Comic Con, 20th Century Fox has announced that Josh Trank, who brought a new approach to the superhero origin movie with “Chronicle,” will direct the studio’s reboot of the “Fantastic Four” movie series.

Well, everyone is guessing it’s a reboot. But it’s unlikely that Jessica Alba and Chris Evans will be taking a third turn as the Storm siblings.

I wasn’t bitterly, bitterly disappointed with the 2005 “Fantastic Four” movie and its 2007 sequel, “Rise of the Silver Surfer.” I was just bitterly disappointed. Only one bitterly there.

That’s because the FF are second only to – and maybe equal to – The Avengers as the favorite Marvel Comics of my childhood.

Getting everything about the FF right for a “Fantastic Four” movie won’t be an easy task, especially with so many fans suspecting that the new flick is just Fox’s way of keeping a handle on the characters so the title won’t revert to Marvel and the characters and their storylines won’t become part of Marvel’s born-and-bred movie universe.

But Trank generated some good will with “Chronicle,” and he might be up to this task.

Here’s what he needs to do:

Get the tone of the Fantastic Four right: That just about says it all. The book has always been one of Marvel’s offbeat properties. Most of the characters are related to each other or lifelong friends with all the frictions that entails. That means very different relationships than those among “The Avengers” in Joss Whedon’s blockbuster.

Reed Richards is a genius but not an ass. Not most of the time. The brains of the group is a difficult character, probably the most difficult of the foursome. He’s incredibly smart but remote. Imagine Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark without the quips.

Sue Storm has to have something to do. She’s the Invisible Woman! She can … become invisible! (Okay, and also throw force fields and stuff). Sue’s powers must have seemed a lot more special in the early 1960s. Since she’s married to Reed and the sister of Human Torch Johnny Storm, she’s the glue that holds the family together. But she has to do more than look blonde and say, “Johnny! Reed!”

Look at the recent movies for an example of how to handle the Human Torch. Seriously? Yes. One of the few things that the “Fantastic Four” movies got right was Johnny Storm’s irreverent hot shot. He’s a prankster and full of himself. There’s a reason one of his best friends in the comics is that wiseacre Spider-Man.

Ben Grimm. Ben Grimm. Ben Grimm. The Thing is the heart and soul of the Fantastic Four. He’s a rollicking character, a guy who will “clobber” any creature and hurtle toward a threat as huge as Galactus. But Ben is also the most tender-hearted. He’s been dealt a terrible hand in life. Yet he gets right in there and jokes and brawls and fights the bad guys. And a note to Trank: Ben Grimm needs to be taller than the other members of the team. Maybe he doesn’t have to be as big as the Hulk was in “The Avengers,” but he needs to be bigger than he was in the recent movies.

Big scope. BIIIIIIG scope. The Fantastic Four comic was huge in scope, with Earth-threatening menaces like Galactus, fantastic Reed Richards inventions the size of a house and adventures that spanned space and time. I hope they don’t try to do the movie on the cheap.

While I’d like to see the FF in the Marvel movie universe, Trank and Fox might be able to do a lot with the beloved characters in a self-contained movie. If they respect the characters, the concept and the classic storylines, that is.


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