GOING FOURTH IN STYLE
Nothing says box-office hit like a Marvel movie, so the latest take on the Fantastic Four is no surprise – let’s see how it works this time
IF there’s one thing we’ve learnt in this new age of interconnected superhero movie universes, it’s that comic book geeks are very hard to please. Entering the superheroscape as a team packs a lot less pressure than flying solo.
“I just think that you’re subject to a lot more ridicule if the movie’s called Spider-Man and you are Spider-Man,” says Miles Teller, who slips into a super-suit for the reinvigorated Fantastic Four.
Created in 1961, the Fantastic Four were Marvel’s original super-unit – making their comic book debut two years before the Avengers. Yet, until now, the foursome’s screen fortunes have lagged well behind that of Iron Man and Co.
Sending the cartoonish Gruffudd/Alba/Evans/Chiklis efforts of a decade ago off to a parallel movieverse, Fantastic Four is reborn in fittingly modern and gritty style.
A sequel is slated to follow this new origins movie in 2017.
As directed by Josh “Chronicle” Trank, Fantastic Four takes the same approach as the comics, presenting a group of relatable kids who grapple with huge life changes when a science experiment goes horribly wrong, leaving them saddled with strange powers.
Science prodigy Reed Richards, played by Teller, gains limbs that can bend and stretch.
Fellow boffin Sue Storm, Kate Mara, can levitate, become invisible and project a force-field.
Her troublemaker brother Johnny, Michael B. Jordan, becomes a flying human fireball.
And Reed’s best friend Ben Grimm, British actor Jamie Bell, turns hulking rock manmonster.
Jordan, whose path from child actor to breakout star has taken in The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Chronicle and acclaimed indie film Fruitvale Station, reckons he got the pick of the bunch: “But I’m a little biased,” he laughs.
While there was a backlash from some purists to the casting of an AfricanAmerican as a character always drawn in the comics as white and blonde, Jordan grew up idolising Johnny Storm/The Human Torch.
Mara holds no childhood comic book memories.
“I presume a lot of little girls grew up wanting to be superheroes, but I just wasn’t exposed to comic books as a child; I was exposed to a lot of old films and musicals, so that was more of a dream of mine than being a superhero.”
Still, the 32-year-old, whose cred skyrocketed with her tough House Of Cards role, was struck by the possibilities of playing unwilling super Sue.
“I was interested in playing a superhero who, at first, is hesitant. In this first film, we’re meeting Sue before she has her powers, seeing her being very shy and focused and passionate about her job. So then it’s very fitting that she becomes The Invisible Woman.
“But I’m very hopeful we can make more movies and I can play the other side of Sue, where she really does start to embrace her powers and see the good in them.”
In this telling of the story, Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic is not yet a revered leader of the Marvel universe. He’s more an idealistic kid with a big idea.
“Reed is a pretty isolated, highly intellectual kid who is just obsessed with inventing this quantum gate and being able to explore interdimensional travel,” explains Teller, Hollywood’s It-twentysomething male in the wake of the Oscar-winning Whiplash.
“He’s not looking to lead this group, but he realises he’s responsible for turning everybody into the people they are and can’t just hide away from his problems and his powers –he needs to do something about it.”
The actors assembled to play the Four were already well acquainted. Jordan and Teller had worked together (along with Zac Efron) in the 2014 rom-com Are We Officially Dating? and Mara was friendly with both Bell and Jordan.
Mara says Bell occupied the same place on set as his character does in the film.
“Ben is really the heart of the Fantastic Four – Jamie is actually very similar .
“We all had an easy time with him.”
The Fantastic Four – Kate Mara, Jamie "The Thing" Bell, Miles Teller and Michael B Jordan.