Monday, April 20, 2015

'Fantastic Four' Trailer Serves Up Super Hero Deja Vu

It has been a crazy week for dropping trailers for the big heavy hitters lined up for 2015. Due to my already aforementioned fiery nosedive in writing here, I missed them all (but covered a few on this morning's podcast). I may still try to write some pieces on a few of those trailers (specifically one that contained an old furry pal and his scruffy scoundrel friend), but probably best to kick-off my "why yes, I'm writing on here again" with an analysis of the newest trailer for a big summer tentpole in the rebooted Fantastic Four.



Apparently, the last trailer that was released a month or so ago was only a 'teaser', though I'm struggling to decipher the different between those and trailers anymore. Except one is longer and more likely to spoil crucial plot points.

The biggest strengths of this movie reboot has been the great young cast that has actors who have earned their reputation in highly acclaimed works with Miles Teller (Spectacular Now, Whiplash), Kate Mara (127 Hours, House of Cards)  and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) along with having director Josh Trank who made his name on the supernatural teenage adventure Chronicle. Though the found-footage element was a bit of a detractor for me in Chronicle, it had a depth and focus on characters that has been absent in most every other superhero movie. He also proved to have a knack for bringing out great performances as this is where I discovered the great talents of Jordan and Dane DeHaan.

Prior to the first teaser dropping, several sites grabbed snippets of Trank interviews that had him saying his filmmaking style would be very evident in this version of Fantastic Four. This led many to believing we'd end up with a found-footage movie, because apparently, that is all anyone got out of the really good Chronicle. The first teaser quickly dismissed that and proved that wasn't what Trank was hinting at.

The first teaser was more subdued and quieter than every other super hero movie trailer I had seen. It seemed to be spotlighting the humans behind the super powers. It got me to believe this would be a far more character-driven story that much like Chronicle would delve into the internal struggle that occurs when one is suddenly being blessed or cursed with super powers. I had hoped for an allegorical coming of age story that elevated drama and character development over action. I was always aware this was still a big budget tentpole and so it still needed some dazzling special effect laden action sequences, but my deep hope was this movie would stand out from a very overstuffed mainstream film scene by almost trying to be a bit of different genre than all other super hero movies.

This trailer seems to be designed to punch me in the gut and scream, "Hell no, we want to be like every other super hero movie that has flooded the marketplace." Don't me wrong, that isn't the same thing as being bad. I've enjoyed every movie that Marvel Studios has churned out and I like many of the movies that have come out of the other studios (though the track record is far spottier). What I'm saying is that it is time for something different and attempts at change that aren't just cosmetic (to be fair, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Captain America: Winter Soldier are real attempts at that but still action trumps all).

I also much concede this is the official main trailer and not the movie. The trailer is usually the creation of marketing folks with the number one goal of enticing the masses. This usually means making the new movie to look like all the other movies that made Mount Everest size amount of millions. A trailer isn't always what a movie truly ends up being (last year's Lucy is a great example) but you're still getting glimpses of scenes from the actual movie that will be screened (usually).

My first reason for reservation is that the majority of the trailer is the origin story. Though a slight twist, essentially one we've seen twice now in regards to the Fantastic Four. In 2015, I think most of us can agree we're pretty much sick with origin stories especially since they now exist in movies that aren't even with super powers anymore like The Lone Ranger and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. It is often a blatant first chapter with the sole purpose to launch several more movies rather than being its own compelling story. I really hope this iteration of the origin story gets wrapped up in the first 30 minutes and we can move on to an original story. Actually, we got all we need to know about their transformation in a 2 minute trailer so maybe we can skip it and call this our primer.

There seems to be a darker and more somber tone in this picture. There are hints that the powers aren't gifts or wanted. We get an intriguing emotional punch with Reg E. Cathey's Dr. Franklin Storm declaring he wants his children back. The statement opens up some interesting story possibilities as either it means there is a long stretch of them truly trapped in another parallel dimension where he wants them to literally return or referring to him not connecting with them in there transformed forms.  There are hints of the new group having to work through the major upheaval in their life. The stars have the talent to bring in that pathos and add lots of subtext to the story.

But "darker" also means it reminds me a whole lot of last week's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer where Scott and I complained about how everything had to be shot at night and the visuals seemed to be overcompensating with an overly bleak visual sense. The Nolan-esque gritty and somber looking comic book movies are growing tiresome since that visual style isn't distinctive anymore. It is partly what made Guardians of the Galaxy or Kingsman: The Secret Service stand out since they were both visually bright and cheery (even if both still were violent and action intensive).

Speaking of not being distinctive, the Thing smashes stuff and gets to fly through the air, Johnny Storm bursts into flames, and Dr. Doom looks menacing. The special effects are updated and as stated it is all darker, but I didn't see anything all that different from the Fantastic Four movies that aren't that much liked. Based on the trailer, this looks pure special effects action that at this point doesn't seem all that dazzling or distinctive.

At this point, it would better to be almost a bubble gummy callback to the Christopher Reeve Superman pictures that has that "gee whiz" and tongue-in-cheek charm or to dare to use that gritty visual to make an actually hard-edge picture with intense dramatic story arcs. Otherwise, it is just another Man of Steel or X-Men or Iron Man but now called Fantastic Four.

I realize every other site had already spent countless words on Dr. Doom. Yeah, he looks cool even though we see very little. I hope we continue to see very little until it comes time to pay to watch this movie. One gnarly looking villain doesn't make the most anticipated movie of the summer. The very different and rebooted Fantastic Four we were promised seems to be very hidden in this latest trailer. I still cling to hope though that it will show itself, because I do love this cast and director.

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