While some of the more outlandish rumors about 21st Century Fox's (NASDAQ:FOX) Fantastic Four reboot have been shot down by the film's director --including the "super-powered teens being used as weapons by the government" and "Dr. Doom is a woman" rumors -- some fans find the actual news about the film just as disheartening. As announcements about what will likely be the main cast hit the Internet, reactions were largely negative.
As has been rumored for a while, cast members who are either attached or are working toward a deal are younger actors. Michael B. Jordan (breakout star of Fruitvale Station, and TV's The Wire and Friday Night Lights before that) recently was set in stone to play Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, as part of a multi-picture agreement he previously signed with Fox.
Joining him are Miles Teller (who stars as the primary antagonist in the upcoming film adaptation of Divergent) as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara (of Netflix's House of Cards) as Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman, and Jamie Bell (of Snowpiercer and Man on a Ledge) as Ben Grimm/The Thing. While none of the cast are in their teens, they are significantly younger than most of the characters appear in the comics.
Ultimate Fantastic Four?
At least some of the controversy surrounding the casting decisions could be cleared up if the film followed the "Ultimate Fantastic Four" book from Marvel Comics' "Ultimate" line. It's more likely that actors who are younger than their comic counterparts were simply chosen in hopes of appealing to younger demographics who don't have decades of attachment to the classic characters. But the "Ultimate" comic line could present the filmmakers with an established jumping-in point from the comics.
It wouldn't be the first time that a film drew inspiration from the "Ultimate" comics line; Amazing Spider-Man from Sony's (NYSE:SONY) Columbia Pictures drew some inspiration from the "Ultimate Spider-Man" comics, including some of the aspects of Richard Parker's work that were featured and Uncle Ben's speech to Peter.
That said, even the younger cast of "Ultimate Fantastic Four" could only explain so much of the direction that Fantastic Four is headed. Given the differing races of the actors playing Sue and Johnny Storm (who are siblings in the comics), it's likely that one of the two will have been adopted in the film. Other changes would also have to be in place since the early issues of "Ultimate Fantastic Four" featured the Mole Man as the team's first enemy, and it's unlikely that he would headline what Fox hopes is the start of a more successful franchise than the first attempt. While some aspects of the "Ultimate" books may be borrowed, it's likely that the main plot will follow more of a "Fantastic Four vs. Doctor Doom" approach like the original Fantastic Four film from Fox.
Can the film win over the fans?
At the moment, the creative team behind Fantastic Four seems like it can do no right -- at least if you listen to the outcry from the team's fanbase. Between the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm (which made sense from a business perspective, at least, since Fox already had him contracted) and the wild rumors that keep popping up, many who were dubious after Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer believe that this film is being rushed into production to keep the FF film rights from reverting back to Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Marvel Studios. While there are pressures on Fox and Sony to keep making licensed films since the rights will revert if too much time passes (as happened with the "Daredevil" rights), the current film went through several rewrites (and at least one false start) in an attempt to get a workable script before time grew too short.
While a very vocal portion of the fanbase is currently against the film, Fox still has a chance to win them over. A solid first trailer may generate positive buzz, and a well-rounded marketing campaign could turn the movie into a surprise hit. That will depend on how polished the final film is, however, and whether it comes across as a movie that respects the source material.
With a release date set for June 19, 2015, there's less than a year and a half to get the movie filmed and through post-production; that doesn't leave a lot of time for polish in an effects-heavy film featuring a character whose body can stretch and another who flies through the air on fire.
This isn't to say that it's not possible for Fox to make Fantastic Four into a hit, but to do so, director Josh Trank will have to walk a very fine line with very little room for error.