Marvel's first family hasn't graced the big screen since 2007's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," an ill-received sequel to a film which itself received mixed reviews. With their campy tones and characters that either hewed extremely close to or veered far from their comic book counterparts, neither film achieved true blockbuster status or won over fans. Now, director Josh Trank and the cast of Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell hope to change that when their darker, more grounded interpretation of the superhero team, often lauded as "Marvel's First Family," arrives in theaters.
Producer Simon Kinberg spoke with CBR News about capturing the FF's big screen potential, capitalizing on the characters' inherent science fiction elements and sense of family, how the group's powers and uniforms will manifest on film and the thought that went into laying the groundwork for sequels while remaining focused on "getting this one right."
CBR News: This "Fantastic Four" is definitely not the same as the 2005 movie. What were some of your goals for the reboot?
Simon Kinberg: Initially, the studio called me. Fox told me about getting involved right when we were finishing "X-Men: Days of Future Past." I was in Montreal. My initial reaction was, "What do you want to do with this?" Taking nothing away from those original movies, it wasn't a tone that I wanted to chase. They said, "Talk to director Josh Trank," who had already been hired and had been working on the movie a bit.
I remember my first conversation with Josh. He said he wanted to make a grounded, character-driven, emotional version of the Fantastic Four. He wanted it to go back to the roots of the comic that were a little more science than science fiction, and definitely be very character-driven. It would be about these four people, their character dynamics, and how they come together as a little surrogate family. All of that was in my first conversation with Josh, and I thought that it was very interesting and certainly distinct from the previous films, and distinct from other comic book movies out there. That's what we tried to do.
What differentiates the Fantastic Four from other superhero teams? What's at the core of this group?
I remember when I started [reading] "Fantastic Four" when I was a kid, and the thing I really responded to is, it really is like a family. Only two of them are blood-related, but there's this feeling that they come together as a little surrogate family. I've worked on X-Men, and certainly I read and watched "Avengers." There are lots of ensemble superhero teams, but usually they are a collection of different people. They don't really function as a family. That's what I always loved about Fan Four: the squabbles and conflict and love and connection between them. It's all very familial and to me, familiar. It felt a little more relatable than some of the other comics.
With numerous incarnations of Marvel's first family in movies and comic books, what do non-Fantastic Four fans need to know about them before watching this film?
I don't think they do need to know much. The fans of the comics will see a lot in the film that they recognize, that will reference the comics and will resonate with them differently than someone that's never read a Fantastic Four comic before. But I think you can go into the movie completely fresh and hopefully meet these characters and go on this journey with them. It's a film that, if you have a dense knowledge of the Fantastic Four comics, you have a denser experience of the film. But I don't think there's anything that a general audience or non-comic-book-reading audience will have to catch up with.
As a massive comic book fan, were there any "Fantastic Four" runs that influenced you?
God, there's so many. I read the books when I was a kid, and I really got re-inspired by "The Ultimates," by what they were doing well after I was a kid. I liked "Planet Zero." I liked the notion of interdimensional travel. I liked how the science felt real. I think one of the things I liked so much about the Fantastic Four is, as outrageous as the adventures and technology are, it somehow grounded it in our world. It didn't feel supernatural. So many superhero, superpower comics and movies feel supernatural. They feel like you, yourself, couldn't enter that world. I remember going back to get reacquainted with new runs of the comics around the time that the second "Fantastic Four" movie came out. That got me excited about it again, not knowing I'd have anything to do with future films. It was a lot of that real science that we tried to bring to the film, and hopefully do.
In the released footage, the Fantastic Four aren't sporting their trademark blue spandex. What was the rationale behind going with these non-traditional suits?
The thought process behind the ones in the trailer, which are really the dominant suits of the movie, was what I was saying before about real science. For Josh, he wanted the audience to understand why someone would have to put on a suit. It's not for decorative reasons and not to be a team. He wanted there to be real science behind the suits. The way we approached it is, those suits are what we called containment suits. They were developed to help the Fan Four contain their powers as they are struggling with them. We designed them with the help of scientific technical advisors. We designed them the way they believed they would be designed to contain some sort of biological anomaly. Those suits are not built to be decorative; they are built to be militarian. Those are the suits for the vast majority of the movie.
What kind of costumes do they ultimately gear up in at the end?
I read online about the suits at the end. Really, that's the first I heard of it. What I read online is not consistent to the movie. I can certainly tell you, there's no spandex involved.
Fantastic Four readers expect their heroes' powers to manifest in a certain fashion. Will Johnny go nova? Will Sue project her force fields? Can Reed stretch more than just his arms?
I can say there are classic moves and uses of the powers that comic fans will be very familiar with. The Thing has some moves, and let's just say some dialogue, which you can imagine. Reed does more than just stretch his arms. You see some of the transformations he goes through in the books. Sue and Johnny, as well. I don't want to give too much away, but you are on the right track.
The trailers have set things up, but we haven't seen what this team is capable of. What can moviegoers look forward to in terms of action?
As much as it is a grounded, emotional, character-driven movie, it is a superhero movie. They use their superpowers in some very big ways, both in our world and beyond our world. When they first get their powers, it takes some time to master them. You see the struggle of that. Once they master them, ultimately you see them working as a team together and using their various powers. They get pretty full-on with their skill set and by the end of the movie, you really see the full extent of what they can do.
Obviously, 20th Century Fox wants this to be the first chapter of a franchise. Where do you envision the Fantastic Four going in sequels?
I have a lot of ideas of where I think it should go beyond this film. We've been so focused on getting this one right -- ultimately, that's the most important thing. This film is the origin and very beginning of the Fantastic Four. For me, in future films, we'd want to really see what it's like to become a public celebrity superhero group, which is what the Fantastic Four were, essentially. They were known within the world and dealing with that in today's society would be interesting. It's something not a lot of movies have done in grounded ways.
Then there are specific things from the books, whether it is vehicles or specific powers, that I'd love to see. It always comes back to the characters. That's why we fall in love with those books in the first place. There are a lot of places to go with these characters, because they are young and are just starting to embrace who they are. There's a lot of room for them to grow, emotionally. That's really what excites me about the potential of future movies, to explore stories and love and deeper conflicts and to just keep going deeper into their inner personal relationships.
"Fantastic Four" arrives in theaters this Friday, August 7.