Director Josh Trank's Chronicle is, so far, Fox's best money-maker of the year. It's grossed $64.5 million to date, after filming at a budget of just $12 million. (That's $50+ million in cash, for those who flunked math.) So Fox is rewarding him with the long-in-discussion Fantastic Four reboot.
Fantastic Four has been a tough nut for Hollywood to crack. So much so that it could be argued that handing the franchise to Trank doesn’t qualify as a “reward.” After Tim Story’s yawn-worthy 2005 attempt, and its marginally better sequel (thanks entirely to the efforts of my buddy Doug Jones as the Silver Surfer) — and of course Roger Corman’s disastrously campy flick that was never released, because it was just that… oy, let’s not dwell — hardcore Marvel fans can be forgiven for thinking they’ll never get the Fantastic Four movie they’ve always wanted. Story’s movies tried to convey a fun-loving, adventurous family spirit, while hewing to a realistic world where scifi stuff was oddly commonplace. There were some good ideas, but they were mixed in with loads of bad ones, and none of it had any dramatic weight at all. And don’t get me started on the casting… Chris Evans (Johnny Storm) and Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm) suited their roles, but everyone else just seemed embarrassed to be there.
For Trank to succeed, he needs to find the version of Fantastic Four that will work on film. Consider the Marvel Studios movies. Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor each fiddled with their source material, tweaking them into stories that fit the narrative needs of the big screen while staying true to the spirit of the comics. Thor is probably the best example of this; the whole “two beings sharing one body” nature of Thor and Donald Blake was completely abandoned, and Blake’s love interest Jane Foster was given wholly to Thor. Marvel fans would never accept this in the comics, but on film, it clicked.
But the real issue with making Fantastic Four work is figuring out what kind of movie it is. Is it a lighthearted adventure? A superhero actioner? A science fiction thriller?
Can Fantastic Four fans ever get a film of Avengers quality? Trank has proven with Chronicle that he knows how to tell a good story, so I’m excited to see what his take on FF will be like. Fox is looking to fast-track Fantastic Four, and already has a script in place from writing duo Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, of Thor and X-Men: First Class. (And those are some darn good credentials.) There’s no start date for production or a release date yet, nor a cast in place, but Fox reportedly expects this to be the suddenly in-demand Trank’s next film.