Fant4stic: Josh Trank, Trolls and the Multiverse

Michael B Jordan, Fant4stic

Fantastic Four hits theatres this week, with many waiting with baited breath to watch it crash, burn and bomb. But it’s a Marvel superhero movie – you’d expect a few of the following to be happening:

  1. Marvel fanboys and girls should be stroking themselves at the prospect of a reboot for the first family of comics – after all, every Fantastic Four movie until now has sucked with a super “S”.
  1. The Internet should be buzzing with hype. Superhero movies are the in vogue blockbusters and this particular one is directed by Josh Trank, director of the acclaimed sci-fi film Chronicle.
  1. Mums everywhere should be preparing to fake enthusiasm for a few hours. (Furthermore, they should be brainstorming how to help their son or daughter play dress up as the Invisible Woman.)

But none of the above is happening. Why? In short, the Internet has picked on this movie more than the playground picks on obese gingers with glasses.

The epicentre of the hate this movie has garnered is that it offers an “unfaithful” interpretation. Indeed the Internet has gone nuclear on this film for being too dark, for neglected the bright blue spandex, even for casting a black man (Michael B Jordan) as fictional white character Johnny Storm.

The hate has lead to “stories”, which may or may not be true, leaking on the Internet. Accusations about unprofessional conduct, a troubled production and so on and so forth. As a result, people have already labelled the movie utter garbage – an assumption not helped by a review embargo Fox Studios won’t lift until release day.

The furore surrounding the film has rendered the final quality utterly irrelevant. What’s so disturbing about this story is that the Internet has lambasted a fresh interpretation on the conceptual level, before having anything upon which to base opinions. In other words, the trolls have tried to kill originality – and that should make you angrier than Loki makes Bruce Banner!

The intelligent reader will probably think: “Wait…the Internet gets angry about reboots all the time.” True. But it’s particularly ridiculous this time because comic book characters are uniquely prone to reinterpretation and updating.

Think about it: Batman has been around since 1939, he’s just an ordinary human living in a rip-off New York/Chicago. If the comics hadn’t relaunched him, de-aged him, allowed him to reflect contemporary society over and over and over again, he’d just be Bat-Old-Man, sitting in a Bat-Care-Home. More likely, he’d be dead both artistically and fictionally.

It’s a basic truth, too often overlooked, that Shakespeare is still so important to theatre solely because his works are constantly reinterpreted. Romeo + Juliet, 10 Things I Hate About You and The Lion King have all kept the Bard’s work alive some 400 years later. And no-one complains that Hamlet was a cartoon lion – on the contrary, we loved it.

Added to that, the Internet is somehow complaining that a comic book property is deviating from the source material despite the monumental popularity of alternate universes in comics.

For example: Miles Morales, a black Spider-Man from an alternate Earth, has become so popular (despite initial outrage) that he’s being brought in to mainstream Marvel Comics continuity. Then there’s DC’s Injustice comics in which Superman, far from the eternal boy scout, is a fascist dictator. Injustice has ranked amongst DC’s most popular books both commercially and critically over the past few years.

In fact, most popular graphic novels of all time are alternate universe stories. The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Old Man Logan are all alternate timeline/universe stories. And that’s just a piss in the ocean of graphic novels!

Ultimately why should anyone care, right? I mean, if Fant4stic turns out to be a decent movie that flops financially, so what? It’s not like the studios would stop putting money into original retellings and reinterpretations.


Header Image – Michael B Jordan, Fant4stic by Marvel/20th Century Fox

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