Fan-Cast: Fantastic Four

“[Y]ou didn’t think to account for our personalities. The inner strength that my family has, that I’ve seen grow with us through the years. You forgot to include that in your calculus. If we’re down, we rise. If we fail, we try again. If we lose the battle, we win the war. And that is what makes us… the Fantastic Four!”  — Mister Fantastic to the Quiet Man

I’m going to try something different this time and fan-cast a whole team in one post. To do so, I’m going to have to cut down on the amount of text. So, since readers of this blog likely already know who the Fantastic Four are and at least the basics of their “origin story”, I’m going to skip all that, along with most of their history.

ff-classic-artFirst, a few notes about physical appearances and ages. We know that all four of our heroes are/were attractive and physically fit — even moreso in later years. All four are Caucasian. The Storm siblings are blonde, whereas Reed and Ben both have brown hair, with Reed’s temples having turned white in his late teens. Reed’s build was originally on the slender side, though his powers allow him to look more muscular. Ben, of course, was always stockier and more muscular, even before he transformed into The Thing. Reed’s height is listed as 6’1″, Ben’s at 6′, Sue’s at 5’6″, and Johnny’s at 5’10”. I would prefer to stay within 2-3 inches either way for each of them. It should be no surprise that my casting choices try to retain the classic appearances of the characters, though I realize that some things (e.g., hair color, eyewear, muscularity) can be altered in the service of playing a role.

According to Marvel’s wiki page, Reed — of Prime Earth, not “Ultimate” — had attained four degrees by the time he was 18 years old. While working on his fifth, he roomed first with Victor von Doom and then with his soon-to-be best buddy, Benjamin J. Grimm. I’m not sure about Doom, but it says this was Ben’s freshman year, so he was roughly the same age as Reed. (However, I read elsewhere that Ben was a few years older. This may be an effect of ret-conning.) Ben later joined the U.S. Air Force, where he became a highly-skilled pilot, and Reed went on to build his first experimental rocketship.

While working on yet another degree at Columbia University, Reed’s landlady’s niece, Susan Storm, developed a crush on him. She was only 12 (though other sources say she was older), and I’m guessing Reed was 22 to 24 years old by then. When Sue started college, she went to California where Reed was working on his project, and they began dating. By the time of the ill-fated accident that gave them their powers, Sue was no longer considered a “teen”, so she must’ve been at least 20 years old. This would put Reed and Ben in their early 30s. Johnny Storm, however, was referred to as an adolescent teenager. My sense of him was that he was maybe 4 to 5 years younger than Sue, give or take. So, for argument’s sake, at the time of the accident they were 15 (Johnny, who we remember is Peter Parker’s peer), 20 (Sue), and 30 (Reed & Ben).

ff509That having been said, while it would be nice to see casting match these ages, it might not be all that easy, and I certainly haven’t come across 15 and 20 year olds that fit the bill for Johnny and Sue. So, I have no problem casting them both in their early- to mid-20s (though the actors might be slightly older), as was done in the last FF movie. I would also understand if those casting for the next screen version decide to make Ben a few years older, which would be believable for giving him time to become a noted test pilot/astronaut. Or, they could even make Reed and Ben in their late-20s, but I wouldn’t go any younger than that. This all assumes that the next movie begins with the FF’s “origin story”. But, it wouldn’t have to. The characters can be further along in their careers as heroes and, therefore, a few years older.

Personality-wise, we have 1) the super-brilliant, sometimes distant and absent-minded Reed Richards (aka the super-elastic Mister Fantastic); 2) the streetwise, cigar-chompin’, somewhat impatient but ever-dependable jock-turned-pilot Ben Grimm (aka the super-strong, rocky-hided Thing); 3) the empathetic, commonsensical, oft-maternal, stronger-than-she-knows Susan Storm (aka the mistress of invisible force-fields, Invisible Girl/Woman); and 4) the immature, thrill-seeking, sometimes hot-headed Johnny Storm (aka the aptly-named Human Torch).

Beyond all that, the most important thing is that the actors have not only the talent but the necessary chemistry together. After all, while only two are related by blood, these characters really do become a close-knit family, as well as a well-oiled team of explorers/superheroes. That family dynamic really needs to come across on-screen for any FF movie (or series) to work.

Now, rather than suggesting two to four candidates for each character individually, allow me to present to you two possible teams. Feel free to mix-n-match, though….

Tom Mison

Tom Mison

Greg Finley

Greg Finley

Eliza Taylor

Eliza Taylor

Lucas Till

Lucas Till

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first team has Reed and Ben in their early 30s, as played by Tom Mison (6’1″,b.1982) and Greg Finley (6′,b.1984), respectively. Mison is best known for the “Sleepy Hollow” series, but he can also be seen in Mysterious Island, an episode of “Inspector Lewis”, and various romance/comedies. Finley has appeared in several episodes of “The Flash” and “iZombie” lately, but he has also been in Hypothermia, “Star-Crossed”, and episodes of “CSI” and “Law & Order: SVU”. Then we have a 20-something Sue played by Eliza Taylor (5’5″,b.1989). She is best known in the U.S. for her starring role in “The 100”, though she’s also appeared in The November Man and Patrick. Finally, the role of Johnny in his early- to mid-20s goes to the youthful Lucas Till (5’10”,b.1990). Till, whom others have also suggested for Johnny, is known for portraying Alex Summers/Havok in the X-Men films and most recently in the title role of the new “MacGyver” TV series.

James Badge Dale

James Badge Dale

Domenick Lombardozzi

Domenick Lombardozzi

Brittany Snow

Brittany Snow

Luke Bracey

Luke Bracey

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second team is a little older, with Reed in his mid- to late-30s and Ben pushing 40. Our stretchy team-leader is played by my first choice, James Badge Dale (5’10”,b.1978), whom you may recall from “24”, “The Pacific”, “Rubicon”, World War Z, and 13 Hours. The role of Benjy goes to Domenick Lombardozzi (6′,b.1976) from “The Wire”, “Breakout Kings”, “Boardwalk Empire”, Bridge of Spies, and “Rosewood”. (While looking for a photo of him for this post, I found that someone else cast him for Ben, too. Great minds…. I will note that I think Lombardozzi’s voice is all wrong for Ben/Thing, so he’d either need to learn to talk without his usual Bronx accent and/or someone else’s voice would need to be dubbed in.) Sue is in her mid- to late-20s and portrayed by Brittany Snow (5’4″,b.1986). Snow can be seen in “American Dreams” and the Pitch Perfect movies, along with such genre fare as Prom Night, Black Water Transit, and the upcoming Hangman. Sue’s younger brother Johnny is played by Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989), who is known for his roles in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The November Man, the Point Break remake, and the recent Hacksaw Ridge.

Alright, those are my picks for Marvel’s First Family — not counting Reed and Sue’s kids that come along later, of course. I’m thinking it might be time to fan-cast some villains next. We’ll see…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

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Notes on Fantastic Four (2015)

Yes, I finally got around to watching last year’s disappointing reboot of the Fantastic Four. So, I put together a brief review in the form of a few notes, much like I’ve done in the past. I’ll try not to give away any major plot points or character-specific stuff….

As with its 2005 predecessor, the acting was fine (though not great) for what they had to work with, which was a so-so (definitely not great) story & script. Unfortunately, that meant that the characters were relatively dull, too.

Fantastic_Four_2015_poster1) Reed Richards — I don’t know. Miles Tellar is a good enough actor, but he didn’t quite look the part. He played “science nerd” OK, I guess. On the other hand, Reed seemed to be just a tad bit too socially well-adjusted. I always thought he was more socially awkward, especially in his earlier years, often distracted by scientific problems/projects. My guess is he would likely be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. (Just my take on it, of course.) Even without that consideration, some of his behavior was a little different than I think it should have been. Nothing major, though.

2) Susan Storm — Given that they were going with the brainier, scientist version of Sue (a la “Ultimate” universe), she was fine. I would have preferred a different look for her, though — like, maybe, Julianne Hough. I am guessing she was supposed to be roughly the same age as Reed (~18-20yo?), though she may have been a little older. The romantic interest between Sue and Reed was just barely hinted at, though mostly one-sided by him. Same goes for Doom’s interest in Sue. Sue’s relationship with her adoptive brother didn’t seem very close; or, maybe they just aren’t an emotionally demonstrative family.

3) Johnny Storm — Would have liked to see Johnny involved in more “adrenaline rush” activities and exhibiting more playfulness, which are essential parts of his personality. (This was a detail that the 2005/2007 films got right.) It was also a little odd to see him working with the team on the final teleportation device. (I think this may have been the case in the Ultimate version, too. Can’t remember for sure.) Given his interest in fast cars, I guess it does make sense that he had some skills in mechanics and/or engineering. To stay in keeping with the comics, it should have been made clear that he was a few years younger than Sue.

4) Ben Grimm — He may have been athletic, but he was way too small. Why couldn’t they get someone who was about 6′ or so and looked more like a stereotypical, beefy jock? His childhood/family life fits the character, though it would have been nice to hear a reference to Yancey Street and the gang. As for his “Thing” form, I liked it OK, though I prefer the classic, more “rounded” and heavy-browed version (as in the previous big-screen incarnation). This one reminded me of the Stone Men (aka Kronans) of the planet Ria. Also, his voice needed to be deeper — rumbly, even — to go along with the massive form.

5) Victor von Doom — They got this character all wrong, yet again. In appearance (pre- and post-transformation) and sound (no accent) and attitude (cocky, but not imperious) and abilities (some sort of freaky psychokinesis?), he still was not the iconic figure from the comics. Why?! Why is this so hard to do? Or, alternatively, why do the powers-that-be shy away from portraying him on screen the way he has always been written? Surely, there must be some 30-or-younger actor from Eastern Europe who could pull this off. Say,… Dawid Ogrodnik. On the plus side, at least he wasn’t some disillusioned computer hacker named Vic Domashev, as had been the rumor.

6) Dr. Franklin Storm — The comics don’t give him a lot of characterization, other than being a brilliant scientist who cares immensely for his children. He doesn’t often spend time with them or show affection in other ways, being very focused on administering the scientific think-tank at the Baxter Building. From what we saw and heard, this version of Storm is pretty much on target with that, though perhaps a little more attentive.

OK, now for a few more general comments about the film…

Fantastic_Four_(2015_film)_poster_0071) Given that Reed seemed to join the Baxter Foundation after high school, I am guessing he was about 17-18 years old. (Though, you’d think a brain like him would’ve skipped a couple grades.) Possibly more like 19-20yo, if he took some college in between times. Ben and Sue would’ve been roughly the same, Johnny even younger (16?), though Victor was probably a couple years older. However, all of the actors looked to be a few years older than those ages,… which they actually are, of course.

2) I recognized a couple early scenes adapted from Ultimate Fantastic Four, but they didn’t feel quite right. Lighting too dark; Baxter Institute looked/felt too “normal”.

3) Without giving anything away,… I’m not sure how I feel about the events that followed the accident. They didn’t follow either the original or Ultimate versions. The antagonism against Reed just felt… wrong.

4) There was no mention of “unstable molecules” (that I recall) in the post-accident uniforms’ composition. Plus, Reed was wearing something else, yet it stretched when he did. What’s up with that? If there is a sequel, will they reveal that he discovered something that allows uniforms to “cooperate” with their powers.

5) The fact that Dr. Storm and Johnny were not Caucasian was fine, of course, and the brief mention of Sue being adopted resolved that question.

6) I thought the special F/X were pretty good, despite that being one of the facets the film got criticized for. Maybe I would change my mind upon a second viewing, when I had time to see them again?

7) The fights were rather lacking. I assume the original, one-by-one attacks on Doom in the finale were meant to show they couldn’t beat him on their own — which Reed stated explicitly a couple minutes later. (A bit on-the-nose, if you ask me.) But, then the coordinated effort, especially Ben’s haymaker, was telegraphed so obviously that Doom deserves to get beat for still falling for it.

Overall, a fairly interesting variation on the FF origin story, but not quite satisfying. Too dark, for one thing, both visually and in tone. (Might’ve worked a little better as a graphic novel.) Familiar characters weren’t left familiar enough to feel like the “friends” fans were expecting. Or, at least, not this fan. Still,… it didn’t suck as much as some of the reviews (when it came out) led me to believe.

736784-namor3What can we expect going forward? Well, at one point, it looked like Fox and Marvel had worked out an agreement that put the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, and Galactus back under control of The House of Ideas (i.e., in this case, Marvel Studios). But, more recent reporting indicates that Fox still has the rights and may try for a FF sequel or reboot around 2020. Of course, that could be inaccurate or could change in the future. One interesting piece of related news is that the rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner, are back with Marvel Studios. (Yet another imperious foreigner with a thing for Sue!) If Marvel also regained control of the FF, they could introduce Namor and the Atlanteans as the villain. He/they could return as an ally in a sequel down the road. This could be really cool, if done right and, of course, faithful to the source material. Keepin’ my fingers crossed….

P.S.  I really need to fan-cast the FF!

Notes on Fantastic Four Movies

Sometimes, after watching an action-packed movie — especially one that is sci-fi/superhero-oriented — my head is just swirling with the whole experience. (You probably know the feeling.) So, over the next few hours, or maybe a day or two at most, I jot down impressions about what I liked and didn’t like. You know how I like superhero movies to be true to the source material, right? I try to be charitable with my criticisms….

So, here are the notes I made after watching the Fantastic Four (2005), lo, those many years ago. Nothing profound, but you may find them somewhat interesting, and maybe you had similar feelings or observations. Or, maybe you totally disagree, and that’s fine, too.

FF movie posterThe effects were FANTASTIC!!

The acting was fine for what they had to work with, but the characters (both casting & characterization) left something to be desired.

1) Johnny/Torch — the overall personality and love for extreme sports was great, but he was a little too old; having him as a NASA washout who Victor then hires is not believable (though, I suppose, Vic may have hired him as a favor to Susan); would have been better as an extreme sports-loving, pranksterish undergrad who sneaks onboard the rocket (to the station) on a dare or as the “ultimate thrill-ride”.

2) Susan/Invisible Woman — I love Jessica Alba, but her look was all wrong for the part. I would not have made her a geneticist, especially not a head of research — not at her age and lack of experience. (Is she supposed to be a genius, too? She already had a PhD by 24?) The part calls for a smart woman (but not a scientist) with more Western European looks (e.g., British, German, Scandinavian, or French). Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant from Spider-Man movies) would have been good.

3) Reed/Mr. Fantastic — A slightly different look would have been better. Plus, the gray temples should have been more noticeable. It should have been explained better why the effects of the radiation chamber were only temporary, too.

4) Ben/Thing — Probably the only casting I really agree with, though they should have made him slightly taller and definitely bigger/bulkier (as Thing). Or, maybe this is just “stage 1”?

5) Victor von Doom — McMahon looks the part, but they should have dubbed a deeper, more menacing voice with Eastern European (i.e., “Latverian”) accent. Also, he should have been more elitist and condescending, like an arrogant nobleman who expects butt-kissing servitude. He should NOT have mutated into a poor-man’s Colossus, let alone one with electrical powers. He shouldn’t have even gone on the mission; but, if they “had” to have him there, he should have been the only one properly shielded from the radiation storm. Then, when it came time for his revenge, he could have built the signature Dr. Doom armor (with electrical blasts, I suppose).

6) Alicia — I liked her characterization (minimal though her screentime was) and don’t mind TOO much that she wasn’t a white woman with orangey-red hair.

There were certain plot elements that didn’t make sense or could have been done better. For example:

1) When Ben escaped the medical/research facility, why couldn’t the others have caught up to him? He only had a few seconds’ head start, and he must have left a pretty noticeable trail….

2) It would have made MUCH more sense for them to go back to that facility, perhaps even kept quarantined and studied by others (though Reed & Sue would likely have insisted on helping).

3) Why did Sue’s force-blast have so little effect on Doom?

4) Since it was established that Ben had no understanding of genetics, how did he know how to set the machines to change him BACK into the Thing? Could it have been as easy as flipping a switch, turning a dial, or pushing a couple buttons?

As you can see, I did like some stuff, but there was plenty to be annoyed with, too. Non-comics fans may not understand, but for long-time, loyal readers/fans like me, these “details” can be important and irksome when they are messed with. Notice how my questions/comments lean toward the negative…?

The sequel, of course, came out a couple years later. Here’s what I jotted down about that one….

FF sequel movie posterAdditional comments re Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007):

1) Surfer’s general look and effects were great! Also, Fishburne’s voice (sufficiently altered) fit nicely, though it would have been nice if a) there was some sort of accent and b) there was a moment or two showing him learning/assimilating one or more Earth languages. (Question: Why bother learning any, if the plan was to “consume” the planet anyway?!)

2) Can’t remember how much of a link there is between Surfer’s power and the board in the comics, but I know he is far from powerless without it.

3) Not sure I like the added power of “phasing” through solid matter. His powers are supposed to be “cosmic-energy” based and have nothing to do with matter manipulation. On the other hand, just throwing energy blasts around could get boring quickly.

4) I would not have brought Doom back so soon, but at least his scheming was in character.

5) I liked how Surfer (re-)learned compassion from the FF’s selfless acts and caring for one another, which was, if not identical, in keeping with the general story from the comics.

6) The ending was slightly anti-climactic. I guess I understand the keeping-Galactus-shrouded-in-mystery bit, but I would have liked to have gotten just a glimpse of the guy, even if he wasn’t nearly so human-looking or dressed in the usual purple-n-blue garb.

Overall, still a fun superhero flick with cool effects!

As you can see, I didn’t pick too much at the plot. I guess I am more willing to overlook a weak plot or plot holes — in an effort to just “go with it” and enjoy the movie — than I am willing to overlook changes and inconsistencies with the characters when compared to their comic-book counterparts. While I won’t tolerate too much campiness or outright stupidity, neither do I expect sophisticated writing in an action movie.

In case you’re wondering, I never saw the low-budget, never-officially-released FF movie that Roger Corman produced back in 1994. Probably just as well. I was thrilled that the team got a big budget intro to moviegoers in the 2000s but was still disappointed that they didn’t do a better job at casting or sticking to the source material. Now, a new Fantastic Four movie is set to reboot the franchise sometime next year (2015), and I have very mixed feelings about what I’ve heard, so far. (For example, some unusual casting choices and comments about altered origins and possibly different powers, etc.)

Let’s keep our metaphorical fingers crossed that the new version of the Fantastic Four is faithful enough to satisfy the core, comic-reading fans, yet different enough to intrigue the general sci-fi/action fans. Don’t screw it up, guys!