Wednesday 14 February 2024

Marvel casts the Fantastic Four

Marvel has announced the casting for their forthcoming new Fantastic Four movie. Pedro Pascal (The Last of Us, The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones) will play Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic, Vanessa Kirby (The Crown) will play Sue Storm / Invisible Woman, Ebon Moss-Bachrach (The Bear) will play Ben Grimm / The Thing and Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things) will play Johnny Storm / The Human Torch, in a film directed by Matt Shakman (WandaVision).

The film, apparently titled The Fantastic 4, introduces the team to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time. It will, however, be the fifth movie to feature the characters. Roger Corman directed the ultra-low-budget The Fantastic Four in 1994 as a rights-holding exercise. 20th Century Fox released Fantastic Four in 2005, starring Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards, Jessica Alba as Susan Storm, a pre-Captain America Chris Evans as Johnny Storm and Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm. Despite mixed reviews, the film was financially successful and spawned a direct sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), which was less successful.

A new version of the team appeared in 2015 as Fantastic Four, starring Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Susan Storm, a pre-Killmonger Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm. The film was poorly received both critically and commercially.

Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige confirmed in 2019 that the team would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following the acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Marvel's parent company, Disney. Originally Jon Watts was going to direct, but he was later replaced by Matt Shakman.

The team are iconic because they were the first superhero team created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics in November 1961 as part of a revamp of the company's lines, designed to compete with DC Comics' Justice League of America (which saw Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and other characters joining forces). Lee and Kirby created the Fantastic Four as a similar team out from scratch. Lee, with Kirby and other artists, later added new superheroes to the same universe, resulting in The Incredible Hulk, Spider-ManThor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Falcon and Daredevil. He also resurrected characters Marvel had the rights to from years earlier, resulting in the comics Sub-Mariner and Captain America. Periodically these heroes would team up to fight greater threats, in a run known as The Avengers.

Fantastic Four was also notable for debuting many other characters who would go on to have huge success for Marvel Comics: Namor the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Doom, Black Panther, the Kree and Skrull, Adam Warlock, the Inhumans, Silver Surfer and Galactus. The comic ran almost without interruption until issue #645 in 2015. The comic was rested, although the characters would appear in other titles; fan speculation at the time was that Marvel was downplaying those characters whose movie rights they did not control, as they felt they were giving free advertising to competitors. However, the comic relaunched in late 2018, fans again cynically noting that the 20th Century Fox/Marvel deal was in the wind at the time so it was assumed that Marvel Studios would shortly gain control of the film rights, as was proven to be the case.

The Fantastic 4 will be released on 25 July 2025. It will be one of four Marvel movies scheduled for the year, following Captain America: Brave New World in February and Thunderbolts on 2 May and preceding Blade in November. This will mark a return in force for Marvel, who only have a single film out this year: Deadpool & Wolverine on 26 July.

No comments: