The inventive science fiction thriller "Chronicle" (2011) minted first-time feature director Josh Trank as not only one of the youngest filmmakers to score a No. 1 film at the box office, but also a f...
LucasFilm via Everett Collection
It might seem like Disney is taking some big risks with its most precious property, the Star Wars universe. Gareth Edwards — slated to direct a yet unspecified standalone character feature for the franchise — turned in an exceptional Godzilla movie, but still only has one additional directing credit to his name. Chronicle's Josh Trank, recently saddled with a similar gig, was an even more surprising choice for the studio. And now, the coup de gracie: Rian Johnson, one of the most interesting filmmakers playing the genre game these days, will take on writing and directing duties for Star Wars: Episode VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX (per Deadline). It's the biggest task that Disney has yet to bestow upon any of its Star Wars folk, with sci-fi frontman J.J. Abrams only earning the one film, but perhaps the lowest risk of the bunch. If you take a look at Johnson's complete filmography, you'll see what we mean.
Johnson's debut feature — a pitch black neo-noir mystery that follows a pre-resurgence Joseph Gordon-Levitt around the underbelly of his high school community looking for the answers to a spiraling mystery. The biggest strength of Brick, beyond some dynamite performances all around (Gordon-Levitt most of all) is a script that reads practically like music. Compare Harrison Ford bemoaning George Lucas' 1977 Star Wars dialogue ("George, you can type this s**t, but you sure as hell can't say it!") with JGL singing the praises of Johnson's poetry ("Brick was a good script just to read. It was like, 'Oh my God, these words feel so good in my mouth.' A lot of movies try to set up a world with cool sets, costumes, camera work. In Brick, the world is born from the words.") and you'll see that maybe a talented wordsmith is exactly what the franchise needs.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
Johnson reteamed with Gordon-Levitt in 2012 for his first science fiction feature, and perhaps the first of his movies to earn something close to widespread recognition. Admittedly, Looper got its share of flack for "time travel problems," as any movie that plays fast and loose with the rules of such a delicate sci-fi staple is bound to. But Looper isn't a bastardization of the tradition, it's a celebration of it: of what makes it fun, interesting, a valuable storytelling device, and worth watching a movie about. Instead of being didactic to the impossible logic of timeline continuity, Johnson was devoted chiefly to the spirit of time travel. This is what we want in a Star Wars director — someone who loves that galaxy far, far away but won't let it arrest his imagination.
Johnson directed three episodes of Breaking Bad, each a memorable entry in the series' five season run. The first was "Fly" (represented above, as even those unfamiliar might have guessed), Breaking Bad's take on the small screen tradition of the bottle episode, trapping Walter White literally inside of his laboratory and figuratively inside of his decaying mind. Two years later, Johnson helmed "Fifty-One," famous primarily for the climactic scene in which Skyler attempts suicide by jumping into the family's swimming pool. And finally, "Ozymandias," the third-to-last episode of the series and top contender for most celebrated Breaking Bad episode of all.
The director exemplifies such completely different strengths in "Fly" and "Ozymandias" that you'd have to be startled upon learning they were brought to screen by the same artist. In the former, Walt's turmoil reaches out from in, poisoning him (and Jesse) slowly and steadily over the course of the 45-minute ep. "Ozymandias," on the other hand, is a deep dish of adrenaline. From minute one, things are edge-of-your-seat tense, incurring shoot-outs, killings, high speed chases, kidnappings, domestic chaos, the works.
Both sorts of dramatic expertise are needed for any good adventure piece. Johnson can handle subdued tension, internalized drama, and psychological horror. But he also knows what he's doing when it comes to action, adrenaline, and guttural excitement. If nothing else has convinced you that he's a shoe-in for a good Star Wars picture, Breaking Bad has got to do the trick.
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20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Chronicle hit unexpectedly at the dawn of 2012 (and the dawn of the superhero "movement"), impressing critics and fans as Josh Trank's feature debut. The found footage picture served both as an impressive science-fiction flick and a dutiful character piece, telling the story of three teenage boys who transform mentally and emotionally after becoming suddenly imbued with superpowers. Chronicle led Trank to land one big name picture, the developing Fantastic Four reboot, and now has earned him another: one of Disney's long list of standalone Star Wars films (Godzilla director Gareth Edwards is also handling one of these features). And if you've seen Chronicle, you know that the 29-year-old Trank is perfectly tailored for the George Lucas universe. In truth, Chronicle is pretty much a Star Wars film already...
[Warning: Major Chronicle spoilers to follow... Star Wars spoilers, too, but I feel less inclined to warn people about that]
Hero Becomes VillainAdmittedly, this is a pretty common trope throughout the vast cosmos of fiction... and human history. But Dane DeHaan's tortured introvert Andrew embarks upon a path markedly similar to that of one Anakin Skywalker. Neither one is able to contain his thirst for power once he discovers new, supernatural abilities.
The ForceAnd those abilities? They are nearly identical. George Lucas' Force and the result of contact with whatever it is the Chronicle boys happened upon in that pit are both defined primarily by large-scale telekinesis and a mastery of aerodynamics.
Flying... Through Storms!Granted, one is a meteor storm and the other is simply lightning. But the danger is the same.
Hero Is Defeated by Beloved RelativeAndrew's cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is called upon to save his town from the former's wrath; it is son Luke who managed, in the end, to defeat Darth Vader, although Emperor Palpatine's d-bag electroshock powers sure didn't help matters. Neither Matt nor Luke was particularly overjoyed at having to kill someone he once loved, but c'est la vie.
Daddy IssuesAnd how. Luke is overcome by his angst in finding out that he's got the mother of all bad fathers, and Andrew deals with an abusive dad as one of his many grievances throughout the film.
Yub NubA course-changing scene in Chronicle sees Andrew and Matt having too much fun at a high school party, one not unlike the traditional Ewok celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi.
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Realistic, gritty, grounded.
Are there any three words that comic book fans are more tired of hearing from filmmakers? Those three buzzwords are thrown around like confetti every time a new superhero film is in development, as if a necessary step in promoting your comic book movie is assuring fans that your film is going to be painted in the appropriate shades of grey. Now, grey's a fine color; it's given so many of our superheroes some much-needed dimension, filled out the edges of characters that feel too antiquated to work in modern cinema, and allowed comic book films to gain at least a little ground in becoming a respected genre of film. But not every superhero or superteam needs to be dip-dyed in darkness, especially if it comes at the expense of the characters' true natures.
Josh Trank's Fantastic Four reboot over at Fox has not been shy about introducing the world to a darker version of Marvel's first family, and their commitment to this interpretation of the characters was recently echoed by screenwriter Simon Kinberg. In an interview with Hitfix, the Fantastic Four scribe said, "This will definitely be a more realistic, a more gritty, grounded telling of the Fantastic Four."
The problem is that there's nothing gritty, grounded, or realistic about the Fantastic Four. Marvel's first family is probably the least grounded heroes in the company's entire stable of heroes. Their origin story reads like pure comic book cheese: four friends travel to outer space in a rocket ship that wanders into a galactic storm and is hit by cosmic rays that give all four members incredible powers. The four then decide to dress up in bright blue spandex and protect a big and shiny version of Manhattan from nefarious villains such as Mole Man and Doctor Doom. It's hard to reason why anyone would read that origin story and reason that it needs a dose "gritty" or "realistic." While a hero like Batman thrived when given the grounded treatment, with Christopher Nolan's trilogy turning Gotham's gothic alleyways and ridiculous villains into a noir-ish crime story and morality play, the Fantastic Four is a different beast altogether. Going too realistic would strip the work of the qualities that make it a classic to begin with.
All we need to do is look at the recent Superman reboot, Man of Steel, to see the problem. Zach Snyder and the folks at the WB were all too eager to follow the mold of Batman and give Supes a dark makeover after Superman Returns drew ire from hewing to closely to Richard Donner's original. Unfortunately, Snyder's Man of Steel completely misses the mark. It takes the big blue boy scout, a simple, fun, and whimsical hero, and puts him in an utterly joyless movie. Man of Steel is loud, overbearing, and dour. It has no sense of levity, and it especially has no sense of wonder, one of the most important aspects of Superman. The film's biggest crime however is that it's hardly ever fun. What's the point of watching a film about a flying man trying saving the planet if the film takes itself way too seriously to be fun. Superman is supposed to be a bright primary colored romp, and was instead turned into a bleak, grey, slog of a film. All in the name of being gritty and realistic.
It seems that far too often, filmmakers mistake words like "gritty," and "grounded" for words like complex and interesting. Supeheroes don't always need to scowl their way through their adventures, and being dark and gritty isn't the only way to produce a quality, well reviewed film. Hopefully, the minds behind Fantastic Four don't lose sight of the original inspirations of their film.
After casting the main players of the new Fantastic Four movie, director Josh Trank is now eyeing his lead villain. The field of potential actors for the film's central nogoodnik Doctor Doom has been narrowed down to four: Domhnall Gleeson, Toby Kebbell, Eddie Redmayne, and Sam Riley.
Victor Von Doom, who has the second most absurdly evil name in the marvel universe (the top honor goes to Baron Wolfgang von Strucker), is the leader of Latveria, a fictional nation nestled in the edge of the former Soviet bloc. Doom is a gifted sorcerer and scientist who uses his knowledge and power to overthrow the monarchy of Latveria. Doctor Doom has always been an imposing force in the Marvel Universe, so it's important that the right actor is chosen for the part. So which one of these actors would make the best Doctor Doom?
Notable Films: Harry Potter, About Time, Anna Karenina Genre Experience: Gleeson is well acquainted with genre films, playing Bill Weasley in the later chapters of the Harry Potter series and a role in the film Dredd. Potential for Villainy: We're not sure. Gleeson is a bit of a peculiar choice since he plays some pretty diminutive characters, and Doctor Doom is one of the most fearsome villains in the Marvel Universe. The actor does have an aura of mystery about him, but he certainly doesn't scream Victor Von Doom. Though Bill Weasley was a bit moody after getting slashed by a werewolf, so there's that.
Notable Films: Control, Alexander Genre Experience: Kebbell has the most genre experience under his belt of the four candidates, with roles in Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Wrath of the Titans, and Alexander. Potential for Villainy: Kebbell is an interesting case. The actor played a violently unhinged and unstable character in RocknRolla, though he came off as more strung out and unpredictable than calculating and evil. He does have a ton of intensity in his roles, however, which is something that Doctor Doom needs.
Notable Films: Les Miserables, My Week with MarilynGenre Experience: Redmayne's genre experience is pretty scant up until now, but he does have a big sci-fi adventure on the horizon with The Wachowskis' upcoming Jupiter Ascending. Potential for Villainy: Not terribly high, as Redmayne just doesn't look especially imposing. The Fantastic Four reboot is clearly casting younger than most people expected, but casting Redmayne as Doctor Doom might be a leap too far. He does play a pretty despicable character in Hitch, but most probably wouldn't buy him as the fascist leader of an entire country.
Notable Films: Control, On the RoadGenre Experience: Riley has been a part of several genre films, including Byzantium, Franklyn, and 13. He will also play a major role in the upcoming Disney fantasy Maleficent.Potential for Villainy: Pretty high. Riley gave a dark performance in the film Brighton Rock, and was recently cast as Diaval, Angelina Jolie's right hand man and raven in Maleficent, so it's clear that studios are getting some pretty nefarious vibes from Riley. He does give a good icy glare, a necessary staple of any world conquering super villain.
Fox has just announced the cast of Josh Trank's upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, and things are looking a little left of center. Joining Michael B. Jordan's Johnny Storm will be Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, and Jamie Bell as The Thing. And while some of these casting's aren't quite set in stone, this is increasingly looking like the final lineup for the film. Saying that the new movie is casting against type would be an understatement. The new cast is virtually unrecognizable compared to the 2005 version, and the internet is erupting in reactions from every inch of the emotional spectrum. From seething rage, to elation, and even mild confusion, The casting of Marvel's first family has people divided in earnest. Here are our thoughts on the casting choices.
MILES TELLERas Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic
A24 via Everett Collection
How He Fits: He kind of doesn't. At all.
How He Deviates: There’s a loveable goofiness to Miles Teller, but we're not quite connecting the dots between him and Reed Richards just yet. He’s not quite nerdy enough, and he definitely doesn’t have a dignified scientist aura to him. We don’t see much of Reed Richards in Teller at all.
How He Compares to Ioan Gruffudd: Worse. Gruffudd was one of the few bright spots of the largely banal first film. He really looked the part of Reed Richards.
Public Consensus: The one phrase to sum up the twitter reactions would be a resounding "Uhhh….What?" People seem to be mostly just confused by the casting choice, and many are complaining that Teller is simply too young to play Reed. Twitter user @dylhorgan asled, "This week in bad superhero movie casting: How is Miles Teller even close to being old enough to play Reed Richards?"
Final Assessment: Teller, for our money, is the biggest question mark of the casting announcement. There isn’t anything about the actor that screams “Mr. Fantastic”, though he was obviously cast for a reason. I guess we’re going to have to wait and see on this one.
KATE MARAas Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman
How She Fits: Physically, Mara seems to be a match for the Sue Storm in the comics, especially since she’s recently dyed her hair blonde. Personality-wise, she seems like a solid choice as well, since Sue is somewhat reserved and shy – Mara plays a lot of quieter characters. Between her ambitious reporter on House of Cards and her hacker/revolution-leader in Transcendence, Mara shouldn’t have any trouble portraying Sue’s genius intellect.
How She Deviates: Mara’s characters tend to be a lot darker than Sue Storm, who gives off a more innocent, all-American vibe, which could affect the way that Sue is written for this reboot.
How She Compares to Jessica Alba: Mara’s definitely a better choice than Alba, who, while not terrible, wasn’t given much to do other than run around and look pretty.
Public Consensus: Fan response to the casting has been overwhelmingly positive. To quote Twitter user @Roby_Aguilar: "OMG. OMG. OMG. MILES TELLER, MICHAEL B. JORDAN, JAMIE BELL & KATE MARA IN FANTASTIC FOUR?!?!?!?!?! God is real. GOD. IS. REAL."
Final Assessment: Mara’s a good choice for Sue Storm. She’s a talented actress, and she doesn’t fit the “bombshell” constraints that female actresses in superhero films tend to get stuck in, which means she will hopefully get more to do onscreen than Alba did. And since it seems to have been the least outrage-stirring casting choice that the team behind this reboot has made, she also seems to be approved by the fans. She generally comes across darker and more serious than Sue is, though, and since we haven’t really seen her play particularly upbeat characters, that could keep her from meshing well with the rest of the cast
MICHAEL B. JORDANas Johnny Storm/The Human Torch
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
How He Fits: Jordan has the natural charm and charisma to play a freewheeling ladies man, but he also has a daring quality to him that a character like Johnny Storm needs. He might not have the necessary physique quite yet, but a quick trip to the gym can fix that.
How He Deviates: The biggest deviation in all of the casting news, Michael B. Jordan is nlack whereas Johnny Storm has always been portrayed as a white man. Cue the Twitter riots.
How He Compares to Chris Evans: Better. Now don't get us wrong, Evans played a fine Johnny Storm. But over the past few years, Jordan has proven himself to be a monumental young talent. While Evans certainly had Johnny Storm's trademark wit in spades, Jordan might be able to mine the character's hidden depths while still cracking wise and getting the girls.
Public Consensus: Many have commented on Jordan’s race being an issue, but (optimistically!) an emerging tide of Twitter users are trumpeting the actor's talents, laying waste to the idiotic arguments that a black Human Torch is "sacrilege." Twitter user @ZachLNFS tweeted “Michael B. Jordan is the one bright spot in the Fantastic Four cast and, of course, the most derided. Good job, Fox. Good job, internet." Other’s are wondering how Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan are going to play siblings. We're guessing adoption.
Final Assessment: The actor clearly has the goods to play a terrific Johnny Storm, despite what some of the seedier corners of the Twittersphere think about race in comic books. Ignorant tirades aside, he’s clearly the best actor of the bunch and a considerable step up from the previous Human Torch.
JAMIE BELLas Ben Grimm/The Thing
Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection
How He Fits: Once Ben Grimm becomes The Thing, he has a lot of trouble dealing with his new powers, which take a toll on him emotionally. Bell plays a lot of brooding characters, which means he would have no trouble portraying all of the inner turmoil that The Thing is experiencing.
How He Deviates: Ben and The Thing are huge, strong, muscular guys, whereas Bell is… not. This is less important after he turns into The Thing, but since we don’t know how much of the group’s origins the film will focus on, it might be difficult to believe that Bell spent his childhood protecting Teller from bullies. Ben’s also a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, while Bell tends to come across as serious and brooding.
How He Compares to Michael Chiklis: When it comes to giant orange space rock monsters, nobody beats Michael Chiklis.
Public Consensus: It’s pretty mixed. There are plenty of people who are excited about his casting, but many are concerned that’s he’s not built enough to play the role properly – for example, Twitter user @BCCrooky said they would "like to see Jamie bell, scrawny Jamie bell who played tinting, as Ben Grimm aka the thing."
Final Assessment: We probably would have swapped Bell and Teller’s roles, if we’re being honest. Bell just seems to work better as a serious, genius scientist, while Teller seems more likely to play his upbeat sidekick. However, Ben has a difficult time dealing with his transformation, which caused a lot of psychological trauma; Bell would definitely be able to play those aspects of the character really well. Since he’ll likely spend most of the film being CGIed into his rocky form, his acting ability is probably more important than his physical appearance in the end.
Feature writing and directorial debut, the sci-fi film "Chronicle"
Appeared in small acting role opposite Patton Oswalt in indie drama "Big Fan"; also worked as second unit director and editor
Made TV debut as writer, director, and editor of Spike TV series "The Kill Point"
The inventive science fiction thriller "Chronicle" (2011) minted first-time feature director Josh Trank as not only one of the youngest filmmakers to score a No. 1 film at the box office, but also a fresh and vibrant new voice in genre movies. Born in Los Angeles on Feb. 19, 1984, Joshua Benjamin Trank was the son of documentary producer-director Richard Trank, who won an Oscar for 1997's "The Long Way Home." After dropping out of photography school, he worked in post-production on a number of film projects, including his father's 2007 documentary, "I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life & Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal." Trank soon found steady work as an editor on the action-drama series "The Kill Point" (Spike TV, 2007), which soon promoted him to writer and director on several episodes. Following the show's cancellation after a single season, Trank began formulating a story idea for a feature about high schoolers that experienced an extraordinary event. The project began to take shape after he met with Max Landis, a high school friend and the son of director John Landis. After completing work as an editor and uncredited second unit director on the indie dramedy "Big Fan" (2009), Trank began work on his feature project from a script by Landis titled "Chronicle."<p>An impressive blend of coming-of-age drama and comic book action, "Chronicle" impressed critics and audiences alike with an array of visual effects produced for a fraction of the cost incurred by studio superhero efforts. In February 2012, the picture debuted at the top of the box office its opening weekend, earning an estimated $8.65 million. As a result of its success, Trank became one of the youngest directors in film history to score a No. 1 hit with a feature film, which placed him in the company of such established filmmakers as Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. He was soon attached to a number of high-profile features, including film versions of the popular video game "Shadow of the Colossus" (Playstation 2, 2005) and the comic book series "The Red Star" (1994-2004, 2006- ). Trank was also linked to a screen adaptation of the Marvel Comics character Venom, and was confirmed in 2012 as the director on a reboot of The Fantastic Four franchise. <p><i>By Paul Gaita</i>