Comics on Film: What 'The Fly' and 'The Fantastic Four' Have in Common

Comics on Film: What 'The Fly' and 'The Fantastic Four' Have in Common

Jan 30, 2015

At long last and on bated breath, this week 20th Century Fox finally gave audiences their first look at Fantastic Four, the franchise reboot directed by Chronicle's Josh Trank. Many people, including comic book fans, seem to agree that while the film doesn't look like it'll be the most faithful comic book adaptation out there, it still looks extremely interesting.

One thing in particular stood out in an interview Trank conducted with Collider. When asked what would make his superhero film different in a market that seems to be crowded with them, Trank answered very honestly, and in a way that many likely didn't expect. He said,

"...I always viewed Fantastic Four and the kind of weirdness that happens to these characters and how they’re transformed to really fall in line more with a Cronenberg-ian science fiction tale of something horrible happening to your body and [it] transforming out of control. And the potential for a hard sci-fi take on that material makes me really excited..."

Whoa. I cannot believe that nobody has ever approached a superhero film in this way before. It's a really intriguing idea. But for those of you who aren't quite sure what that might mean, let's explore it a little bit.

Making You Scared of Bodily Change

Director David Cronenberg is largely considered to be a pioneer and innovator when it comes to the subgenre of horror known as "body horror." His films, like 1975's Shivers, 1991's Naked Lunch, and particularly his 1986 remake of The Fly capture the idea perfectly: as your body goes through a methodical but fundamental change, it can certainly make you question your humanity, but it would also likely scare the living hell out of you.

Other films, like Neill Blomkamp's District 9, used body horror in a more minor way to tell that story, but the idea of taking that concept and applying it to comic book characters in a film seems like the kind of simple yet wonderful idea that has the potential to be really innovative in the superhero genre.

The Fantastic Four are also perfect characters to try this on. All of them experience pretty significant bodily change that has the potential to be both exciting and frightening, particularly in the case of Ben Grimm/the Thing. In fact -- according to legendary comic book writer Len Wein -- when Fantastic Four first began publication at Marvel in response to sales of DC's Justice League of America, the inclusion of the Thing character was sort of as a backup plan: if the superhero team didn't work, then they could easily backtrack and remake FF into a monster title.

Still, that not withstanding, the changes that each character goes through are massive enough that a "Cronenberg-ian" approach could be a very fresh perspective: a cerebral step between the melodrama of DC superhero movies like Man of Steel or The Dark Knight Rises, and the more lighthearted, fun tone found in the Iron Man films or in Guardians of the Galaxy


Can It Work?

When trying to answer the question of whether or not audiences will accept a film like that, it's truly hard to say. When looking at the most successful comic book films of the past 15 years, oftentimes it's the ones that are truest to the source material that end up having the most success. Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man film, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and the first Avengers film are much more memorable than the likes of The SpiritSuperman Returns or Wanted.

Still, you could make a decent argument that the first two Fantastic Four films, directed by Tim Story, were relatively faithful to the FF comics, and those aren't exactly held in high regard either.The same can be said of Green LanternPunisher: War Zone or Watchmen, all of which were either negatively received or really polarizing to critics.

Maybe the best thing to do, especially in a franchise that was in need of an overhaul, is to try something decidedly different. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to work, but as a fan I'm a lot more excited about this than I thought I'd be. I hope you are, too.

Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, the Junior Editor at, and a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.




Categories: Comics, Features, Geek, Editorials
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