Internet chatter was labeling Fantastic Four a disaster even before it screened. Talks of reshoots and comparisons to The Incredibles led people to believe that this was going to be this year’s Catwoman. Only problem is, is that it is pretty damned good and I had a chance to sit down with the man behind the camera on the feature, Tim Story.
Tim is a one-time rapper, a music video director and a USC film school graduate. He got his big break and his name in flashing lights with the highly successful comedy Barbershop back in 2002 and with that he followed it up with last year’s comedy Taxi starring Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah. You may be asking yourself what a comedy director is doing behind the camera of Fox’s superhero blockbuster effort Fantastic Four, but as Tim tells me, “Who has directed a superhero movie before? Sam Raimi directed Darkman before Spider-Man, but he may be the only one that has done that.”
It was a rough road for Story in the beginning. A rabid comic book fan base was relentless, “They were killing me, I was at Comic-Con getting booed, but I knew the material as well as they did… I was a fan as well.”
Story didn’t let the boo-birds get to him and he stuck to the comic he loved, “The one thing I really wanted to do was nail the tone of the comic and I did that. At the end of the day I wanted to capture the spirit of the comics and I felt if there was a comic I could do this one was it.”
When I asked him if he was happy with the final project he gave an answer that I think most directors would give, “I am 85-90 percent satisfied, it only comes down to a time and money thing. I think I did justice in capturing the tone of the story and even though I had no education in special effects until the actual shooting of the film began I think it came out well.”
I saw this as a perfect chance to ask about the rumors surrounding reshoots and the similarities between Fantastic Four and Disney’s The Incredibles. Word on the street was that the ending was completely reworked as the film closely resembled that of The Incredibles, but Story gives us the truth on the matter.
“We changed about one percent of our movie due to The Incredibles. We had a seen in the beginning where The Thing shakes a cat out of a tree and it was extremely similar to the scene in The Incredibles so we took it out, that was it,” he said.
Personally, I am not a comic book reader and have never read or even seen a page of “Fantastic Four,” but the one thing that did surprise me about the flick were a couple of dark moments involving Dr. Victor Von Doom played by Julian McMahon, this wasn’t the fun and games Spider-Man offered and it wasn’t the complete darkness found in WB’s Batman Begins, but Story found a way to mix in the dark nature of his villain all while telling an action-packed story with comedy tossed in here and there.
“I had to go dark, and mix it with lighter moments,” Story said, “one minute you’re laughing, the next minute you’re shooting a hole in someone… I had to show that Von Doom could destroy people and on the other side I had to show the human qualities of the characters.”
That he did, and in a way that was refreshing. Primarily through the character of Johnny Storm (a.k.a. The Human Torch) played by Chris Evans (Cellular) Story found his comedic outlet all while telling the story of anguish for his new appearance in The Thing (Michael Chiklis), the love angle between Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba). So with all these emotions floating around in the middle of an action flick how did he balance it all out, and with his comedic background how much did he add to the film?
“I like to think I added a lot, I wanted to see the relationships, I love to see families squabble in films,” he said. “Some of it I added, some of it I tried to improve and some was improvised as we were going, I just wanted to see the relationships between Sue and Reed, between Johnny and Reed, and Sue and Ben, that was important.”
So with all these relationships how did he feel about working with so many television actors and relative newcomers?
“You know the casting process is the greatest, when an actor walks in the room they speak to you in their presence, 50 percent of their performance is their essence, and if they fit the part you just hope they can act. Once that actor walks in you just know, ‘I just met Johnny Storm.’ It is cool you know, when you meet the actor.”
An example he uses is that of Kerry Washington who plays the blind artist and romantic interest of Ben Grimm a.k.a. The Thing, Alicia Masters, who is sure to play a larger role if sequels are to follow. “In the comics she is white, but Kerry was just right for the role,” he said.
The role of Alicia Masters in the franchise certainly brings up the idea of sequels as it is said that her stepfather is the Puppet Master and this is a villain that Story expressed he would not be afraid to visit if he were to return for a sequel although he is not yet signed, but he is hopeful.
I asked him if he wanted to come back and what he would like to see in a sequel, “I am not signed but I would love to continue the saga… I would love to see the Mole Men, Puppet Master or Dr. Doom back. My only hope when I am asked how I hope the movie does is that it does enough to do another.”
So until then what is Story doing with his time and does he have anything on the horizon?
“Just reading scripts, we literally just finished [Fantastic Four] two weeks ago.”
Fantastic Four opens in theaters everywhere on July 8th, go check it out and in the meantime check out the largest F4 gallery on the web with 84 stills as well as the numerous amount of trailers and featurettes.