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So, Fantastic Four is officially a flop, which shouldn't really come as a surprise for a film that has been plagued with portentous set-backs, confusing slip-ups, and creative frustration since day one. (Vulture's timeline of the reboot's doomed buzz is a delicious read.) The all-around critical and commercial failure of this dully gratuitous dud is sure to reflect badly on 20th Century Fox and disgruntled director Josh Trank, who'd be well-advised to make a quick return to the lower-budgeted landscape of his 2012 sci-fi sleeper hit Chronicle.
Who won't be burnt by this flop? The Fantastic Four themselves, of course! Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Miles Teller are all exceptionally gifted young actors whose participation in this ill-fated franchise probably reflects badly on their agents and managers, but will likely leave the performers themselves pretty much unscathed. But, then again, what are four actors of their considerable caliber doing wasting away the prime years of their developing careers in an unmistakable money-grab like this? Let's play fixer and take a quick look at the state of each actor's career, one of which might be in particularly dire need of immediate image rehabilitation.
Who He Plays: The Thing, i.e. Michael Chiklis' surprising successor
Where You Know Him From: a BAFTA-winning breakout star as Billy Elliott's pint-sized ballet dreamer; motion-captured in the title role of Steven Spielberg's animated The Adventures of Tintin; doing his period-historical thing in AMC's 18th-century espionage series TURN
What He Should Do Next: The British Bell has worked heavily since that glowing Billy debut but he's never fully broken out as an adult actor, despite high-profile collaborations with A-list directors as immanently desirable as Clint Eastwood (Flags of Our Fathers), Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre), Peter Jackson (King Kong), and Lars Von Trier (Nymphomaniac: Vol. II), as well as ambitious teamings with lesser-known visionaries like South Korea's Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) and fellow Brit David Mackenzie (Hallam Foe). Bell was this close to a historic Best Actor nomination for Billy back in 2000 and I think a(nother) breakthrough is bound to occur in due time if Bell keeps up this steady working arrangement with international auteurs of variously appealing mainstream and indie sensibilities — and steers clear of any more stone-covered superheroes.
Michael B. Jordan
Who He Plays: The Human Torch, i.e. a full-bodied fire-starter
Where You Know Him From: a spirited and stirring breakout as Oscar Grant in Ryan Coogler's moving memorial Fruitvale Station; stealing your heart as replacement quarterback Vince on everyone's favorite show, Friday Night Lights; breaking your heart as The Wire's poor, wee Wallace; one of the central trio of buds in Trank's Chronicle
What He Should Do Next: Whatever he wants. Not even a whooper of a summer letdown can prevent Jordan from becoming the big star that he is surely destined to become, even though he's far from being a foreigner to the business. Excitement is running high for his Rocky spin-off Creed, which casts Jordan as the fighter son of Apollo Creed and reunites the actor with his Fruitvale director Coogler. But I'm even more excited for Just Mercy, a just-announced indie drama from Short Term 12 director Destin Cretton about real-life equal rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson that Jordan recently joined. I love that he's embracing bigger-budget commercial opportunities while also participating in the sort of smaller-budgeted independent fare that really gives a young actor of his delightful and dynamic presence the chance to fully shine. Hollywood better not drop the ball on this one.
Who She Plays: The Invisible Woman, i.e. the horridly-bewigged scientific brains behind the operation
Where You Know Her From: House of Cards' dogged, dearly-missed reporter Zoe Barnes; perfectly, poignantly memorable as Heath Ledger's daughter during Brokeback Mountain's latter act; a banshee on American Horror Story's first season
What She Should Do Next: Firstly, how upsetting is it that the the chief superpower of the film's lone female lead is... her invisibility? Secondly, I worry, like many, that Kate is fated to live in baby sister Rooney's shadow for the remainder of her career, and it's not for lack of trying — or talent. As evidenced in Brokeback, Mara can play a moving Normal Girl but she also shares a similar if more grounded knack for almost febrile darkness with her Oscar-nominated sibling. David Fincher, Beau Willimon, and the rest of the House of Cards team channeled this quality to boisterously electrifying effect, but I've yet to see it channeled with as much interest or intensity on film. Mara has plenty of projects on her docket with everyone from Dito Montiel (Man Down) to Ridley Scott (The Martian) but I hope she begins holding out for collaborators who can mold her gifts into roles that are infinitely more challenging and explorative than Sue Storm. She may not be Lisbeth Salander, but she also deserves to be front and center.
Who He Plays: Mr. Fantastic himself, i.e. the group's nerdy frontman
Where You Know Him From: ceding over the spotlight but still holding his own against the J.K. Simmons juggernaut in Whiplash; painfully vivid as a teenage alcoholic in the high school drama The Spectacular Now; making a smart, sensitive debut opposite Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole; this endlessly embarrassing Esquire profile, published last week
What He Should Do Next: Go away...
Kidding. But seriously, Teller should probably stop granting interviews and speaking to the press for a while. The actor, who apparently squabbled with Trank during production, might have been immune to the film's belly-flop were it not for that rotten Esquire piece, which he has no one to blame for but himself. Self-entitled dickishness runs deep in Hollywood and Miles Teller has just become the unwitting face of it.
The best thing for Teller to do now is to, quite simply, act. Any young performer would be proud to have Spectacular, Rabbit, and Whiplash within his relatively fresh filmography, and the types of astutely-drawn and emotionally layered roles that each film has offered him are infinitely more impressive than the fratty, forgettable fluff that he's been all too eager to waste his time on as of late. If Miles Teller wants to become the next Sean Penn or — ugh — "Joaq" then he should probably cool it with the 21 & Overs and That Awkward Moments that only make him look like every other wannabe Brando nobodies roaming interchangeably through Los Angeles. Teller has always felt more at home in an indie atmosphere, anyway. He needs to find more Damien Chazelles and John Cameron Mitchells and James Ponsoldts who actually care and respect the thoughtful, tenderhearted teens Teller has played for them. At 28, Teller's probably done with these parts but that doesn't mean there aren't storytellers who are crafting adult roles with similarly rich feeling and generosity. It's just a matter of seeking them out. I doubt he'll ever be Jack Nicholson, but he's not Ansel Elgort either. If he can manage to get over himself and treat this incident as a much-needed learning lesson, Miles Teller might very well end up becoming Miles Teller, which, based on the promise of what we've seen so far, might not actually be so bad.