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The Fantastic Four trailer, explained for people who don’t read the comic books

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Fox has released the first teaser trailer for The Fantastic Four, giving us our first look at the reboot. The trailer offers plenty of science, some cool superpowers, and even a fleeting shot of the movie's villain.

But if you blinked, you might have missed all of that. There are other mysteries, too — like, why is there such a focus on space exploration in this film?

We broke down the trailer, frame by frame, and created some GIFs to hopefully give you the explanations you need:

What does this movie have to do with science?

The majority of the Fantastic Four trailer is, indeed, focused on space and science. That's something that can be found in the comic books.

In 1961, Marvel was struggling. And in a last ditch effort, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (who would go on to become legends) were commissioned to create a story that could compete with DC's Justice League. The concept they came up with was The Fantastic Four.

At the time, the US was in a Space Race with the Soviets. So Lee and Kirby sent four people — Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm — into space, making them more sci-fi than the Justice League were at the time. And when the four returned, they were never the same.

The team underwent a bit of a revamp in what's known as Marvel's Ultimate universe. The Ultimate universe is a different world from what is generally considered canon. But the storyline is similar — there's a mishap with a teleporter that affects these people in a radical way.

Director Josh Trank and screenwriter Simon Kinberg have said they are using the Ultimates as the source material of the movie characters, but there are still nods to space and science — huge elements from the original comic — in their film.

The Ultimate version of the Four are younger than their main universe counterparts, allowing Trank to add in small touches, like a young Reed Richards conducting science experiments in his room, for an added effect:

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

The 1961 comic was massively popular and went on to save Marvel. Without the Fantastic Four, you wouldn't have the Avengers, the X-Men, or Spider-Man. This is why they group is called the First Family of Marvel comics.

So what's happening in space?

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

In the comic books, the Fantastic Four are bombarded with cosmic rays. In the Ultimate universe, they're teleported to a place called the N-Zone and return altered — both origin stories have them as tales of science gone awry. These bits of the trailer — which Trank tells Yahoo is his imagining of "inter-dimensional travel" — make it look like space (is that the N-Zone?) is super treacherous:

(Fantastic Four)

This shot shows another treacherous situation for a person in a space suit. (It's hard to tell who it is.)

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

If Trank and Kinberg are making a bigger statement on space and the horrors that it brings — that would actually be a nifty move and nod to the original book too.

So, who are the Fantastic Four?

(Fantastic Four/Marvel)

In the comic book, the Fantastic Four are a family unit. Susan and Johnny Storm are siblings. Reed Richards is Susan's love interest (and eventual husband). And Ben Grimm is Reed's best friend.

The main star of the Fantastic Four is Richards, played by Miles Teller in the movie. He's one of the smartest men in the Marvel universe. You can tell he's smart in the movie because he's wearing glasses:

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

Richards eventually gains the power to stretch his limbs to fantastic lengths (and apparently not wear glasses):

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

The coolest and arguably the most powerful member of the Four is Susan Storm, a bioengineer in the Ultimate universe, who is played by Kate Mara. Largely thanks to sexism, Susan started off in the comic being called "Invisible Girl", while the men got names like Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, and The Human Torch.

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

Over the years and through various writers, Sue's powers have been upgraded and her title has changed slightly. She's now The Invisible Woman, and she has the power to construct forcefields and invisible objects like bridges, spheres, and battering rams with her mind. We see a bit of that in the trailer:

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

Sue's brother, Johnny, played by Michael B. Jordan, has the flashiest power set.

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

You can see it two GIFs above. He can turn himself into living flame and throw fire around. It's also apparently very useful for lighting up dark hallways:

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

When Jordan was cast, there was a bit of furor because the actor is black. In the comics, the two siblings are white. Some fans couldn't get past the idea of their favorite character being a different skin tone, or that siblings can be of different races.

"You can't make everybody happy. You just gotta accept that and know. I'm an actor, I have to do my job. I'm going to do my job the best I can and the way I've been doing it my entire life, my entire career," Jordan said during a press event last March.

The final member is Ben Grimm, played by Jamie Bell. Grimm, in his Ultimate iteration, has been best friends with Reed Richards since childhood:

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

Grimm got the short end of the stick. Unlike the others, Grimm gets the power of super-strength but is imbued with ugly rock skin and a deformed appearance:

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

What makes the Fantastic Four cool?

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

At the time of their creation, the Fantastic Four were unique in that they made no effort to hide their superhuman powers. Their peers — like Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and even characters that came after them like Spider-Man — were all concerned about maintaining their secret identity. The Four explored the other side of that coin.

Their tale explores the element of superhero celebrity and the pressure of being held accountable to that celebrity. Running away and hiding in a cave is not an option for Reed Richards.

Another theme that the comic explored is Grimm's painful story. At the time, superheroes were really good-looking. Grimm looked like a monster, and he knew it, lived with it, and struggled with his heroism in a world that feared him. To readers, Grimm became a beacon of love and hope. It wouldn't be hard to take elements of Grimm's story and see it as an allegory for race or sexuality.

But what made the Fantastic Four so popular was the intimacy you felt with the characters. They each had distinct traits, and there was often friction within the group. Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, explains:

Never before had a comic-book team been shaded with such distinct personalities. In a nearly revolutionary flourish, the Thing was even conceived as 'a heavy-not really a good guy,' who might go rogue at any moment, a far cry from the upstanding citizenship of Superman and Green Lantern.

But there was beauty in overcoming these differences. And understanding these characters' feelings, personalities, and dynamic was even more satisfying when you watched them save the day.

Who is the bad guy?

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

The Fantastic Four's main enemy is Dr. Doom. In the comics, he's known as Victor Von Doom — or Victor Van Damme in the Ultimate version — and he's absolutely iconic. He's fought with everyone from the Fantastic Four to the X-Men and the Avengers. Most recently, in the Axis storyline, he was a good guy.

The movie is altering that a bit, and calling the character Victor Domashev. He'll be played by the British actor Toby Kebbell, who told Collider that Doom would be a programmer:

He's Victor Domashev, not Victor Von Doom in our story. And I'm sure I'll be sent to jail for telling you that. The Doom in ours-I'm a programmer. Very anti-social programmer. And on blogging sites I'm "Doom".

There's brief moment in the trailer (see the GIF above), where a metal-faced man emerges from the dark and looks like he's going to wreck some (army?) personnel. The place where Doom (if that is Doom) is walking looks like it could be the same place where Richards is seen talking to someone:

(Fantastic Four/Fox)

Who owns the Fantastic Four?

Fox owns the Fantastic Four's movie rights, meaning that the chances of the characters crossing over with the Avengers (a Marvel property) in the movies are pretty much nil.

And there's something interesting going on in the comics. At New York Comic Con last year, Marvel announced it was canceling the series ("The End is Fourever"). This came amid mountains of rumors that Marvel higher-ups were trying to freeze Fox out by not creating any new stories for the Four.

What would be interesting is if the Fantastic Four is a gigantic hit. There's already a sequel planned for 2017. Would The Fantastic Four's success spur Marvel to rekindle the series and take advantage of the momentum? Or would it continue to, in some critics' and fans' eyes, freeze out the franchise?

Can we talk about the other Fantastic Four film? The one with Jessica Alba?

Nope. We must not speak it's name. That would only give it power.

When is The Fantastic Four coming out?

The Fantastic Four hits theaters on August 7.