Written By: Mike Agostinelli
I don’t recall a movie in recent memory being lambasted as intensely as the newly-rebooted Fantastic Four has been. Does it deserve all of this hatred? Yes and no. But it is undoubtedly a mess, one that could have been less messy without massive studio interference. More on that later.
Fantastic Four begins with a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller) building a small teleportation device with the help of his best pal Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and getting noticed by scientist Franklin Storm when they present it at their high school science fair. Storm has his young daughter Sue in tow (played by the not-attractive-enough-to-play-this-role Kate Mara) as well as a roguish rule-breaking son named Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) causing trouble at home. Eventually, this group converges at the Baxter Institute (a sort of snotty prep school for promising teens located in a massive skyscraper smack dab in the middle of NYC) where they aspire to build a larger version of Reeds machine in order to send a four man team into a recently-discovered alternate dimension. Once Franklin brings his trouble-making former protege Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) back into the mix, you know things will go wrong. And they inevitably do. The mission is a disaster, Doom is presumed dead, and the Fantastic Four are created.
Now, the first hour of this movie really isn’t all that bad. Its biggest sin is that it’s staunchly against being a comic book superhero movie, as well as a Fantastic Four movie. The storyline is based heavily off of the “Ultimate Fantastic Four” comic series, a lesser known reboot type deal that was separate from existing Marvel comic continuity at the time. So what you expect from a traditional Fantastic Four story isn’t present here. Everyone is deathly serious, and characters act in ways you wouldn’t expect them to act based off of your preconceived ideas of these iconic figures. Sue is also European for some incredibly odd and unnecessary reason. But all this gloom aside: you get the feeling director Josh Trank is being allowed to pursue his own unique vision for these characters, and even though it isn’t entirely comic-book accurate, there’s a certain charm in allowing a someone to put their vision on the screen and see where the ride takes us. But then that all suddenly changes.
Once the four gain their powers and are captured by the military, the film suddenly shifts into horror mode. Body parts are stretched, people are moaning and yelling and suffering, heads start exploding upon Dooms expected reappearance, and everything starts falling off the rails at a rapid rate. Then the film decides it wants to be a comic book movie. and at a rate akin to the frenetic pacing of a teenage boyfriend and girlfriend desperately trying to finish their sexual activity before their parents come home, it forces itself to become one and rushes through a meaningless end of the world scenario climax that rings hollow and reeks of studio fiddling. It’s like they realized an hour into the film that they needed to have an action scene, and needed the four to unite against a villain, so they through together a half-assed action sequence in order to justify the films title. But there’s more to this story that the general public seeing this movie will likely ever know.
The director was unofficially “fired” towards the end of production, due to the blowback the studio was receiving when some early leaks came from the set. So in a desperate bid to avoid this, they canned Trank and re-wrote the movies third act, attempting to “give us what we wanted.” But in reality, it ended up ruining the movie even more. While Trank is still listed in the credits as being the films official director, this isn’t his version. It’s two conflicting visions being molded together and forced upon us in order to cash in on the “brand awareness” of these characters. While Trank seemed to be heading in an entirely darker and anti-comic book movie direction with the film, I would have preferred he finished what he started and gave us what he intended instead of us being force fed this mess.
Even with all of this considered, there are some cool things to see here. The Thing is the most badass and cool looking that he has ever been in this film, and little nitpicks aside, the actors are the best thing going in this slop. The complaints about a black Human Torch are totally unfounded, as there is zero issue with Jordan’s performance here and the “flame on” effect actually ends up looking cooler on a black-skinned person anyway. And once the team decides to actually act like the Fantastic Four at the climax, it’s pretty cool. But it also unfortunately conflicts with everything else you’ve seen previously.
I hope one day Tranks original cut of this movie will see the light of day. I would definitely give that a shot, even volunteer to review that again just to compare the differences. Who knows? In an alternate universe maybe his cut opened to fantastic reviews and acclaim. It’s a shame we may never know. Go see Mission:Impossible this weekend instead of this if you haven’t already. I’m still thinking about how epic that was.
I give Fantastic Four a 5.5 out of 10.
Next up: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.