Barely Okay Four
Thanks to 20th Century Fox we had the chance to see ‘The Fantastic Four’ before its national release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
From its initial conception in 2012 The Fantastic Four-reboot had been fighting an uphill battle. 20th Century Fox tried to be clever by hiring up and coming Chronicle-director Josh Trank along with cast members who had all appeared in critically acclaimed movies. Fanboys were displeased, but that’s no real reason for a studio to be worried. Alarm bells started to ring during the shoot when all kinds of malicious rumors leaked left, right and center; There were stories going round saying the studio would have lost faith in the movie, and sources from the set claimed that Trank would have been impossible to work with, as he would have often shown up on set either high or not at all. Initially these stories seemed to be just rumors, until serious media outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and the Guardian started to pay attention to what supposedly went on behind the scenes in some excellent long form articles.
Recent rumors about additional last-minute reshoots were denied only by Trank himself, and Star Wars producers Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams, who initially hired the filmmaker to direct one of the Star Wars spin-offs, quickly backtracked on handing him the keys to the kingdom of a galaxy far far away. Just when things started to look good again as a quite okay-looking final trailer for the reboot was released weeks before the release, the distributor announced there would be a review embargo until the day it comes out, which is almost always a bad sign.
Now the movie with the most negative buzz of 2015 is finally here, and low and behold: the new Fantastic Four-movie is not that bad. It is far from fantastic but it’s definitely not the Craptastic Bore that fanboys were fearing. Compared to other comic book movies it is a lot like Ang Lee’s Hulk, another rather uninspired comic book adapation. Both movies were made by directors that got too self-indulgent and drifted too far from their source material, and as a result both films ended up being fish nor flesh. Another similarity is that both feature a lot of talk about science and not enough action. Just like we only got to see the Hulk smash tanks and helicopters in the last ten minutes of the 2003-film, in the 2015 edition of Fantastic Four we also only get to see the main characters in action at the end of the movie. Which is pretty bad considering the movie is only 100 minutes long, more than half of which is spent on a not so interesting build-up to their other-dimensional mission.
The story is practically the same as in the disappointing 2005 & 2007 movies: scientist Reed Richards (Miles Teller, fantastic in Whiplash) leads a mission into another dimension. Accompanying him are fellow scientist Sue Storm (Kate Mara, fantastic in House of Cards), her brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan, fantastic in Fruitvale Station and The Wire) and Reed’s old mate Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell, most recently fantastic with other Johnny Storm Chris Evans in Snowpiercer). The space mission goes horribly wrong and gives the foursome superpowers not unlike the four elements: Reed can stretch his body like liquid, Sue becomes invisible and creates force fields, Johnny becomes a “Human Torch” of fire, while Ben changes into “The Thing”, an indestructible monster made of rock. Together they have to face their former colleague Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who also went along on the mission but got trapped in the other world and comes back to earth as a super-villain.
Main issue with this Fantastic Four-Film is that it’s a typical example of a movie where the studio came up with the release date first, then the director, then the cast and finally, almost as an afterthought, the screenplay. The result is just okay as a rental, or if you got a few hours to kill on a flight where you’ve seen all the other movies in the inflight entertainment program already. Indeed video on demand, rental and inflight entertainment will be where this film will recoup most of its losses. If Fox wants to earn back their millions they lost on this film they should just let someone make a revealing hearts of darkness-style documentary about what really went wrong behind the scenes. That would make for a far more interesting and entertaining film than we have now.
Considering the outlandish rumors surrounding the film the outcome is not half the trainwreck people were expecting. For a movie that apparently didn’t even have a director it ended up quite okay, especially as this reboot is better than the 2005 & 2007 ones. It is just not Fantastic, which has become the standard we expect from comic book movies in this day and age of excellent Avengers and X-men-blockbusters dominating the worldwide box office. As “Marvel’s First Family” carries the adjective in their name, they should be at least as Fantastic as the other massive Marvel-franchises out there. Who knows what will happen next time, as it is quite possible that after this misstep the rights to the Fantastic Four will revert back to Marvel Studios. Another possibility is that Fox will ask for Marvel’s help in getting the franchise right, just like Sony did with Spider-Man after the failure that was Amazing Spider-Man 2. Ironically enough there are a lot of comic book fans out there who want this reboot to bomb, so that Marvel can regain the rights to four of their prime characters.
But would we need yet another reboot of this franchise? Yes we do, because if the source material is treated right, you can have an amazing film that is just as much fun as the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. The proof is out there, as they already made a great film that captures exactly the right mix of fun and adventure that the Fantastic Four comics are all about. We are not talking about the 2005 or the 200 version, or about the unreleased Roger Corman film from the nineties. No, we are of course referring to Brad Bird‘s The Incredibles – still the best Fantastic Four movie ever made!
Fantastic Four is now showing in cinemas