[Warning: The Following Contains SPOILERS From Fantastic Four.]
After two lukewarmly-received movies released a few years ago, 20th Century Fox put into development a reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise. This new take on the iconic Marvel Comics mythos assembled an impressive lineup of young, up-and-coming actors, such as Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller. Meanwhile, we have promising newcomer Josh Trank as director, following his acclaimed film Chronicle. Throw that in with Fox’s recent track record – the last few installments of the X-Men and Planet of the Apes franchises were excellent – and you’d think that you would have a winner.
Unfortunately, this film has been, to say the least, controversial among fans. Comic book fans have been particularly critical of Fantastic Four, from Doctor Doom’s characterization to the “costume” designs to casting an African-American as Johnny Storm (really guys?). Meanwhile, there have been rumors of Trank acting very unprofessionally behind-the-scenes, as well as extensive reshoots. We don’t know whether the former was true, but judging from the final product, you can tell that something was up in the editing room.
Fantastic Four has received particularly negative reviews from fans and critics, gaining a shocking 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. While I was disappointed by the film, I do not think it was that bad. In fact, the first half of the film was genuinely very good. While there were a few eye-roll worthy moments – references to Dr. Doom and Thing’s “It’s Clobberin’ Time” catchphrase came across as corny and parodic – I was really impressed with the character development. I was invested in all four of the leads, and the actors all had fantastic (no pun intended) chemistry together. The film took its time to explore these characters and their interactions…for the first half, anyways.
Then, all of the sudden, Fantastic Four rushes through its second half. Any further character development was rushed, there was little action (and when there was, it didn’t last long), and the final battle between Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four was severely underwhelming. You can tell that the studio intervened here, in an attempt to turn the film into a generic superhero movie at the last minute. The editing was a mess, from the random one year time-jump to a lot of missing pieces. Trank had a fascinating vision going on, and suddenly, Fox disrupts it – probably to try to make it more appealing to comic book fans.
For example, during the reshoots, Victor Domashev is renamed to the classic Victor Von Doom, which was not necessary. The studio should have let Trank continue doing what he was doing; even if it wasn’t an extremely faithful adaptation, it would have been worth it if the movie itself was great. So yeah, fanboys should be careful what they wish for.
Speaking of Doctor Doom, the character was seriously wasted. He is lost on Planet Zero, and next time we see him, he has undergone a radical (and ugly) physical transformation. However, Victor’s motivation as a villain makes little sense. He wants to rebuild the human race in his image, destroy Earth because…why, exactly? It felt like the character was abandoned for the middle of the movie, which could have been used to flesh him out further. Thus, his turn to the dark side had little impact. Again, his clash against the Fantastic Four was forgettable. And it looked like he was killed by his portal’s energy beam. While they theoretically could find a way to bring him back in a sequel – if it even happens or if he really did die – Doctor Doom is far too big a character to kill off in the first movie. If that was what happened, then what a shame. I was very impressed with Toby Kebbell’s performance as Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, increasing my anticipation for his Doctor Doom. Unfortunately, poor writing and editing made him perhaps the most disappointing comic book movie villain of 2015.
However, the movie was not entirely bad. As I said before, the four leads are well cast, and I loved the chemistry they had together. Miles Teller is really good as Reed Richards, making him a likable protagonist. Michael B. Jordan is an excellent Johnny Storm; he’s a charismatic wiseass who should prove the doubters wrong with this performance, even if he didn’t have the best material to work with. Kate Mara is great as Sue Storm, while Jamie Bell is very good as Ben Grimm. It was interesting to see these characters struggle with their new abilities. I just wish they spent more time developing this before rushing to the final act.
The visuals of Fantastic Four were pretty good. While they weren’t particularly unique or groundbreaking, they got the job done. Planet Zero looked particularly stunning, while I was impressed with how they brought The Thing to life. I also liked the score, as well as the cinematography. The tone was a little iffy; while I loved the idea of a more grounded and character-driven Fantastic Four movie, I would have liked to see at least a little more fun and energy injected.
In conclusion, Fantastic Four is another disappointing adaptation of the iconic Marvel Comics team. While there are a lot of great elements in place, this movie is a perfect example of what happens when a studio ruins a director’s story – moreso than how Sony messed up the Amazing Spider-Man films. Fantastic Four has a great first act, with strong character development and excellent acting. However, in the second half, the film turns into a disjointed, generic superhero flick with flawed pacing and a rushed outcome. I was rooting for this movie to succeed, and I was one of its biggest defenders over the past year. However, it did not reach my expectations. Whether or not the sequel happens is still up in the air, but personally, I’m not expecting it, unless it overperforms at the box office.
Still, I would like to see this cast in a better Fantastic Four movie. They deserve it. Fingers crossed that Fox learns from this experience and does not interfere with a promising new vision from a director. There’s a lot of untapped potential in this franchise; the studio just hasn’t fully embraced it yet.