You have to wonder just exactly movie critics were expecting out of this Fantastic Four reboot. Better yet, was this movie an excuse for critics to expound on all their pent up dislike of the current, seemingly endless, barrage of comic book superhero movies clogging up mainstream pop culture at this point?
Like it or not all comic book movies are only middling to good. There’s not really one you can point to and say “Yes, this was all worth millions of dollars to final realize [Insert Comic Book Hero]’s journey to the big screen.”
As I said in my Ant-Man review, Marvel Studios is just making genre films and wedging superheroes in to them. Even the most middling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are buoyed by this ridiculous idea that you need to watch all of them in order to be “in” on the overarching story arc that all these movies portend to.
That being said, I love the general “Fuck You, Marvel!” nature of the 20th Century Fox and Sony Marvel licensed movies. They keep making movies as a way to hold the licensed superheroes like X-Men and Spider-Man hostage, and Marvel just has to watch in horror as each successive “remake” or “reboot” comes to theaters. And critics are there to gleefully pan the shit out of them.
Fantastic Four harkens back to the late 90’s/early 00’s way of making comic book movies: Hire a director to put their “take” on a license, then drown the film in studio notes and general malfeasance and hope that whatever comes out is watchable. It is in the regard that Fantastic Four doesn’t disappoint.
Josh Trank’s Choronicle proved that if given a proper budget, he could do great things with a superhero movie. The bulk of Fantastic Four’s plot proves this out. It’s in the odd seemingly forced in action bits and clearly filmed many months later re-shoot scenes that the movie starts to unravel.
There’s some awful continuity shots in the movie, which I found so-bad-to-be-great and humorous. Sue Storm’s (Kate Mara) hair is a major culprit. One scene it looks normal, then a horrible ill fitting wig in the next, and then sometimes a less horrible wig, perhaps more of a bad dye job filling in. Towards the end of the film Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) sports a clean shaved face only to magically grow a full goatee in the very next scene. Richard Reed (Miles Teller) also gets in on the game with a scruffy five a clock shadow and zitty chin only to be clean shaven and mildly LESS zitty in the next scene. Apparently only The Thing (Jamie Bell) was able to keep up continuity wise.
The humor in all of it is the notion that this movie cost $120 million dollars to make, and no one seemingly gave a shit that the movie played and looked patched together. From the continuity, to the shitty workman like heroes costumes, you have to wonder where all that money went?
Keeping with what I hope will be a continuing trend Fantastic Four clocks in about an hour and forty minutes. Even in its shoddily patched together framework, it doesn’t mess around plot wise. It even has the temerity to just move the film forward a year, because why waste time watching the heroes come to grips with their powers? The film leans on the audience being somewhat familiar with the source material, and perhaps a lot of this “Now the Fantastic Four will be used by the military ‘for reasons’” was more of a studio move than a directorial intention.
Aside from Trank’s recent (now deleted) tweet at dissatisfaction at the finished product, Fantastic Four is a pretty solid movie, outside of the clearly studio added elements that bog down the rest of the film. There are glimpses of a more grounded, less superhero-laden narrative that keeps getting pushed aside for scenes of the Fantastic Four using their powers. The “You’re Only Strong as a Family” sentimentality of the film seems more forced and out of place in this ramshackle version of the film.
It’s also too bad that they had to front load Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) with so much “he’s totally going to be the bad guy” nonsense before he becomes the vaunted archvillian of the movie. Plot-wise it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for him to want to destroy Earth. If he loves Planet Zero sooo much, then why not go back to it and leave well enough alone? Instead he’s all “Y’all be killing the Earth anyways, so fuck you, I’ll kill Earth for you!” and the Fantastic Four are compelled to stop them because they have superpowers. The End.
So if you were wanting an uncut version of a superhero movie, perhaps Fantastic Four isn’t for you. It’s not as a bad as critics are making it out to be, and it’s no less horrible than any of the other dozens of middling comic book movies cluttering up the movie theaters this summer.