0344 | Fantastic Four

I wasn’t going to watch this latest superhero reboot but my interest was piqued by the slew of negative reviews it received as much as Josh Trank’s widely-publicised tweet, in which the director claimed he had a ‘fantastic version’ of Fantastic Four a year ago, prior to studio interference. Trank didn’t hold final cut, and it seems as though studio 20th Century Fox have butchered his baby with re-writes, re-shoots and poor, enforced editing choices; of course it’s a lot easier for the director to claim he was sitting on a masterpiece than to prove it, but it’s quite telling that much of the exciting-looking material from the trailer has been left out of the version currently in cinemas. I still had some hope for the film, despite all the negative publicity. Is it really that bad? Are there some brief signs of Trank’s lost masterpiece lying amidst all the rubble? Did Jamie Bell’s The Thing get to shout ‘IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!’?

Sadly I have to go along with the consensus, though I feel the way the film has been criticised for its dark, bleak tone is a shame; this could have been a welcome antidote to the largely one-note barrage of films Marvel has been hitting us with (albeit those that fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as opposed to this one, which the titular foursome ostensibly share with the X-Men), and I’ve been waiting for a film that depicts some actual consequence of villainy (outside of the generally-darker DC Comics-related films, at any rate). Trank’s earlier assertation that his film would be influenced by David Cronenberg just about holds sway, and we get to see a little bit of Scanners-style body horror as the Fantastic Four’s nemesis Dr. Doom (Toby Kebbell) goes on a telekinetic skull-exploding rampage, but it’s all too brief and it sadly sits within a very rushed final showdown. This end battle is the first time we see anyone properly flex their powers – it’s all origin story up to that point – but it’s messy and sits unevenly next to the preceding hour-or-so of slow, slow build-up. And that build-up seems to go on forever: aren’t super-hero films supposed to be fun, above all else, even if the stories are predictable and the tone occasionally reflects the characters’ dark sides? This film will only delight the few people in the world who want to watch an unconvincing tale of teenagers experimenting in labs.

In its final, released state Fantastic Four is a largely humorless affair – no-one even calls Reed Richards’ Mister Fantastic (Miles Teller) ‘Stretcho’, for example – and the film seems overly preoccupied with laying down the groundwork for later sequels that may now never come. The cast struggle to inject any life into proceedings, which may well be down to poor acting, poor writing, poor direction, poor editing or a mix of all four, though it’s entirely possible we’ve been presented with a number of hastily-assembled scenes from the cutting room floor that were once rejected by Trank for not being up-to-scratch. Given the continuity errors (particularly with regard to the physical appearance of some characters) it looks as if we have been served a lot of re-shot material, though that isn’t uncommon for big budget super-hero blockbusters, and even that doesn’t explain why the acting is so universally unenthusiastic. Hopefully there’s no lasting damage done to the young cast or their director, whose debut Chronicle I enjoyed, but the game of blame-and-counter-blame currently playing out in public is helping no-one (even if it’s enjoyable to rubberneck). As much as I’ve looked for the angle to write something different and more positive about Fantastic Four I have to concur that it’s a stinker, but at least Bell says ‘IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!’ with a little bit of conviction.

Directed by: Josh Trank.
Written by: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank. Based on Fantastic Four by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby.
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson.
Cinematography: Matthew Jensen.
Editing: Eliot Greenberg, Stephen E. Rivkin.
Music: Marco Beltrami, Philip Glass.
Certificate: 12A.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Year: 2015.

Comments 20

  1. Keith August 13, 2015

    This is indeed a stinker. I think it’s funny that you mention “It’s clobberin’ time”. The movie even screwed that up. The origin of the line comes from an abusive punk beating up his much younger brother. Somehow that transformed into Thing’s signature saying? Ugh, so many terrible things going on in this film. I get what you’re saying about a darker, and bleak tone some are criticizing it for. Personally I didn’t see it as dark or bleak. It was simply bland and lifeless. A total flatline. And I like your question – “aren’t super-hero films supposed to be fun?”

    • Stu August 13, 2015

      Very interesting about the line. I always thought that was from The Thing all along, but my comic book days are long gone (and I never read all that much FF anyway). This was a colossal waste of money but, incredibly, it’s number 1 in the UK and number 2 in the US.

  2. Todd Benefiel August 14, 2015

    It really makes me sick when studios take it upon themselves to change up a director’s film and try to make it ‘right’ in their eyes; I’ll go out of my way to avoid paying for and/or watching such films. And as you know, I’m not a big fan of superhero movies anyway, so this one will definitely be skipped. And what he hell is going on with Dr. Doom and that goofball mask? Ugh!

    • Stu August 14, 2015

      It very rarely works out well, does it? Interesting that the two big superhero films this summer (Ant-Man being the other) have had problems regarding the directors clashing with the studios. The Dr. Doom mask has been widely criticised but I think it’s the one character they actually do something interesting with. For a whole minute.

    • Stu August 15, 2015

      No…I’d say best avoided. Once all the bad reviews started to come in I thought I’d give it a shot just to see if there were any redeeming features but it’s as bad as everyone says. Cheers Ruth.

  3. Writer Loves Movies August 17, 2015

    So you finally gave in and watched this one Stu… thanks for saving me from the temptation! I liked Chronicle and might have been encouraged to see this one if it weren’t for the universally terrible reviews. It sounds like it could have been interesting at one point (I generally prefer the more serious tone of the DC films). It’s a shame for the cast too as they’ve been good elsewhere.

    • Stu August 17, 2015

      I couldn’t resist in the end! I felt drawn to it after all those bad reviews, but no surprise that it’s every bit as poor as expected. It has almost made enough money to justify a sequel though – another $20m or $30m to go. Joy!

  4. Tom September 13, 2015

    Good on you for braving this. I must admit though this film has spawned so much hatred and vitriol from those who have seen it that I’m almost tempted to go in, be surprised by how *not terrible* it is, and then come out and write a glowing recommendation on it. But every time I am close to doing that, I somehow snap out of it and come back to reality. . .

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