Fantastic Four / Fant4stic (2015)

So I’m looking at the very brutal 8% score at Rotten Tomatoes and it really feels like overkill to me. The movie is undoubtedly far from perfect but the overwhelming, even a bit gleeful, hate that the movie has received feels excessive. Even with the knowledge of all the executive meddling and massive changes implemented by the studio and the overall perverting of Trank’s original vision of the movie, despite all that, I have to admit that I did kinda end up liking the theatrical cut. It’s horribly flawed to say the least, but to a degree, IMO, entirely enjoyable. While the 2015 edition of Fantastic Four certainly is disappointing when compared to other more successful superheroes movies of late, it nowhere near deserves this level of universal panning and the followed schadenfreude that it has received so far. The movie is not awful, just very mediocre. If there ever comes a day when it would be allowed to exist, I could very well see a Director’s Cut (that restores Trank’s vision) fixing a lot of the flaws, the same way Fox’s 2003 Daredevil was redeemed by its Director’s Cut. 

Out of all the criticism the movies has received, the ones aimed at the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm  never made much sense to me. Was it weird when Johnny was cast as a black guy? Sure, initially. But it works within the context of the story: Sue’s adopted by the Storm family early on, so Johnny and she are still siblings. So, with that intact, who cares that he’s black. Johnny still acts like Johnny, and it’s not like it was somehow vital for his character to remain white. And as it turns out, Jordan’s easily one of the best things in the entire movie. He’s very likable and even has a surprisingly well crafted character arc, which I honestly had no expected. 

Another common complaint was Dr. Doom and his design, which to be fair, looked pretty horrible in production stills. And while I had reservations going into the movie, it does kinda grow on you. Not the way I personally would have liked to see Doom depicted, but within the movie, entire acceptable. He is, after all, more of a mutated monster due to the accident, like the entire Fantastic Four are in this version. The reason why it works is lighting, especially in the scenes where Doom is in the other dimension where it nicelyblends to the shadows and makes the design look surprisingly menacing. The bigger issue with Doom is that his motivation to blow up Earth doesn’t quite have enough clarity. He’s clearly gone a bit batty after spending a year on Planet Zero but showing it in the story doesn’t quite come off as well as it should. It’s entirely the fault of the re-shoots that changed the entire third act, but it probably didn’t help that his metallic, melted face is so static that it doesn’t properly convey emotions. Despite its faults, I did find myself liking this version of Doom. His Scanners inspired head explosion powers and arrogance was very well done and the entire sequence where he effortlessly walks through the base and ruthlessly kills anyone in his path sent chills to my spine.

What else? On the positive side, I liked Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm/The Thing. He had a good buddy dynamic with Miles Teller, which I wasn’t expecting. Reg E. Cathey was great as pappa Storm, and it was a pity he ends up dying in the end. He would have made a great authority figure in future movies, but I suppose with the flick tanking this badly at the box office, that doesn’t really matter now. I wasn’t sure whether or not Kate Mara would make a good Sue Storm, but she did a bang up job here even if she didn’t blow you away. Her powers were also very well done, for the first time everything from turning invisible to her force fields looked cool on the big screen.

 The downside of being a reboot is that while we do get a fresh, new reinvisioned version of the Fantastic Four, we again have sit through the classic origin story. Thankfully, this time around we actually get pretty good and drawn out  intro to the characters before they get their powers, so there’s more to the movie than standard cape tropes. The entire first half about building the teleporter is great. Everyone is likable, there are some cute little character moments and the movie feels like its genuinely building up to something new and different. And then the accident that gives them powers happens and everything slowly starts to fall apart around thanks to the re-shot footage that completely changes the third act. You for example start to get scenes that result in an awkward and wonky leaps in the narrative because the movie suddenly out of the blue tries to become more of a traditional superhero movie rather than a Cronenbergian body horror movie with superhero elements. This includes such things as an abrupt one year time skip, character interaction and motivation development being suddenly minimal after emphasizing everybody getting along as they worked on the project, Sue’s hair looking different, etc. The whole last third of the movie is a mess as a result.

It’s a pity we couldn’t get the version of the movie Trank wanted to make, because Trank’s original idea actually seemed pretty interesting. I quite liked where he was going with the characters, and the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics being a heavy influence on this particular, more Sci-Fi heavy take on the movie FF gave the movie a much needed distance from the previous attempts at making FF. Oh well, c’est la vie.

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