Fantastic Four (2015)
Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell
To hate or not to hate the new Fantastic Four, that is the question. Fantastic Four, I knew them well Horatio, or as well as I was going to know them, cause this is another franchise that Hollywood just can’t seem to get right. What the hell? How hard can it be? What keeps getting in the way of making a good Fantastic Four movie over at 20th Century Fox? Well, for one, they have a habit of rushing a project so they won’t lose the rights to it. This nasty habit is really getting on my nerves because the results are half assed movies that are made in a rush to compete with the contracts dead line. They did it with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and they’ve done it again with The Fantastic Four (2015). But let’s put things in perspective, this project was doomed from the very beginning, first up, nowadays, people only want their Marvel movies to come from Disney/Marvel; they don’t want Marvel from 20th Century Fox. If it isn’t purely Marvel, it’s a twisted, mutant half breed that no one wants. So the guys making this Fantastic Four movie had that to work against. They also had behind the scenes drama, and once the public gets a whiff that a production is muddled by production woes, well, it becomes tainted. Audiences lose their confidence in the project and usually it tanks. Look at what happened with Terminator: Salvation (2009), people heard about the behind the scenes squabbles between Christian Bale and the film’s director and boom, the film tanks at the box office. There was certainly an air of doom over this new Fantastic Four film, what was going to be the ultimate fate for this reboot?
Well, the film gods have spoken and they have deemed this reboot unworthy. Not me, I actually enjoyed it and kept telling myself throughout the films running time “this isn’t that bad!” It’s an origin story and it flows like one. Like so few movies today, this new Fantastic Four film starts out by taking its time to tell its story, to flesh out its characters; it gives us time to get to know them. Unfortunately, the film becomes a rushed job somewhere around its second half; suddenly the film is in this rush to tell everything. So anyhow, following the formula of an origin tale, we don’t get the full blown version of the Fantastic Four until the very end, when they finally learn that they can use their powers collectively to beat the villain. And I’m fine with that; this is the film where they discover who they’ve become. It handled that well I think. People are bitching and moaning because supposedly it doesn’t have action, yet I thought the film has the same beats and amounts of action that any super hero film has. This movie was no different than any other origin tale, and maybe that’s where the film falters. It’s formulaic. It goes through all those beats that an origin story must go through. Characters get powers, they don’t know how to use them well, they learn, then they beat the villain; in that order. So I’d say that you shouldn’t expect anything ground breaking in terms of story development, you might find yourself predicting events.
It seems to me Josh Trank wanted a serious, dark version of the super hero movie, whereas 20th Century Fox wanted something that was accessible to the whole family. So the film is uneven in tone in that sense, so we get dark visuals accompanied by simplistic dialog, which is really where the film fails for me. It wasn’t the fact that Ben Grimm wasn’t wearing spandex undies and boots, it wasn’t changing the characters ethnicities that rattled my bones and it wasn’t this films version of Dr. Doom that grated me, it was that god awful simplistic dialog that makes the characters sound like 12 year olds. But I let it go because I guess they were marketing the film primarily with that target audience in mind. Which is yet another problem because if the film has simplistic dialog put in there so kids won’t get “lost” with the film, then why do we have a Dr. Doom exploding various bodies and heads with telekinetic powers? Why is it that when the characters discover their powers the film feels like a horror movie? Not that I mind that stuff, that bloody violence was a cool touch in my book, it made things a bit more menacing, but in a film that’s clearly made with a younger audience in mind, it just felt a bit out of place. But I will say this, I saw the movie accompanied by a 5 year old and to my surprise he was glued to the screen, didn’t fall asleep for a second. So for those who say this movie is boring…I beg to differ. Shoot me, I liked all the dimension traveling stuff, the machines, the sound effects. It was cool sci-fi territory in my book.
It’s true, you do feel, especially on the films second half, that things aren’t flowing properly and I’m willing to bet that this is where the studio interfered the most. And it’s not that it was slow, it’s more like there are bits and pieces of the story that weren’t filmed, or were excised all together. Hell, one look at the trailers and you’ll see a fare share of scenes that were completely eliminated from the film. You’ll feel like things are happening way to fast, suddenly its see you later Dr. Doom and while it was all a tasty cgi spectacle, superior to the fight the Fantastic Four had with Dr. Doom in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), it does feel like a rushed job, like a last minute attempt to wow us and send us home happy. But today’s audiences are savvy, and they know when they are being cheated out of a proper comic book film. Still, through the mess, there are glimmers of a good film that shine through. For example, while a lot of people are complaining about Dr. Doom not looking like their beloved man in the Iron Mask, I still enjoyed this version of Doom with green eyes and telekinetic abilities. There’s this moment where Doom goes all Akira and starts blowing up people’s heads with the power of his mind and to me that was just, well, really cool, what can I say. It proves that Josh Trank still has a hard on for making an Akira movie. Sadly, after this fiasco, I doubt he’ll get to make another big budget summer flick, if he does it will be some sort of Hollywood miracle, that or Trank has connections.
Sure Fantastic Four is not a great comic book film, especially when we take in consideration that it was a troubled production because of the animosity between the studio and director. The director of this film is Josh Trank, the guy who made Chronicle (2012) which in my book was a damn fine movie, so underrated, which makes me wonder what the hell happened here, something wasn’t working properly that’s for sure. There was definitely a disturbance in the force. If anything, what this new Fantastic Four film demonstrates is how a director works best when given complete artistic reign over a project. Trank had that when he made Chronicle, which was a smaller production, with less studio pressure and the result was a great science fiction film. It’s a different story when you play with the big boys. If you can’t take the heat, get out of that kitchen kid! Apparently, Josh Trank just couldn’t take the heat; he even went as far as disowning the film on Tweeter stating that he had a good film planned out a year ago, and that the one we’re getting in theaters just isn’t it. Dude, that’s like shooting down your film! If the film had any chances of recovering its budget due to audience curiosity, that comment you posted just shot those chances to hell.
Trank says that the studio interfered, that they messed with his vision, followed by a “that’s the truth though” Meaning, he’s trying to be honest, sadly, Trank’s probably burned a couple of bridges down in Hollywood. It looks to me that after posting comments like those on social media, we won’t be seeing any more films directed by Mr. Trank any time soon, and that’s some truth right there as well. New filmmakers must remember that when you make this type of big budget studio film, you have to play ball. You have to know that commercial filmmaking is a fine juggling act between making a marketable film the studio can sell (and make hefty profits from) and satisfying yourself as an artist. If you go full blown “I am an artist, this is MY film and fuck you studio guys!” Well, you’re not going to get very far in this business, and yes it is a business. When making this type of Geronimo picture, the filmmaker must remember they are making a film for the studio, you are hired by them, they are the boss of you during the whole production. Remember kids, commercial filmmaking is 50 percent art and 50 percent business; one can’t go without the other. And you have to be a professional, not a 12 year old kid with a hissy fit. Still, it seems to me people are on a hive like mentality with this one, they are not even giving it a chance, which is sad because at the very least, this film is a million times better then Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) combined, which is an achievement in my book. My hatred for those Tim Story Fantastic Four films knew no boundaries! I certainly hate them more than this one. Bottom line, this isn’t a perfect film but I’ve seen far worse. Twentieth Century Fox has just stated that they are not giving up on this franchise, even though this film has flopped hard at the box office. Of course they are not going to let go of it, it’s a cash cow just like the Spider Man or X-Men franchises, unfortunately, Fantastic Four is a cash cow that 20th Century Fox hasn’t figured out how to milk properly.
Rating: 2 out of 5