Director: Josh Trank
Words: J. Senior
It’s hard to besmirch this film from the off without identifying who is truly to blame for the failure of Fantastic Four. However, you’ll have a job on trying to actually pin the blame on one individual alone. The whole affair has been a behind closed doors debacle, the likes of which blockbusters haven’t seen for a good few years. Let’s then look at the facts we know; Josh Trank fresh off of indie hit Chronicle directed the film and his name remains attached to the final project, yet an outburst on Twitter last week all but confirmed that Trank had nothing to do with the final cut, and that he has a director’s cut ocked away in a vault somewhere that he says is actually “pretty good”… so it’s not completely his fault… then who’s is it? Simon Kinberg who wrote and produced the thing too has had a hand in there somewhere, and more rumours have circulated that it was he who locked Trank out of the editing suite and finished the movie off in an attempt to polish off the turd that had floated up after filming was over. The fact that Trank was sacked from Star Wars: Rogue One, a Kinberg project also, points a big finger towards a falling out between these two. Finally we can even consider 20th Century Fox to blame, for just rushing another reboot to hang onto the rights to The Fantastic Four, much like Sony did with The Amazing Spider-man 2, which for the record I loved, but the rest of the world hated, leading to a new deal being struck with Marvel to incorporate the character into the MCU. Phew… that’s a lot of school playground shit going on there… so let’s just say to whoever had the final say on this movie, it absolutely sucked and lets get onto looking at why.
Fantastic Four attempts to reintroduce us to “Marvel’s First Family” Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. Or as I like to call them Stretch, Ghost, Candle and Pebble. The film essentially sets out to bring the characters more in line with the in-vogue darker comic book tales like The Dark Knight and falls flat on its face in comparison. What we have here is 70 minutes of expositional dialogue, interjected with a brief section where some green lava gives four “teenagers” super powers, that then culminates in a twenty minute long action set piece that couldn’t even entertain a six year old boy. It really is that bad, at no point is it entertaining or mildly captivating, it fails on all levels of human entertainment. Which is bad for a film that is trying to be gritty and more grounded in reality. Trank has said publicly that three of the action sequences he shot were cut from the movie, so that’s one big FU to whoever put this bastard together because it feels like you’re watching a half decent film until you realise there’s probably a whole hour or so of footage and story they just cut out of the middle. The reasoning for this cannot be confirmed but we never get to see that bit where The Thing falls from a plane and then attacks a tank… shame it looked cool in the trailer. The jump forward 12 months somewhere around the mid point of the movie does little to help this.
If you do a bit of digging alarm bells started ringing for Fox around a year ago when brief snippets of information about the director’s intentions for the story began to leak online. Initially Fantastic Four would have seen Reed Richards and Ben Grimm altered by some form of cosmic energy at age Sixteen, giving them their powers, the result being that they were kidnapped by the government and forced to act as super soldiers, this is touched on slightly towards the end of the film, The Thing does this stuff off camera though so we never really confront this notion properly. Had Trank persevered with this story line it doesn’t explain how Sue and Johnny Storm get dragged into the mix and is a tad bit confusing, but it’s something I wouldn’t have minded seeing.
Plus, Tony Kebbell did that interview where he came out and said his character name was Victor Domyshev and he was only called “Doom” online. This is completely altered in the film with some throw away dialogue about how Victor Von Doom is a loose cannon and they briefly allude to the notion that he was a hacker of some sort who dabbled in inter-dimensional travel. It’s actually quite clear how badly reworked this is within the film. The villain is often a films selling point and they use sloppy sentences and cut away shots to warp what could have been an interesting and abstract character. It feels here like Fox missed a big chance to produce a villain that would have been much different than any seen in a comic book movie before, but they instead shoe horn Doctor Doom into the plot right at the end and simultaneously kill him off in one fell swoop. Doom spends a period of exactly twelve months in the alternate dimension and suddenly appears dressed in a cloak? WHERE DID HE GET THE CLOAK FROM??? In his scenes on screen, as Doctor Doom, the villain himself is trapped inside a mask that doesn’t show his lips move at all so it’s obvious Kebbell just recorded some extra dialogue and they got a body double to do all the villainous walking down corridors and stuff. Metal Machiavelli he is, scary he is not.
At points you can actually see the moments where Kinberg or the other editors just simply went “stick that scene there, swap that one for that one, take that out and hey presto”, we meet Richards and Grimm when they are kids then jump ahead to when they are supposed to be Seventeen, if you can suspend belief and convince yourself Miles Teller and Jamie Bell look Seventeen then you may enjoy this film. Richards gets picked to join an elite research facility after he nearly blows up his school’s gym and after teaming up with Victor Von Doom he solves inter-dimensional travel in a few weeks. Ben Grimm is left out of all this because his family live in a scrapyard and Kate Mara’s Sue Storm who is “good at recognising patterns” does things on a big keyboard that seem to help them fix things. The actors on screen are so poorly used that you’ll notice Sue Storm never even comes face to face with Ben Grimm until the end of the film when they have their big stand off with Doctor Doom. Good teamwork.
With even more rage: Don’t even get me started on the scene where Richards, Johnny Storm and Von Doom decide to drunkenly use the teleporter they’ve built so that astronauts don’t get to use it before them… I’m not even kidding, this happens. Oh I wonder what will happen when a bunch of pissed up teenagers travel to another dimension? That’s right they all get fucked up and their bodies turn weird. The sequence where they actually get injured by the aforementioned green lava that gives them their powers, is the most entertaining bit because you think some of them might get killed off, it’s the only section with a slight aura of chaos, but they really hammer it home in a literal sense, Ben Grimm get’s pelted with rocks and then wakes up after as a big orange rock monster… it’s just all a bit wrote. The only reason Ben Grimm is there is because Richards calls him drunk and does the typical “you’re my best friend thing” so he turns up thinking he’s going to maybe clean up some vomit and put his friend to bed but ends up in a different galaxy, and, comes back with rocks stapled all over his balls, and we only know this because his crotch is on full display after that and The Thing it appears doesn’t have a “thing” anymore.
The Fantastic Four are supposed to be a family and a tight knit unit but they never seem like this on screen here. Richards lusts after the aloof Sue Storm, who is cool because she listens to Portishead… Miles Teller spends much of the film pulling a goofy grin whenever she’s near him. Johnny Storm just loves being on fire and racing planes, he’s obsessed with the notion that he can be a hero by going and blowing up terrorists for the government, thus hammering home the typical America-over-all message. But Ben Grimm really get’s the raw end of the deal, to say he’s a family member he spends most of the film away from the core group, when he’s with them he is either being horribly mutilated (much like Jamie Bell’s reputation now will be) or forced to hit things because he is made from rocks or even worse completely ignored.
The arrogance of the final scene nearly had me screaming in my cinema seat, the fact that after all you are forced to sit through in that painfully dull 90 minutes leads to the tease of a sequel is just mind blowing. I see where Trank was coming from, he built a cast of A- List indie up and comers and attempted to deliver a super hero film that was defiantly odd and off beat. I can’t say he is exempt from my tirade because a lot of what’s on screen is what he shot but he doesn’t get all of the burden of this on his shoulders. To whoever banged this monstrosity into shape with the reels of footage Trank had to offer I sincerely hope you someday come across my words. Not only have you made a bad comic book movie, but you have made a comic book movie so bad that it’s only equal is Cat Woman and the villain in that film used make up as a super power.
If they make Fantastic Four Part 2 I think I might explode in anger.
The trailer was good though.