So, about this new Fantastic Four movie I just saw…
No preamble, no set-up about how bad the reviews have been for Fantastic Four, the reboot of a film series that wasn’t particularly well-regarded when it launched back in 2005. I’m going to get right into it, if it suits you.
I thought it was ok.
No, really I did.
Now, those that know me likely figure I’m predisposed to like anything related to Marvel. And they’d be right. I try not to hate on any of their properties in advance – I want to see things for myself. Such is the case with the new FF. I had no problems with Michael B. Jordan being cast as Johnny Storm, and I thought those that did or do have some serious issues that they should deal with. I had no qualms about director Josh Trank taking his cues from the Ultimate universe version of the comic book series; there’s so much material to choose from, and this was certainly a valid one. I thought the trailers were great and I chose to be optimistic walking into the film with BBP alumni Scott Guest.
Now, while my optimism wasn’t entirely rewarded, neither was it shattered either. There are some very solid performances from the lead actors, especially Miles Teller,who carries the film as Reed Richards; Kate Mara’s Susan Storm, despite her distractingly awful wigs; and Toby Kebbell, whose Victor Von Doom pre-transformation is a compelling character. The first hour is, to my mind, an excellent origin story, as we watch the leads build relationships, putting their big brains on display. Here director Trank crafts a very solid and enticing science-fiction film, which is something he was telling us all along he was going to do.
Unfortunately, once the gang get their powers, the film loses the plot. Nothing really ever feels at stake; in fact, everything becomes fairly predictable (except for Sue’s hair – that’s entirely unpredictable). Hitting those obvious notes is what sinks the film in many ways, as does a final act that’s over before it’s begun, with a crisis that’s only explained with a throwaway line of dialogue and a villain we don’t nearly spend enough time with. For many, these are the film’s fatal flaws, which I can understand completely. However, they don’t completely sully the experience for me.
There’s a good film hiding in there, though it’s likely, as Josh Trank implied with an ill-advised and quickly deleted tweet, lying on the cutting room floor, as the talk goes that Fox wound up balking at Trank’s original, much darker vision for the film and wound up making some executive decisions. We may never know the truth, and while I question the director’s fit in Hollywood after his social media message, I’d still love to see the film he thinks audiences would have loved.
Ultimately, the question remains – is Fantastic Four a good movie? I suppose not, mainly based on the vitriol that the majority of people seeing it are lobbing its way. But for me, I liked what I liked about. I’ll probably buy it when it comes out on iTunes, like I do with every other Marvel-based movie. I certainly think it’s better than the 2005 film, though it does fall short of 2007’s Rise of the Silver Surfer, which I enjoyed and think still holds up. Is FF 2015 so bad that it’s good? Is it train wreck bad? Not at all. If anything, it’s disappointing, a film that should have been better than it wound up being.