If you’re an acclaimed director, it’s rare that you go your whole career without producing one steaming pile of shit. Hitchcock had ‘Waltzes from Vienna’, Tarantino had ‘Death Proof’ and now Josh Trank has ‘Fantastic 4.’ The problem here though lies in the fact he’s only ever made two movies, so 50% of his work is shit – and as if to rub salt in that wound, it’s title is ironically ‘Fantastic.’
But let me start with what’s good. I went into the cinema with this lying at a cool 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and the unification of internet keyboard warriors and big time film buffs screaming ‘I KNEW IT WOULD BE CRAP – DIDN’T YOU HEAR OF THE PRODUCTION HELL IN THIS FILM?’ Of my filmic knowledge, Fantastic 4 must be, in terms of getting under 10% on RT, the most hard done by film of all time. For the most part it is actually good, made even better by the breaching of the expectations provided as courtesy of the internet. The casting is great, Miles Teller brings the familiar awkwardness of Reed Richards with ease and for the first time ever, my favourite Marvel Villain (Victor Von (Dr) Doom) is played as the snide, cocky little prick he is in the comics by Toby Kebbell – the element of them all being young here sheds new light on their characters, in this respect (and again, for the most part) they are very strong. Scenes of them drinking with each other and celebrating their scientific success carry the ominous inevitability that Victor would become the enemy – it promised a great finale. It promised it.
The story too, on paper, would read well I imagine. It’s not as dark (for the most part (haha)) as people are making out. The humour is often subtle, but realistic – nothing feels particularly bleak, it feels like a witty, brisk sci- fi, which may displease some (many, clearly) that it’s less of a superhero film.
But here we have a problem. The story is not told well on paper. Reports of Trank being drunk on set look as if they could be true, pointing his cast and editors in whatever direction his intoxicated limbs were flaying at the time. It’s all great, fantastic even! (see what I did there?) until they get their powers – it becomes something tricky to fix. The strongest area of the film is the first 40 minutes despite it’s heavy exposition, I don’t feel it could of or should of been edited, yet what follows is a clunky, poorly edited and completely unsatisfying pay off to the 85% build up that is the Fantastic 4. I liked where they were taking it – Mr Fantastic on the run from the government as the others are their special weapons in global missions, but you can’t stamp ‘1 year later’ between them getting their powers and being completely apt and happy with them and still expect the audience to be emotionally involved, or even interested in where they have gone and been. What’s most strange is that the film was way too short at 90 minutes, with such a long build up then immediately flying into ‘oh look everyone knows their powers and we need to take down Doom who only reappeared 3 minutes ago’ (not an exaggeration of the time constraints of this film.) It could of, and should of, been longer.
I earlier praised Toby Kebbell’s role as Victor; it’s his role as Doom that fucks everything up. He goes from wisecracking, refreshing, to cliche upon his return as the child haunting in appearance Dr. At one point he professes ‘there is no Victor, there is only Doom’ as if he is aware of the problem – Victor’s attitude should have carried through into his evil personality, but it’s abandoned in favour of a generic shithouse with little motivation for his plans (his motivation is actually subtly established in the opening of the film, then ignored and changed for ‘crazy guy spent too much time on his own.’) His powers resemble nothing of those in the comic either. After getting drunk with the heroes, his turn really should of been dramatic. His plan, again on paper would have worked if they’d spent more than 8 minutes ( I timed it) setting it up. Imagine your best friend suddenly scowling, stabbing you in the stomach and walking off – it’s that kind of clunky what the fuckness we’re dealing with.
And the final act is bad. What should have been a by the books ‘we need to work as a team’ (not that we’d actually seen them all together yet) is totally dumped on by Reed’s ‘plan.’ I prayed the plan would look good, would be clever – but no. I’m not sure what it was, I think it was just to get the Thing to punch Doom. In any case it worked, but you never feel they’ve just saved the world as it’s over so quickly, leaving a weird, huge hole in the Earth as some resounding ‘we did it’ music played – it sure looked like a lot of people, or at least a lot of land, was damaged to me. Another example of the shoddy editing.
I did give it a C – I feel Trank had a vision that was ruined here by the company. A study about the emotional and physical trauma of being able to set yourself on fire, stretch, become invisible or a rock man. It is, at times, confidently directed, much more so than the earlier attempts to put these guys on screen. Then again at times it resorts to the stupid playfulness of the earlier attempts – you cannot have a film that at one moment is so dark heads are being literally exploded (yes, it should have been a 15) and then Avengers- like music blaring whilst a rock man screams ‘it’s clobbering time.’
PS- Half of the trailer wasn’t even in the movie, what happened there?
Starts promising and drifts into total stupidity, Fantastic 4 is a disappointment, a Prometheus with an even worse pay off. Not so fantastic.