I really don’t want to get into all the “he said/they said” about who’s to blame for the new Fantastic Four movie, as I suspect there’s plenty of blame to go all around. Instead I’ll start things off this way: I really can’t consider it a good sign when I find myself actually dozing off during what should have been an exciting new take on one of Marvel comic’s most prestigious properties.
Instead of that, however, what we got was at best a rather bland movie that tries to up the ante and bring in some actual conflict at the very end, but by then it’s far too late.
Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I’ve really considered this movie to be a mistake ever since it was announced that Josh Trank would be directing it. I have absolutely no problem with his first film, Chronicle, but from the start I felt that his style – that of a more earthbound, serious, and “let’s throw every speck of CGI dust and dirt that we can on the screen” style simply was the wrong fit for a movie that should be evoking a sense of wonder and sparking the imagination of the audience. After all, the original Fantastic Four comic was the flagship of what we now know as the Marvel Universe. It was the foundation of everything that came after, from Spider-Man to the Avengers to the X-Men to… well, I could go on and on, but you all know exactly what I’m talking about.
Then there came the casting announcements. Of course, most of the focus at the time was on the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch. As it turns out he may actually be the most appropriately cast character in the entire movie. Don’t get me wrong, I love Miles Teller, and was appropriately impressed with his starring role in last year’s Whiplash, but he’s simply not the right choice for the role of super-professor Reed Richards. As for Kate Mara’s Susan Storm and Jamie Bell’s Ben Grimm, let’s simply leave it at “the less said, the better”.
I will, however, allow that Toby Kebbell, who is given the rather thankless task of taking on the role of the main villain of the piece, Victor von Doom (hey, why should I call him Doctor Doom when the only reference to him as that comes from a snide aside by Sue Storm before they even begin the fateful trip that gives them their powers?) does the best he can with the material that he has to work with.
Okay, so I suppose this is the point in this write-up where I should get down to the nitty-gritty and begin pointing out all of the things that are wrong with this movie, but if I really tried to do that, then I would be sitting here all day writing this, and it would actually be giving the movie more time than it’s actually worth. (Which, I admit, I may very well have done already.) Plus, there are plenty of other writers out there who are perfectly willing to do that, and personally I’m just salivating over the thought of watching the Cinema Sins guys dig their teeth into this one. Instead, I’ll simply state that from the script level up, this movie so completely misunderstands not only these characters, their motivations, and what actually binds them together as a team that one begins to suspect that Trank (who was also at least partially responsible (I almost wrote “to blame”) for the script has never read any of the comics on which the film is supposedly based, but was simply given an outline of the characters and their powers and was told by Fox to go make a movie.
And the thing is, I’ve come to accept that I’m not necessarily going to see the comic books that I grew up with brought to life when I sit down to watch one of these movies. After all, it’s a different time, there are different audience demands, and I’m willing to accept that, as long as you don’t violate the core concepts of the characters and what makes them unique.
Want to change the origin? Well, okay, I may not like it, but I’m willing to accept it, especially since Marvel already set the precedent of making the voyage they are taking about going into another dimension as opposed to outer space in their Ultimate line of comics.
On the other hand, I really don’t need that revamped origin to take up 4/5ths of the movie. Heck, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby only needed eight or so pages of the first issue to get the ball rolling, and they were introducing not just a new team to the comics world, but an entirely new style of story telling. (Well, okay, maybe there’s a bit of hyperbole in that sentence, but you get the idea.) As far as the argument that the movie is using that time not just to show the origin but to establish the characters, I’d argue back that a) there’s not that much to these characters that needs to be established, and b) that’s the kind of thing that can be done just a well as the story moves along and you actually give us something worthy of the word “fantastic” to watch as opposed to simply more talking heads.
Oh, and as far as that sense of the fantastic goes? I’ll actually pass comment on that to my daughter who stated that she’d actually seen better special effects in some Disney Channel movies than what was on display here – a statement I find it hard to disagree with.
Of course, the movie really isn’t a total loss. At least when it comes out on disk I’ll know that if I ever have insomnia I can simply pop this one in and I’ll be sleeping like a babe in no time. So I guess I should at least thank Fox for that.