Whether it’s the fault of Josh Trank’s combative style or Fox taking over the creative control of the picture, it is clear that Fantastic Four has bombed. Roughly grossing the same as The Green Hornet in its opening domestic weekend, Fantastic Four has done shocking box office business. This is somewhat down to the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score. Fantastic Four currently sits at 9% on the Tomato-meter, lower than Terminator Genisys at 26% and, shockingly, attaining just half the score of Adam Sandler and Kevin James’ Pixels. The 9% is remarkably low and, whilst it is no fault of the system, gives a false view of just how bad Fantastic Four is. The 4.0 rating it has received on IMDb is a more accurate evaluation of the picture, as the film is by no means a success, but I disagree that it is wholly without positives. Fantastic Four is not too much worse than the flawed Ant-Man, though the two films are separated by 70% on the Tomatometer.
This isn’t so much of a defence of Fantastic Four, because some of its elements are truly beyond defence. However, not all of them are and I still struggle to agree that Fantastic Four is so greatly inadequate to Ant-Man and the shockingly misjudged Amazing Spiderman 2.
Allow me to explain further:
First off, it’s never easy to fit an origin story into a film as well as a legitimate villain. Amazing Spider-Man struggled and Ant-Man hardly flourished in trying. Both films required a full two hours to manage to do so, with less than explosive results. The Spider-Man story had already been told, whilst I found the length and pace of Ant-Man’s development somewhat tedious. Disagreeing with many critics, I did not find the origin story of the (less than) awesome foursome as tedious. It is certainly a slow story, and whilst Rotten Tomatoes has called it “Dull and downbeat”, I would rather it be seen as a more serious effort, that is admittedly lacking both character and action.
Josh Trank’s attempt to bring some legitimacy to the franchise is admirable and works in part, but backfires. Whilst removing the ‘cheesier’ elements of the franchise, such as giving serious undertones to the franchise’s most famous catchphrases, Fantastic Four goes too far. The film is lacking some of the humour and character that made the comics so successful, but this is not to say I did not enjoy the film. There were moments that I chuckled and moments that made me sit up and take notice, but these were admittedly infrequent and probably due to the innate charisma of the four heroes. Teller is a better character than the bumbling Gruffudd, Jordan isn’t as cringey as Evan’s adolescent Human Torch, whilst Bell (pre-Thing) and Mara feel much less gimmicky than their noughties counterparts. The success of these four obviously talented individuals does not create a successful ‘team’ but surely keeps the film from ever becoming truly boring.
Also, Marvel films require some fighting. It’s part of the DNA. Without it people get a bit annoyed. Fantastic Four does not fit the mould of a Marvel film, and expectation has weighed heavily on it. Ant-Man utilised its MCU connections and heist heritage to spice up the story, whilst Fantastic Four doesn’t force action sequences into its story. There are flickers of action, but there isn’t enough for the intended audience. Josh Trank could pull a similar trick in the indie Chronicle, but with a hugely expanded budget and grossly-expanded audience, it can’t work again. I personally didn’t mind, and was never bored; a ‘slow story that lacks action’ is a much closer analysis than simply “dull and downbeat”.
Furthermore, this lack of action comes as a result of another illness of Marvel films. Like Ant-Man and to a lesser extent Age of Ultron, Fantastic Four’s villain is half-baked, with threats too huge to be taken seriously. Fantastic Four’s Doctor Doom is a shambles, with the film almost embarrassed to show him to us. His creation is frustrating and his power is indeterminable. He is also defeated in roughly 7 seconds. Yet, this unimpressive and unremarkable climax is unsurprising, as the same thing can be said about the ‘Certified Fresh’ Ant-Man. Ant-Man seemed almost as embarrassed by Darren Cross, who had no tension with the hero, and patched over this lack of tension with set-pieces and perspective puns. In hindsight, maybe Fantastic Four should have done something similar.
Certainly, Fantastic Four is troubled. It feels patched together from very promising elements into a slow, lacking picture. The story may bounce and jump around, but I cannot agree that nothing worthwhile comes out of it. The film hints at the promise and the “fantastic” version Trank tweeted of, and whilst these hints never develop into a successful reboot, I can say that I enjoyed their attempts to do so.
Make your mind up on this reboot, and whilst you shouldn’t expect too much, don’t write it off simply on a Tomatometer score.
Fantastic Four isn’t quite as rotten as the critic-al ‘greengrocers’ have sold you.
Header courtesy of forbes. Images courtesy of movieinsider and boomstickcomics.