Fant4stic or naw
Here we stand. In the wake of Superhero movies not only dominating box office, but also, are being held to a higher standard. We now find ourselves with decent, quality, good Superhero film. So, it is a wonder when one falls off the rails in some way. Is that the newest iteration of Fantastic Four? While, I don’t think the movie is bad. I like the film a lot actually. But I feel if I were to review I would only tear it apart.
Before I begin, I just want to say that I think some films need to be viewed in the proper context. Sometimes that means its genre, sub-genre, or even the totality of movie history. That being said, Fant4stic is not just a Superhero movie. It was never meant to fit solely in that box. After all, the Superhero genre is meant to fit in other little sub-genres. The Dark Knight is more than a superhero film. Its also a cop drama, Ant-Man is a Heist film. Movies like A History of Violence and Road to Perdition are comic book movies but not at all Superhero movies. Comics can bleed different genres and blur the lines in very different and interesting ways. But what does this mean for Fantastic Four?
When director Josh Trank set out to make his version of Fantastic Four it was to be in the style of David Cronenberg, a body horror film like The Fly. And in truth the original issues of The Fantastic Four comics are horror in nature, featuring monsters and gross deformations. Once I heard this take on it I was sold. This film can work. And on this level it does. Body Horror might seem strange for a Superhero movie, but these four (5 if you include Doom) are transformed in horrific ways. When they first get their powers they cannot control them. Johnny seems to be in pain while his body erupts with flame. Reed’s power of stretching doesn’t seem smooth at first, rather his limbs are dislocating and his skin is stretching. At least that’s what it looks like.
Another theme that works well is friendship and family. In the film Reed and Ben Grimm are best friends and when Ben changes to Thing you can still see the humanity in his face, the fear and anger are quite visible on his face. And this is key for parts of the film where Thing’s emotions to Reed change. Their relationship is a bit scared after the change occurs. There has been much hullabaloo about the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, as it is a race change for the character. While different his character actually fills like the most well rounded and he has a deep connection with his father in the film. The great performance only highlights the obviousness of the films flaws.
By now you will have heard of the numerous problems on set director Josh Trank had and how he blames Fox Studios for meddling with the film. This is where things become a bit obvious. In the film there is mention that either the world is dying or there is not enough resources. This is why they are trying to go to what they call Earth-0, an alternate dimension. But, there is no reason as to why? Are we to take it as face value as humans are destroying the Earth due to climate change? Nope, it’s never stated. Also, you may remember the interview with Toby Kebbell in which he said he was a hacker; his name was to be Victor Domaschev in the film, and again, this is not in the film. Heck, you see government documents that call him Victor Von Doom. And the only hacker vibe you get are the bits of scraps he cobbled together to make some kind of super computer.
What I think was cut was maybe that Doom hacked his way into government files and found out what was really killing the earth, and wanted to go to Earth-0 himself. He mentions more than once that Earth needs more resources and it was his idea to go without the government’s approval. When he gets there he also seems to have an unhealthy obsession with the power source they fine there. It is Doom’s arc I think is most tampered with and thus many structural problems are present. The worst sin is the 3rd act; it never feels like it fits. The second act almost feels too long and the 3rd too short. If you watch any of the trailers you can see scenes that just are not in the film, and most of these are in every trailer put out.
In a way, I blame the fans. Most of us fans made such a big outcry about the film I think Fox when out of their way to try to appease us. And what resulted is a somewhat clunky picture with a great cast and a good story as it is. The story for the most part focuses on the body horror aspect and that Reed needs to fix everyone. But there are other story beats that aim at making it a pure Superhero film. You can see how they can be connected, but these connections feel lost. Like I said, I like the film. But it does fill broken.
See you in the theater!