I did think that overall the newest Fantastic Four was good. It had faults to it, but so many people went into it wanting to hate it and judged it solely on the faults and not on any of the good parts. Given the Batman Begins feeling of the film, a sequel could iron out the creases and we could have a sci-fi Dark Knight on our hands. The promise is there for a sequel that is an intelligent, character-driven, science fiction journey with real consequences and meaning to it. So, here are the top 10 things I’d like to see in the sequel. Warning though, there will be spoilers imminent. I’ll try and put spoiler tags whenever possible, but if you haven’t seen it yet, maybe you’d like to check out my non-spoiler review of it HERE. If you’ve seen it, do continue.
More Development For The Villains
I feel like Harvey Elder got an ample amount of time onscreen, given his character’s relevance to the plot. Even Victor Von Doom got a pretty good part before he became Doom. He seemed like the typical sci-fi antagonist. He was a human who treated others badly. We got a good look at his megalomania budding, his love for Sue Storm and his jealousy of Reed Richards. He was going well until he became Dr Doom, because I’m assuming that’s when Fox jumped in and tried to imbue the film with more comicbook elements and make the characters feel like superheroes. In this way, they rushed Doom, leaving the audience to guess at his motivations and powers (which I didn’t have a problem with, given Doom’s almost limitless abilities in the comics and the general air of mystery he had to him). One could assume he got possessed by the dimension or something along the lines of that, but his evil turn itself was too quick. If the film had an extra 20 minutes or so, we would have probably seen more of him and had him developed properly. Villains should mean something and they should have enough development for us to care about the stakes. I think the sequel will do this justice, given that there won’t be as much time focused on the main four.
More Focus On The Connections Between The Four
But all the same, one of the really great parts of the film was the characters and their connections to each other. While certain conflicts (eg. Ben and Reed) were resolved a bit too quickly, the main problem here lies in the final fight with Doom. Reed Richards is preaching about teamwork, but you don’t see much teamwork going on after that. To add to that, a sense of comradery hadn’t been built up prior to the scene, so it felt out-of-place. Give the characters more time to mean something and interact with each other. I’m sure a sequel will be able to do this fine.
Less Comicbooky/Superhero-like And Don’t Buckle To The Requests Of The Fans. Let Trank’s Vision Shine Through. Keep It Surprising.
The actual film reminded me vaguely of Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman pilot. It starts off great, even though it’s barely a superhero film, but you don’t want it to end. When the superheroics come in around the end, it just feels like the quality has dropped and you’re missing something. I can see that Josh Trank had a great vision for the film and he managed to sustain that vision throughout a majority of the film, but the mauling of this vision after Doom appeared (suggested to be by Fox, in a recent interview) was so jarring that it lowered the film’s standard greatly. For the sequel, let Trank’s vision shine though. This is the most crucial point. We could end up with a Dark Knight or Spider Man 2 scenario where the sequel is far better than the original and goes down as a classic. The film shows promise for a great sequel. If only it could tear itself away from the norm in superhero films now, like it started off doing. The reason Marvel Studios is succeeding is because they place their superheroes in different genres (eg. Ant Man in comedy heists, the Guardians in a comedy space epic) and freshen up the superhero genre that way. The film was doing that, delving into science fiction and taking several cues from such films as Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey. No matter what fans ask for Mr Trank, don’t buckle. We’ve seen back in 2005 that the Fantastic Four don’t work on film in their comicbook-like form. You may not make a good comicbook/superhero film (or you may), but you will certainly make an excellent sci-fi film. One of the best parts about the film was how surprising it was. Characters weren’t safe and origins were changed, leaving the audience wondering. Certain instances of this include:
Sue Storm not being present in the storm, the added tragedy that Ben always wanted to go back, Mole Man’s death (although I did like the visual nod to his supervillain counterpart) and even the very idea that it was a drunken mistake (adding to the always present ‘Reed feels guilty about what he did to Ben’ idea by making it a total drunken mistake)
Don’t Be Afraid To Make The Runtime Longer To Make The Story Better
Don’t be afraid to make the runtime longer to suit the film. This film already established that it was straying away from being an average superhero film. To cement this point, the runtime was a lot shorter than one would expect from an average present-day superhero film. In making the runtime shorter, the film inadvertently shot itself in the leg trying to finish it on time, ending up rushing it. Since the idea of it being different has already been established, let the story dictate the runtime and take it slow if it needs to be.
Don’t rush it- Elaborate on ideas that are raised
Following up on the runtime advice, don’t rush the ideas in the film. While the film managed to definitely address themes of youth (and its mistakes), there was the inherent theme of teamwork/family which was only briefly glazed over. Don’t rush it. Keep those ideas throughout the whole piece and make it the core driving force of the film.
Trust the audience to get what’s happening without exposition, but clarify the stakes and motivations
Towards the end of the movie, Reed Richards simply became a mouthpiece to the plot, talking like he was directly out of a 60s comicbook. He explained everything the group was going to do and this exposition, while making sense (given he’d have to explain his plans to his less intelligent teammates), feels jarring. As a team in the sequel, there should be less explanations done. There should be a basic explanation before the team flow without the need to explain their every move, although actual stakes and motivations for doing things should be established. We didn’t get a good look into why Doom was attacking or why the Fantastic Four should beat him, or even why. Clarify those stakes so we can get invested in them.
Don’t change the suits
These suits look great. They look realistic and the colour suits the tone. If there’s going to be a change, simply add a ‘4’ to it.
Keep the dialogue slightly campy and keep the tone similar
I liked how campy the references to the characters were. I liked the overall tone of the first 3 quarters. If that tone keeps up in the sequel, the film will definitely succeed.
Keep the humour and action as spaced as it is
Avengers: Age of Ultron suffered from trying to emulate what came before it by forcing humour. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The sequel should keep the action and humour in the exact same capacity that it did in this film, because I think that it suited the tone perfectly.
Keep blazing its own science fiction path and make the science make sense (just like in this one)
I asked a friend of mine who is a major science nerd what he thought on the science of the film, and he mentioned that he liked it for the science, because most of it made sense. I think the sequel should keep blazing its own science fiction path, as this was the strongest part of the film. So strong, that if done for a whole film, it could be a masterpiece.
Keep up the fantastic body horror and brutality
Finally, tying in with the previous point, the sequel should keep up the fantastic body horror.
The death of Harvey Elder was so brutal and fantastic visually. Doom’s walk throughout the compound was also a beautiful scene of pure brutality as we see blood sprayed across the walls with each person he attacks. Even Doom’s look is that of a horror/sci-fi monster. The effects on the main four though, are the highlights of the body horror that the film uses amazingly. It’s supposed to be drawing from David Cronenberg’s films and this idea of eeriness and experimental monsters. The scene where they all get their powers is a standout. We see Johnny stationary, almost dead, flaming up. Reed thinks he’s dead as he crawls over to a mound of rocks which is moving with Ben Grimm trying to push his way out. Reed looks back and sees himself stretched out beyond belief. The scene prior to that where the storm is actually attacking them added to the horror, as we see rocks attack and attach themselves to Ben. When they’re in the facility, Reed’s stretched body is haunting and when he’s crawling through the air vents and sees Ben breaking free from the rocks to look up with scared eyes at the man who he trusts will save him, but then is left alone to deal with these changes. There is a tragedy to this scene (especially given Ben’s earlier insistence that they leave the other dimension/Negative Zone) that is akin to Frankenstein. The horror in Reed’s eyes is enough for the audience. All in all, keep that body horror that is synonymous with good horror and science fiction.
So, if a sequel does happen, if Josh Trank takes these things on board and Fox stays out of it, I personally think we could be looking at a masterpiece. Basically, the sequel should keep up what this one did great (but not overdo it) and stray away from superheroics and comicbooks to bring forth developed characters and themes that makes us care. Let the film dictate the runtime and not vice versa and finally, trust that the audience will understand, but don’t leave out crucial parts.
Honestly though, good on you Trank. You deserve to be commended purely for the effort of attempting something different. While you made a few mistakes (or maybe Fox made a few mistakes in editing your vision), it was still a good film anyway. I guess Simon Kinberg was right when he said that “it’s not a disaster. It’s a good film”. In fact, with a few touch-ups, I’m sure you’ll be able to deliver a great sequel and an absolutely fantastic film.