- I saw FANTASTIC FOUR in the comfort of a movie theatre with reclining chairs and practically no one else in the theatre.
- Did I fall asleep during the film? Absolutely, but I was tired and fall asleep during almost everything (thanks diabetes), so I should mention I saw it in two parts over the same day. The second time I sat through the entire film from trailer to credits.
- I was expecting the worst film ever, worse than GIGLI, worse than GLITTER, worse than the 1990s CAPTAIN AMERICA film. I mean, after reading all the reviews, I would've been remiss not to attend a Washington, D.C. rally against the film and how undoubtedly badly it's hurting our children, economy and country. I thought, "Hey, if I was a Republican and owned guns, FANTASTIC FOUR is coming for them all while attacking the sanctity of marriage, stealing American jobs and bad mouthing Megyn Kelly's menstrual cycle in the press. Obviously this is the end of the triumvirate of Barack Obama, Edward Snowden and Jon Stewart."
THE FILM'S WEAKNESSES
First, an acknowledgment, the film was definitely far from perfect. It was way too short but felt long at parts. Sitting in the theatre, I did feel bored and restless at times, but then again, that's why I take ADHD medication (shoutout to Pfizer). The actual plot was pretty fast-paced at the end of the movie (referring here to the time-frame contained within the diegesis of the film). The whole thing felt much more like a TV pilot than a standalone film to me, and I'm wondering - if this was on Netflix or FX, would people like it more?
In my opinion, there have been way worse comic book films out there with far less soul: GREEN LANTERN, GREEN HORNET, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND CATWOMAN, the first two Fantastic Four films, the Hulk films, etc. I can say I honestly enjoyed this better than MAN OF STEEL, and I didn't even dislike that film all that much.
Naturally, I'm not saying that anyone - or, rather, everyone - who hated this film is wrong in some way, but I really don't quite get the level of enmity towards it. The biggest flaw lies in the film's rushed script that clearly consisted of two very drawn out first acts, that felt as long as they were, with a sped-up third act that doesn't necessarily give all the emotional moments their due or build up enough climactically which I believe to be the greatest flaw in this film.
As a former actor, I'm all too aware of the problems that hit films during production. The story of FANTASTIC FOUR and its conflict is nothing new to the Hollywood system. I think it's an unfortunate shame there's been such a mob mentality surrounding FANTASTIC FOUR before the film was even cast. I wonder where all this vitriol and hatred came from and where it was during the Rwanda Genocide or the Bush Administration's Iraq War. I don't understand overly harsh critics utterly refusing to view the film through fresh eyes (which is certainly needed for 98% of superhero TV / film properties). And it's a shame this will contribute to the immense loss of money the studio has to deal with, not to mention these fine - and extremely talented - actors losing credibility.
I, for one, would've loved to see a sequel, and I'm disappointed that's never going to happen now despite Fox's insistence that it will. As much as I love the Marvel films, I think their Fantastic Four would have appealed to the lowest common denominator in movie audiences. I keep hearing Marvel are going to get the rights to the Fantastic Four back, but I actually hope that doesn't happen.
THE CASTING AND THE POWERS OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR
As much as I'm for diversity in comics, I was skeptical about the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, but it worked so well to the point that I forgot it was an even an issue until writing about it now trying to remember points about the film that have caused controversy.
And he wasn't the only one. The acting was superb, and each role was well-done.
I'm not sure the level of character development people are expecting from a one hundred minute origin story is realistic. Sadly, it should be realistic, but I question how many superhero movies have more character development than FANTASTIC FOUR? I must've missed the character arcs of Storm, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Sabretooth, Toad, Jamie Madrox, Mystique, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Iceman and others in the first three X-Men films (each of which I watched a minimum of fifty thousand times). Does any serious film auteur or actor see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, GONE WITH THE WIND or CITIZEN KANE type character development in any Marvel or Fox comic book adaptation featuring a team of characters? Obviously not, but even the casual observer can see that Thor, despite becoming a marginally better person in his first film, has a long way to go to learn all of life's lessons. So no, FANTASTIC FOUR is not THE WIRE or SIX FEET UNDER either, but does anyone really expect it to be? Why is the bar set so much higher for this film than other superhero properties?
Were Doom's character, origin and certain other aspects different from the comics? Sure, but Kitty Pryde had some crazy powers she never came close to exhibiting in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. Comic book Rogue is absolutely nothing like her character in the X-Men films either. The version of Black Widow from comics has a lot of differences than her movie counterpart in AVENGERS. DAREDEVIL on Netflix even has some major departures from his comic character, and people don't seem to mind those. I'm left wondering how much hatred for this film is about the problems plagued by it during the production process and the mob mentality that ensues once people start hating something they don't give a chance to (referring here to critics). People have a lot of problems with the way Reed's powers are said to work, but they actually made him look pretty bad ass. If I were writing, producing or directing this film, I'd have no idea how to make Mr. Fantastic look cool, and this film made his powers look cool. The same is true about Ben Grimm a.k.a. The Thing. Comparing him to WATCHMEN (for which I am a fan of director's cut version), Ben looked way cooler than Doctor Manhattan did in that film. Exactly what made him "The Thing" as opposed to something resembling more of the powers of the Human Torch, Invisible Woman or Mr. Fantastic is also clever and interesting.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR FAMILY AND THE DARKNESS OF THE FILM
The Fantastic Four team are literally family, unlike the X-Men who came to have a family atmosphere but not truly be one. Reed and Sue (Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman) are now married with two children, Franklin and Valeria. People seem to have issues with the fact that the dark tone of FANTASTIC FOUR didn't have a greater sense of family, but I argue that the film we saw is an origin story. Yes, the film starring Jessica Alba and Chris Evans began in media res in regards to Sue and Reed's relationship, but where is the harm in seeing that relationship evolve from a first meeting, a crush and then mutual admiration? By the end of the film, there seems to be little doubt that the close-knit family dynamic would've developed in the very next sequel, but 2015's FANTASTIC FOUR occurs before that.
You'd gather the dark tone people are losing their minds over would make REQUIEM FOR A DREAM or A CLOCKWORK ORANGE seem like they were directed by Kirk Cameron, but I want to reiterate that this film was not that dark. Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was significantly darker (albeit better) and so was Marvel's DAREDEVIL on Netflix. Yes, those characters do have histories of dark storytelling, but there were many dark moments in Marvel's ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR. I'm not even sure what people are referring to when they use the word "dark" in conjunction with this film. Was the other dimension they traveled to "dark?" Yes, it was. Not everywhere is Pandora from AVATAR, especially not a planet in the beginning stages of its development as the one depicted in FANTASTIC FOUR.
I have a feeling what people really mean by "dark" is, in fact, "serious." The film definitely took itself very seriously. Maybe if I was nine years old, it would not be my favorite movie, but I enjoyed that a film adapted from comics attempted to take itself more seriously than some of their comics that spawned the film itself. What is so wrong with comics growing up a little? I read many of the 1960's issues considered groundbreaking classics at a Columbia University course taught by former DC Comics President, Paul Levitz, titled "The American Graphic Novel." Let me tell you, it took a tremendous amount of energy and willpower to get through many of the issues. Trust me, as good as Marvel's FANTASTIC FOUR comic is, not every issue is Moby Dick or Plato's Republic.
NO, I DIDN'T HATE FANTASTIC FOUR
On social media, I have been criticized for not being a true Fantastic Four fan. Recently, I wrote an article on ComicsVerse about how comics changed and saved my life and talked about the impact X-Men comics had on me. Let me reassure those reading, while UNCANNY X-MEN was my favorite comic book from ages 6 through to 14, my second-most-read comic was FANTASTIC FOUR. I read every issue from 1984 to 1994, including the annuals. After 1994, although I continued reading the book, I skipped some issues as I moved onto other adolescent interests outside of comics.
I read every issue of Marvel's ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR book, including all the tie-ins. I'm a major proponent of Warren Ellis's "Ultimate Galactus" arc and loved Reed's descent into madness and ascension to villain.
I was reading when the Fantastic Four released Jean Grey from her cocoon in her first appearance since "The Dark Phoenix Saga." I was reading when Alicia was outed as a Skrull after her romantic allegiance left Ben Grimm for Johnny Storm. I was reading when Frankie Raye became the herald of Galactus.
And No - I still didn't hate FANTASTIC FOUR.