As of now, the recent reboot of Marvels first family holds a dismal 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest score of any Marvel film yet. The film had been plagued with bad buzz since its inception, only adding to ongoing beating the film continues to get. With its box office earnings underperforming, and audience members left feeling disappointed, its time I analyze the disaster that is Fantastic 4.
Going into this with an open mind, the first 20 minutes of this film were surprisingly engaging. We see a young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm (played later by Miles Teller and Jamie Bell) tinkering with what will soon be Reeds Inter-dimensional travel machine. There's a very Speilbergian feel and a sense of wonder and discovery to that opening scene. You get the sense of passion that Reed has toward his creation, and how important Ben is to him. Years later, Reed is approached by Dr Storm, inviting him to apply his knowledge on his own device. Its there he meets Sue Storm (Kate Mara), whom many know from the comics to be his love interest. There are two distinct scenes with both of them conversing, and each is filled with believable chemistry. You can tell there's a little spark between the 2. We also meet the reckless son of Dr Storm, Johnny (Micheal B. Jordan), who seems to be in the shadow of his adopted sister Sue and her intellect. At this point, we've been introduced to our four main characters. While they haven't been thoroughly fleshed out yet, its still enough to foreshadow that by the end of this movie, these 4 will come together to be a family.
Victor VonDoom's (Toby Kebbal) introduction isn't too bad either. He gives a speech about how Neil Armstrong is remembered his his legendary moon landing, yet know one remembers the people who built the technology that got him there. The speech might be my favorite piece of dialogue in the movie, sparking that sense of adventure that the trailers promised us.
And even when the four do get their powers, the initial introduction to them is quite shocking. This is where Trank injected some of Cronenbergs "body horror" elements from films such as "The Fly". The scene where a deformed Ben Grimm emerges from is solidified rock form, yelling to Reed "HELP ME!" is a disturbing and emotional scene. A lasting positive point I can't forget to mention is the soundtrack by Marco Beltrami and Phillip Glass. The pairing conjured a unique memorable score that, for better or worse, improves the viewing experience.
Everything stated above is what I liked. Now lets get to the fun stuff...
It's after the first act where the film goes downhill. Let's start with the fact that Sue doesn't even go on the mission! She's the one that stays behind, and gets her powers by being hit by a shockwave (In a blink-or-you'll-miss-it scene). After they get their powers, Reed abandons his friends and runs off on his own, leaving them to be used by the military as weapons. It's after this that the film makes its biggest mistake. It flashes forward 1 year late, an abrupt transition. With the film set up to be an origin story, it debunks that by skipping over the characters personal struggles with adjusting to their new powers. And separating Reed from the others ruins the team dynamic thats supposed to form between them over that time. When he finally does return, the reunion doesn't feel earned.
Now lets talk about the final act. For those who haven't seen the film, all I'll say is it feels rushed, incoherent, and comes out of nowhere. For those who have, spoilers below.
Doom is found seeking rescue back on Planet Zero, his body melded with his own suit, and cloaked in a hood (its never explained how he got it). Once brought back to the lab, he expresses dissatisfaction with his removal from his planet (despite his pleading for rescue only minutes ago), and then proceeds to kill many members of the facility by exploding their heads Scanners style (his powers are never explained) and warps back to his world. Doom launches a portal, that when activated, starts destroying earth. The Four follow him to the planet, and thanks to their "teamwork", defeat Doom effortlessly. They then return to earth, not viewed as weapons anymore, but as heroes.
By the films final scenes, its obvious the writers expect us to buy the fact that these four are now a family. But it feels so forced because we never saw them grow, or display anymore of that chemistry we saw in the first act. The middle of this film is so barren. NOTHING HAPPENS. And nothing happens to the characters either.
One can't help but mention the problems that went on off the screen as well, because those too effected the end result. The only reason the studio Fox rushed a remake 10 years after the original is because they wanted to hold onto the rights ( like Sony and The Amazing Spider-man ). And it's obvious that there was tension between Trank and Fox, thus resulting in an uneven story structure. Reshoots were done early in the year, mainly with Miles Teller in front of a green screen. Its also notable of Kate Mara's involvement since her hair color shifts between scenes, most likely due to wearing a wig in the reshoots.
It also important to address the lack of scope. The two main locations are the lab/military base, and planet zero. With a film trying create a new universe (and that has lots of source material to draw from) it uses so little inspiration, leaving it feeling small. The environments themselves are bleak and grey. Trank has stated he wanted the film to have a Cronenberg and Speilbergian feel, an odd combination, but the result is more one than the other. There's little joy or humor to be found, something usually prevalent, even in the darkest of comic book films (The Dark Knight Trilogy). With what was added, other scenes were cut. Scenes from the trailers and TV Spots are completely gone from the final film, most notably a presumed action set piece involving The Thing infiltrating an army base by jumping out of a plane, and obliterating a tank on impact.
Until all details of the films troubled production are revealed, we can only speculate to what happened. I have a theory. It has been stated that Trank's initial pitch was received favorably by the studio, and the comics creator Stan Lee himself. The studio has had faith in him since his last film Chronicle proved to be a huge success for both of them. While he may have had a good story, it was his behavior on set that probably worried the studio. There was an incident in New Orleans where filming was taking place. Apparently, the home Trank was staying in during the shoot had been damaged by his dogs. That, pairing with reports of abnormal behavior onset, most likely led to studio intervention, resulting in an uneven vision. The film has elements of Trank's seeds, but it's obvious that this is not the film he intended viewers to see (as stated in his controversial tweet). While studio intervention has saved movies in the past (World War Z), this here is an example of how it can destroy one.
Well there you have it. While there are things to marvel at in this film, they stand minuscule when paired with its detractors. The film is a mess, plain and simple. It is Fox's stitched together project of Trank's original work. Is it the worst Superhero movie ever? Nah. Is it the worst Marvel film? I don't think so. The film fails because there is no clear beginning, middle, and end. The reason why a film like this has an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes is because it lacks structure. Its what holds a film together. Without it, it feels incomplete. Audiences wanted more. And I agree. We should have gotten more.