The UnPopular Opinion: Fantastic Four (2015)
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
Word of mouth is a dangerous thing. To trust the opinion and tastes of others is a good starting point when it comes to picking and choosing movies, but to get washed away in vitriol and the opinions of others can often tank a film before it even has a chance. This column, for example, is my opinion and you are free to agree or disagree with it. It doesn't mean my taste in films sucks or that yours is the epitome of class, but it does allow me the unique opportunity to laud or condemn films that would otherwise be overlooked by many. Last year's FANTASTIC FOUR is a prime example of a film whose reputation preceeds it and helped aid the film in becoming one of the biggest bombs in recent memory. But, Josh Trank's Fantastic Four is an interesting failure in that it really isn't as bad as you may have been led to believe.
Make no mistake, I am not saying that FANTASTIC FOUR is without flaws because it has several. The entire final act of the film is something of a mess, which is what Josh Trank's rants about the film pertained to, but the bulk of the film is a well structured take on a very familiar story. The 2005 version of Marvel's First Family followed in the candy-colored footsteps of Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN films which felt too cartoony for most audiences. This new take reinvents the characters in a film that is very low on superheroics and very big on horror elements. It would be better to compare Trank's film to the works of David Cronenberg as this FANTASTIC FOUR is subject to a slew of transformations that would easily qualify as body horror. But, this is also a solemn exploration of science and the potential dark side of genius.
As we heap proclamations of brilliance on what Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds delivered with DEADPOOL, we would be remiss to not laud FANTASTIC FOUR for examining the pathos of superheroes in a light very different than the X-MEN films or anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. WIth only the found footage film CHRONICLE to his credit, many were expecting big things from Josh Trank. When what he made didn't fit with the cookie cutter expectation for the FANTASTIC FOUR, both 20th Century Fox and Marvel themselves threw the filmmaker to the wolves. It remains one of the highest profile film disasters in recent memory, but the movie isn't that bad. In fact, after having watched the film several times, I actually regard it as one of the most intriguing and original superhero films in the entire genre.
Trank brings a very gritty aesthetic to FANTASTIC FOUR which may be the first thing to turn people off. He approached the project as if it were a low budget independent film rather than the spectacle superhero films have all become. This is a slowly paced film, but that is deliberate in nature. Like Ang Lee's HULK, FANTASTIC FOUR circumvents the traditional approach to adapting a comic book story by instead taking a dramatic deviation from what was expected. Like both Marvel and DC are apt to do, FANTASTIC FOUR feels more like a parallel take on the mainstream characters . If the title of this film had not been in any way related to a well known comic book property, I am convinced it would have fared better with fans and critics. At it's core, this is an interesting examination as to how real people would act in such unique and extraordinary circumstances.
The timeline of the film is very condensed. Starting with a prologue of Reed Richards as a child, the story quickly shifts to the development and creation of the portal to Planet Zero. There, Victor Von Doom is abandoned by his teammates while the rest return to Earth and deal with the horror of what their bodies have become. While the previous takes on the material have given the characters varying degrees of excitement and hesitation to their new powers, FANTASTIC FOUR makes these changes a curse and terrible burden. Even when Reed Richards escapes and leaves his friends behind to try and find a cure, the dynamic is shifted and forces the three others to turn on their leader. By giving the film a military aspect where the group is a government controlled task force, the idea of them being weapons rather than heroes is a fascinating twist.
The cast here is better than the material but they still deliver despite the cumbersome changes to the script. Miles Teller is a solid actor who was unfortunately compared to his role in WHIPLASH which many used as a way to trash his performance here. In fact, Teller does an admirable job of giving us what a young Reed Richards would have really been like if thrown into these circumstances. Michael B. Jordan is great as the bad boy Johnny Storm who gets to banter with his father and sister, Sue, which is an element we have not seen in many superhero films. I thoroughly enjoyed Jamie Bell's take on Hank Grimm but it is Toby Kebbell as Victor Von Doom who I wanted to see more of. Sure, this is not the megalomaniacal supervillain from the comics but this is a tortured man turned into a monster who should have stuck around for much more of the film than he did.
This is not the FANTASTIC FOUR we were expecting nor is it the best take on the source material, but this is by far the most daring and distinct adaptation of any Marvel or DC property to date. With each change from the source material, be it the Mandarin in IRON MAN 3 or the darkness of BATMAN V SUPERMAN, fans cry foul and decry the decisions of filmmakers and writers as being wrong or sacreligious to our beloved comics. But, the great thing about movies is that they don't all have to follow the same formula. I would love to see what Josh Trank's untainted version of FANTASTIC FOUR would have looked like as the laundry list of studio mandated changes are well known across the Internet. The original version sounds like it would have been even further from the Marvel source and that could have been a very good thing. Instead, we are left with this composite between the original and the reverant and it doesn't quite work the way it should. But, it is still an enjoyable alternative to what every other superhero movie is.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...