Let me start out by saying that one of my biggest beliefs is that you can’t judge a movie purely by other people's reactions. I happened to like the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies and, even on a Hulu watch, I was entertained by the Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, the new Fantastic Four is a different creature altogether. While I don’t quite agree with the single digit Rotten Tomato score that it has carried since its release, it’s not a good movie for the license they forced on it. It is no secret at all that this movie exists to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to prevent the rights to the Fantastic Four and all associated characters from reverting back to Disney/Marvel Studios due of the nature of the original agreement. The agreement requires a movie must be made every seven years or else they lose the property. Much like when the rights to Daredevil reverted back Marvel; it got very close to the limit and Fox was unable to get any traction on a new reboot or sequel so they gave in, and let the rights expire. The Fantastic Four rights were literally months away from going away when this was rushed into production, so it is a safe bet that this was an act of sheer defiance of losing the rights to another property.
The story that was used is a very loose adaptation of the ultimate Fantastic Four series by Mark Millar with a younger cast and using exposure to an alternate dimension to provide their powers rather than the traditional cosmic rays. I say loosely because other than a few pieces that were taken from the comics, like the source of their powers, names of the characters, and the ages, there is very little else that is recognizably Fantastic about it. The other ninety seven percent of the movie is taken up by much more interesting sub plots that I would have loved to have seen more attention paid to. Despite the outrage at the casting of a non-white Johnny Storm and making Sue Storm adopted, with the way it was presented you could tell there could have been some amazing tension that could have paid off at the end. With them coming together in the end proving family is about love instead of biology. Instead there was maybe three or four lines explaining that Sue is adopted and had lived with the storms since she was a young child instead it ends up being yet another useless detail that leads nowhere. Before the accident, Victor Von Doom is actually a fairly sympathetic mad genius showing the danger that comes with mixing science and the military. Not so deep down you can tell what kind of movie Josh Trank really wanted to make and it wasn’t a superhero movie, there is an early Cronenberg influence with all of the body horror scenes and especially the exploding body parts once Doom comes back from the negative zone. All of the animosity, instead of feeling organic and real, just came off like five strangers meeting for the first time. My final issue with the story was the tone was uneven and needlessly dark. The Fantastic Four from their very inception has been the first family of Marvel, and by nature they have the brightest costumes of any team out there, and at times have even been quite funny. They are superhero celebrities who live in the middle of New York City, not a special ops team used for killing.
The biggest disappointment for me was the casting, but not for the reason that you would think. Each and every member of the main cast has been in at least one earth shatteringly amazing movie before joining this failed reboot. Miles Teller, as Reed Richards, did the best he could with what he had to work with, but no matter how good the actor is it’s hard to fight against a bad script. I loved what he was able to do in Whiplash opposite J.K. Simmons and he was also good in that awkward moment along with Michael B. Jordan, but he ended up just falling flat throughout the whole movie. I can honestly see him moving on from this disaster and doing even more amazing work. Speaking of Michael B Jordan, even before filming started geek culture was out for his blood over his casting without reason other than not liking change. To be honest he was one of the few highlights of any scene that he was in. One minute he could be having a serious dramatic argument the next he was able to flip things around and be funny and charming, the past couple of years have shown that he is a very talented actor with a very bright future. This past year it was the buzz for his performance in Creed, and before that (also by Ryan Coogler) Fruitvale Station, which blew me away. I am quite sure that given half a chance that Kate Mara could have been a lot more memorable and brought something new and different to the role of Sue Storm the problem is that she was given nothing to do so that she ended up just blending into the scenery. It’s funny within a couple of months of Fantastic Four coming out she appeared in The Martian and showed everyone that yes she really can act. Last but not least you have Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm who had one of the hardest jobs in the entire movie. His task was to carry the story along and be the childhood best friend of Reed and then have to show the innate sadness of The Thing after the accident, My problem wasn’t with him it was what they did with the character and how he’s used as a weapon of war. I was even able to look past the fact that they had Billy Elliot playing a tough guy he was that good. Skipping over the absolute waste that was Victor Von Doom And the terrible nonsensical powers they gave him all I can say is I wish Toby Kebbell the best in the rest of his career because thankfully there is no way in the world that there will be a sequel.
With all that said it is my fervent belief that thanks to Fox the Fantastic Four has become a toxic property that is unfilmable. This coincidentally is the fourth attempt to make a successful movie out of the FF including the Roger Corman low budget movie. Sadly that was also the most faithful adaptation yet. I was actually shocked to find out that as far as anyone can tell there was not a similar morality clause in the rights to Fantastic Four like there is with Spider-Man. The inciting incident of the movie happens while everyone is drunk. Even though we can all wish that Fox would just hand over the rights to Disney/Marvel the sad fact is that even if they did it would take a miracle to salvage the actual Fantastic Four. The best thing that could come from it wouldn’t be the use of any of the heroes it would be the side characters and villains. Being able to make a Silver Surfer movie with an actual good director and writer would be worth it especially if they had him meet up with the Guardians. It would also free up the use of Skrulls who are the natural enemies of the Kree and have this lovely ability to shape shift to suit their needs. There are so many exciting things that could happen but most likely nothing will happen until 2022 when the rights are up again and another movie has to be made or else.