Fantastic Four (***) – Time spent in the negative zone

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Fantastic Four – 2015

Director Josh Trank
Writers Trank and Simon Kinberg
Starring Kate Mara, Miles Teller, Simon Kinberg, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson

The politics of Hollywood perspective mean that often times below average movies are given a free pass for not being better (see Transformers series) and average movies are decimated by the weight of expectations. Fantastic Four is a great example of the latter. In the third attempt to make chicken salad out of a storyline too familiar to feel fresh, 20th Century Fox gave the reigns of the old franchise to a young director, hoping for a fresh new take. Then when they saw the freshness of that take, panicked, ripped the movie out of his hands, costing him his chance at joining the Star Wars universe and maybe more. All because they don’t want to give the property back to Marvel. Good times.

Let’s get it straight: Fantastic Four is not a bad film. It’s just not a good one either. It’s easy to see what they wanted to carry out, it just looks like something got in the way of that goal. It is well known that Fox gave Trank’s version of the film a complete overhaul (most of which takes place at the “One Year Later” mark) without consulting him. Then they let word out that Trank exhibited “erratic behavior” on the set, according to the old, reliable anonymous sources. The actors in the film seemed to think things went alright.

Taken as a whole, we get a different vision of the formation of the group, which I was welcome too. The character stories seem a little more interesting, for as much as we are allowed to see them. The interpersonal relationships are more hinted at than anything. Doom is a much more interesting character in the build up than he was ever allowed to be in the Tim Story take. I did like where they were going on the school / orphanage for brilliant minds. They left Ben Grimm behind. Makes sense, but it would have been better had he joined the military. Sue and Johnny Storm as siblings by adoption. I can buy that. Dr. Franklin Storm as a driving force is good but I wish they had given him more power, more genius himself. Only Tim Blake Nelson’s Dr. Harvey Allen is handled poorly, although the meat of his scenes might have been reshoots.

It is unclear what was meant to happen in the Negative Zone, and because I don’t want to ruin whatever semblance of plot they have for the last 1/3 of the movie, I will not discuss. Other than to say it is underwhelming. And I blame the studio for that.

There is no one guiding the FF ship, no overall vision and that is abundantly clear. The franchise is a tough sell when the best version of their story to ever be released was Pixar’s The Incredibles. If they don’t give this decent cast the sequel they deserve, then the studio should have the property taken from them. I am done with new versions of the Fantastic Four from 20th Century Fox.

(*** out of *****)

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