Fantastic Four 2015
This is the fourth Fantastic Four movie that I’ve watched and reviewed for this site, it seems like the franchise gets rebooted every ten years or so. This one has been plagued for well over a year with reports of reshoots, studio interference, the director Josh Trank acting odd on the set, large sections of his film being pulled out at the last moment in the editing room, and now that it’s come out it’s getting largely negative reviews and the box office is over 30% less than early projections. There’s quite a bit of backlash against this film for quite a few reasons: it hasn’t been done well in the past, fans seem to think it would fare better with Disney Marvel behind it, and the early reports had the film changing seemingly everything that people supposedly knew and loved about the Fantastic Four. I will say that I don’t believe that it deserves the 9% it has at the moment on Rotten Tomatoes, I can imagine that it’s a high amount of mildly negative reviews which isn’t entirely fair to the film. What is a bit more obvious is that whatever the reason, this film became a victim of studio interference rather than a single creative vision. Ten years from now, the story surrounding the film will be much more prominent than the film itself as it will likely fade into obscurity unless someone has the guts to finish an alternate cut of the film to bring back the original intent. For my part, I could see where the film was going initially and I was interested, but it made a reshot nosedive towards the end and I could feel that a lot of the characters were missing from the final product.
Before getting into the plot, there were a few things that started this film off that were very minor details that gave me a bit of hope for the film. Starting off with the 20th Century Fox logo and the F remained just a few moments longer in the same vein of the X-Men films. Also, there are several minor scars on Reed’s face as a child that are still there later in the film. They’re never explicitly explained, but instead it’s very simply referenced with his mantra “Don’t blow up” each time he tests his creation. The relationship between Ben and Reed was also very nicely established during those opening scenes and when Ben helps Reed move into the Baxter building. Later on in the film, it was also a great idea to jump forward an entire year into the future to skip over the learning to use their abilities trope. It’s still there to a small extent, but by then they all know how to wield their powers enough to be combat ready for the most part. It also makes sense that Ben was the first one to go out into the field as his power isn’t one that needs any level of control, it’s just a matter of strength and invulnerability.
The look of the characters individually were rather hit and miss. This is the most believable looking stretching animation that has been done to date, though it’s still just such a far off concept that it doesn’t feel real no matter how realistic it looks. Though it was great to see him use his elastic body in at least one inventive way as he contorts his face to hide his identity. The Thing also looked generally much better than any of the still photos gave credit for. During any of the hero shots, he looked as believable as a talking pile of rocks could be, aside from the odd looking eyes that suffered the same issue as Reed’s stretching. Even though it looked realistic, it was just too unusual to feel realistic. Also, during much of the archive footage of his military operations, it was clear that those were done at a much lower quality and made him look much less realistic and more cartoonish. The same problem happened during any of the scenes with Sue Storm as she was floating inside her bubble. The Human Torch was also somewhat iffy, the flames themselves looked passable, but overall look with the blank eyes felt a little too grim and gritty. And to cap things off with one of the biggest fan complaints and Victor Von Doom, who was able to survive a year in the Zero dimension by apparently merging with the sentient energy that turned his environment suit into a melted plastic shell, but also managed to create a hooded cloak out of something or other to finish his look. It’s one of those ideas that was doomed to fail no matter what happened. There’s no realistic way to explain his comic book look, and this halfhearted attempt to fuse this pseudo realism with his tradition look ended up so far away from it that it was unrecognizable as either the comic book character or a real character so it failed on both levels.
Another major issue is that while some of the characters have a minor character arc to them, none of them end up paying off in any major way. While that is quite possibly due to the reshoots and retooling, they are still there and it creates a hole in the film that nothing is able to shore up. There is the relationship between Ben and Reed that is built up nicely in the beginning, and has the turning point when Reed escapes from the government facility, and the confrontation when Ben brings him back from his year of being on the lam. But then it’s just never really brought up again. There’s no real reconciliation, or resolution to their conflict, they are just faced with a bigger problem and then they’re ok at the end of it. There’s also no sense of family to this film whatsoever. Franklin Storm is supposedly the father figure of all the “kids” in the film minus Ben, but it really just boils down to him repeatedly calling them his “kids”, he gives them a lecture/speech, and goes to bat for them with the government. It’s not a big surprise that he ends up dying, but there is very little weight given to that moment, and it’s barely referenced outside of a quick moment of inspiration. On top of that, Sue and Johnny are supposed to be brother and adopted sister, but that relationship never feels like it exists. He’s brought onto the team, but there’s never any real sense that they have any history together. They feel much more like they have the same relationship as Sue and Reed or Sue and Victor only without any romantic undertones.
And to wrap things up, there’s the very tacked on climactic ending that feels surprisingly like the climax to the first Tim Story film where the four of them have to team up to defeat Victor Von Doom. Only this time, instead of a fire tornado and stream of water, they use an invisible Thing to suck him into his own weird space vortex thingy. It’s a very similar moment where each of them are easily defeated when they’re working separately, but when the work together for a matter of thirty seconds, it’s enough to defeat the all powerful villain. And to wrap things up, it has the super happy ending where they name themselves in what they refer to as “Central City” which may be more familiar to people nowadays as the home of the Flash, it was actually a reference to the original comics where Central City housed the base where they launched into space and got their powers. In the end, I still don’t think that this was an abomination that was painful to watch. I do agree that there is a lot missing and it ends up feeling tinkered with and incomplete, but there are seeds of something worthwhile. It’s just a shame that I doubt anything will ever come of it and this will end up as another Catwoman that exists outside of any continuity and will never rear its ugly head again. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.