Last night, my wife and I decided to finally take in Fantastic Four. In the time leading up to and following its release, I’ve heard an onslaught of negative press and lackluster performance. With that in mind, I went in last night expecting a massive turd of a film. Instead, I was shown something different. It wasn’t nearly as atrocious as people are being led to believe. Sure, it had faults. But in its defense, here are reasons to give it a fair chance and some things that worked against it.
Almost every franchise needs an origin; a story to set the stage. Each time a story is rebooted, the beginning has to be rehashed or reimagined. This insistence of going back to the beginning every time, something James Bond only did once, elevates the level of familiarity to unusual heights. The audience wants fresh and exciting stories, not the same plot over and over again.
Instead of soldiering forward, Fantastic Four has to create its own world apart from the previous movies. Superhero movies are reaching their peak in terms of demand. With each new film/reboot/sequel, the genre teeters closer to the brink of over-saturation, something that will cause quality and success to nosedive.
Another issue plaguing Hollywood in general is stretching a film to a run time around or longer than two hours. Many films feel bloated and boring when aiming for such a length. Fantastic Four is a movie that even with a span 100 minutes, feels pushed too thin. And by taking a story that isn’t much on paper to begin with, it feels much longer. The basic action template is shrugged off for a more character-based plot. This decision actually leads to one of the stronger elements of the film; the cast.
The casting to the superhero group is remarkably solid. Miles Teller as Reed Richards feels inspired and completely erases the solid job Ioan Gruffudd did. The same can be said for Sue Storm. Kate Mara easily turns a character that was merely sexualized in the previous films to be the heart the group. Jamie Bell and Michael B. Jordan have the thankless jobs of delivering roles comprised of a great deal of CGI. Though the previous two films had merits as well, this cast is leaps and bounds over their predecessors. Though a sequel with this cast is now in jeopardy due to box office bomb status, revisit these actors in these roles would be a welcome idea.
Despite its clunky script, and news of certain set pieces being scrapped due to budget issues, the film is actually rich visually. The other dimension especially has a setting ripe for 3D (which again, was scrapped due to budget problems). Even interior shots, which is a majority of the film’s run time, feel sleek and clean.
Fantastic Four is a flawed summer movie. But it isn’t the garbage it is being perceived as. The characters are enjoyable and the film manages to work in spite of everything working against it. Though the villain Dr. Doom is cringe-worthy and grossly underused, the film limps along enough to entertain audiences willing to cut it some slack.