I have not been a critic of Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four and was actually cautiously optimistic about the film. It’s had its detractors from day one, and I’ve gone out of my way to defend it with my usual “wait and see” policy.
I am so, so sorry.
Never in my life have I seen a film fall apart so spectacularly by the time the end credits role. If the reshoots were as extensive as the rumors say they were, the fixes are nowhere to be seen, and I wonder what the film could possibly have looked like before they went back to do the pick-ups.
But let me be clear, the only way it could have fallen this far by the end is that it actually started off kind of promising. In an unorthodox review, I’m going to have to split it into two sections before giving my final verdict.
The First Half of Fantastic Four
The film began with a lot of promise, opening on a fourth grade Reed Richards who is hoping to build a teleporter from scrap parts. In doing so, he becomes good friends with a young Ben Grimm, who helps him build it over the next seven years. Richards’ talent catches the eye of Franklin Storm of the Baxter Building, who recruits him to the government think-tank to build a full-scale version.
Right up to the full-scale experiment that gives the fab four their powers, the film has this great tone that reminds me of the old Steven Spielberg/Amblin films from the 1980s. Just the right mix of mystery, wonder, and even a bit of horror, that made me optimistic that I was in for a great ride. The actors do very well with what they’re given, and the only real issue is how long it takes for the characters to get their powers. When they finally do, it’s pretty horrible for the characters to wake up with these abilities, which seem more like deformities.
The Second Half of Fantastic Four
With these new powers they do — nothing. Ben Grimm is contracted out by the military to vague places around the world to blow up tanks, which we only see in military recorded video from far away. Reed Richards escapes the facility, while Sue and Johnny Storm… well, they just work on their powers. Oh, and this is after a time jump by another year. After receiving their powers, they just don’t do anything with them.
Now is a good time to point out that Victor Von Doom is practically missing for a large part of this section, and when he finally shows up, the whole film really starts to fall to pieces. Doom’s motives are unclear and his powers are even more unclear. He seems to be able to instantly make someone’s head explode and deflect bullets (but later can’t deflect a punch, and completely forgets he could just quickly make the Fantastic Four’s heads explode during the final fight). Before his transformation, he was kind of a dick, but then he became murderous and genocidal for absolutely no reason.
After being re-introduced for five minutes, Doom initiates his plan (?), the Fantastic Four fight him for a good few more minutes, and the movie ends. By this point, the tone is back into the cheesiness from the 2005 film, the actors are terrible caricatures, and then it abruptly stops. No climax, no build, no reasons are given for anything; it just ends.
It’s astonishing to me that they could have found an amazing tone that works for this film, and then chucked it out as soon as they received their powers. For a film about superheroes, it seems like the filmmakers had no idea what to do with the characters once they had super powers. Fox may want to just abandon the franchise and let Marvel Studios get its hands on it, like they did with Daredevil, or the Spider-Man deal Sony has with Marvel, it’s strike three for the franchise.
Here’s an extended teaser: