Fant4stic / Fantastic 4 / Fantastic Four (2015)
Dir: Josh Trank
Already you’ve likely heard a lot about this film and almost certainly it was all bad! I want to be the man who rushes to its defence… But I can’t…
A young scientist finds a way to open a portal to an unknown place, however when humans are sent there it causes unexpected mutations, giving them extraordinary abilities!
The film has issues, major, fatal issues. Much publicised were the box-office failings, in no small part prompted by the director tweeting just days before release:
“A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”
They say that all publicity is good publicity, yet how can that be when this tweet was singularly blamed for the loss of tens of millions in box office takings? I don’t think the reason why this flopped can be summed up in 140 characters or less, the film was doomed to fail on its own merits or indeed lack of them. A friend of mine suggested that as a ‘Fantastic Four’ film it’s really bad, but putting that aside to watch it as a sci-fi it works better. So, that’s what I tried to do when I watched it at home (yes, disclaimer, I own this film on special edition steelbook Blu-Ray, not because I like it but simply because I’m a completist) and I can confirm… I’m right and he’s wrong!
One of the reasons he’s wrong, is that the origins of these characters and prior knowledge of them is one of the few reasons why you can warm to the characters much at all, we as a likely knowledgeable audience are essentially filling in the gaps ourselves. I don’t yet know what it would be like for someone with little to no knowledge of the original characters or story to watch this film, but I can imagine they would be left even colder than I was. There are attempts to make the characters accessible, but so much feels badly cobbled together that it mostly fails, and there’s a disconnect between the early scenes and what follows.
There are almost always things to find in favour of even the worst of films and here there are four things, the main cast. They don’t do their best work, their characters aren’t fully developed and the performances feel off par, but there are at least moments in which you can find glimmers of potential in the performances and casting. These are actors with good experience, Miles Teller just last year stunned with ‘Whiplash’, Kate Mara has always been good in things like, and Michael B. Jordan has become a real actor to watch with his work with Ryan Coogler on both ‘Fruitvale Station’ and ‘Creed’. Even Jamie Bell while having a very changeable career, brings plenty of experience and ability. I really do believe this ensemble cast put into a properly developed film could have been very good indeed, sadly though they’re largely wasted on cliché and lacklustre dialogue and action.
Where I feel it fundamentally went wrong was in the editing and how that corresponds to story development and pacing. I say this with some measure of understanding as a trained editor with over a decade of experience, and even more so as someone with extensive experience in watching films, especially in this genre. For example, one of the most infuriating parts of the film is not long after the characters are endowed with their abilities, we cut to ‘one year later’ literally stated on screen, and soon watch exciting events from the interim, played on monitors, action scenes that would have been fantastic to see properly with the team getting to use their abilities in military operations. Where most superhero films find their feet is in showing the new heroes finding theirs, invariably audiences love to see the would-be-heroes getting to grips with their new, and especially in this case strange abilities. This film literally skips over that whole period in the most half-assed and lazy fashion, despite showing us that it was all filmed, edited and had the visual effects rendered, which just rubs in the fact that it was all there to be used, but they couldn’t be bothered to put in what effort and cost was needed to make those scenes work. Ultimately it may have required delaying release, a sure knock to their pride, and a harbinger of failure, but still, could it have possibly been any worse than the reality of wide releasing a film that didn’t work?
Josh Trank was just a few years ago considered to be a promising director, with superb début ‘Chronicle’ he looked set to be the next big thing. Now he looks like he’s sadly going to be the next Richard Kelley, a director who made a spectacular début feature that gained huge popularity, launched a career, but then followed it up with something that was near impossible to like. I honestly hope he can turn things around, maybe through a return to his roots and lower budget projects, though that’s now not going to be merely through choice but more from the fact that studios are unlikely to hand him another good budget to lose.
I’m sure he had something interesting to make in mind, I would really love to believe him. In past instances of a film ‘under-performing’ there has been a chance for the ‘Director’s Cut’ to be released with a few issues rectified, such as with the Ben Affleck ‘Daredevil’ where the alternate edit was better received. Even Richard Donner was giving another go at ‘Superman II’ decades after being let go from the production. Will that happen here? Simply, never say never, but I think not. Trank has burnt bridges with his tweet, so I can’t imagine the studio handing over everything and giving him another bite at the apple. If they did, I have no doubt it would sell, there are people like me after all who love this stuff and if I can be persuaded to buy the theatrical release on special edition Blu-Ray at full price, you can bet I (and others) would pay to see something closer resembling Trank’s ‘vision’.
Inevitably the film has been nominated for a number of Golden Raspberries, no surprises there. After such a financial failure and the abundance of bad press, the future of the rebooted franchise was immediately in doubt. The sequel was already dated, but there have been (refuted) rumours that it will be replaced with something else, especially now that ‘Deadpool’ has made more money it it’s opening weekend on half the budget, than this made in its whole short-lived theatrical release! I can’t see why Fox would be so determined to pursue this, to be a successful sequel it would have to have a good foundation upon which to build but this is now more dangerously toxic than the planet they were sent to! I imagine the actors agents are working overtime to get them out of any multiple movie contracts, maybe coming up with deals that will involve them being in other films the studio has in production. Sadly as they were the closest thing to a redeeming factor, I think the future of this rebooted series is doomed, honestly I believe it’s a shame but better than making another as woeful as this.
‘Fant4stic’ is nominated at this year’s Golden Raspberry awards for Razzies in 5 categories, ‘Worst Picture, ‘Worst Remake/Rip-Off/Sequel’, ‘Worst Screen Combo (for all four “Fantastics”)’, ‘Worst Director’ and ‘Worst Screenplay’. I think it has a chance of ‘winning’ at least a couple of them.