Box Office Democracy: “Fantastic Four”
Fantastic Four is a bad movie. Don’t go see it if you want an enjoyable 100 minutes in a theater and probably don’t see it for an ironic “so bad I want to make fun of it” kind of way either. It’s a lifeless bad, an entropic bad, a movie so bad it makes me question if there’s even a good movie based on this team to be made. Only the depths of history save Fantastic Four from being the worst superhero movie of all time (it might not even be the worst movie named Fantastic Four) but it’s certainly the worst superhero of this generation and is a top contender for worst film of the year.
Perhaps it isn’t possible to make a good Fantastic Four with the constraints that a non-Marvel studio would put on it. They need to make the principal characters young so they’re more relatable to young people, but then you have a team full of cut-rate Peter Parkers with none of the family-based charm that makes the FF work in the comics. You need to do an origin story but you also need to get Doctor Doom in there because he’s literally the only villain that anyone’s ever heard of so you end up shoehorning that character into a story that doesn’t involve him or he becomes some kind of vestigial Fantastic Fifth. There’s also an unwillingness to use the iconic costumes or codenames that aren’t The Thing, which takes a team with so much history and turns them in to a bunch of generic off-brand versions of themselves.
It’s become quite clear over the weekend that there were some serious behind the scenes squabbles over the making of this movie and it’s certainly apparent in the product given to us on the screen. After the four main characters get their super powers they are held as scientific experiments, a predicament from which Reed escapes and the remaining three are left behind. This creates a great deal of mistrust from Ben Grimm who feels abandoned but throws himself headfirst in to working as a secret weapon of the military. One such military operation is taking Reed back in to custody. When they bring Reed back Johnny is quick to embrace him, Sue feels guilty at being part of the operation that brought him back in and Ben still feels anger. Then Doctor Doom shows up and starts killing a lot of people and it feels like this is going to be the impetus for the four of them to put their differences aside and work together to stop this larger evil a few scenes later in the movie but instead this one confrontation is it. They fight Doom and at the end they seem to be the best of friends even though nothing really changed for all of them, they don’t talk, there aren’t even meaningful glances or anything. Reed goes from missing for an entire year to barking orders that everyone follows in what must have been hours. I bet there was a version of this movie that feels more complete but we’ll never see it and with the right NDAs we might never even know but this is the rare movie that’s boring at 100 minutes but might have been appreciably better at 120 minutes.
I don’t know where this property goes from here. There’s already word from Fox that their announced Fantastic Four sequel might get scrapped in favor of a Deadpool sequel. Oddly, not announcing sequels for movies that haven’t been released yet doesn’t seem to be an option at all. Perhaps this time Fox has finally stumbled so badly with the franchise that they’ll be willing to work out a deal that returns the characters to Marvel and we start seeing a slow rollout of Latverian mentions in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not interested in seeing this version of these characters again and I’m sure as hell not excited to sit through another origin story in four years time. I want this to eventually be gotten right but maybe it doesn’t matter, there are enough super hero movies out there without another iteration of the FF taking up all of our time.