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My issues with Fantastic Four.

I’m a comic book fan. But that’s because I understand comics unlike Fox unless they have Bryan Singer telling them what to do – comic books are a format, not a genre.

Now in this instance I am putting the blame for Fantastic Four squarely at Fox’s door. Either they messed with Trank’s film (likely after seeing his brilliant Chronicle) or Trank had the wrong take (I accept he would have had a different take but not wrong per se).

Want to know what a FF film should look like? Pixar’s The Incredibles. Easily. I mean it’s just so comparable it’s not funny. Peyton Reid (Director of Marvel’s Ant-man earlier this year) was originally going to direct Fantastic Four before Fox commissioned the Tim Story films. Reid’s take was elegantly brilliant – make it a 1960’s period film. Because the Fantastic Four are inherently silly. They were created during a time when Adam West was The Dark Knight and comics were fun. It’s inherent to the material. Christian Bale saying in a growl “I’m Batman” works, Christian Bale saying in a growl “I’m Mr Fantastic” doesn’t quite work.

Nor should it – the tones are completely different. Marvel Studios is nailing comic book movies like nobody else at present and like nobody else in movie history. They get the tone right. Kenneth Branagh’s Thor has a different tone to Richard Donner’s Superman to Joss Whedon’s The Avenger’s. Consider last year’s comic book films. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a fun loving, pop culture infused popcorn film about family with Andy Dwyer as the lead being back up by a raccoon and a tree. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a conspiracy thriller about fear versus security with the emotional arc for the lead characters about taking a stand and being there, till the end of the line. Sony’s The Amazing Spider-man was an attempt to take an inherently light character to a dark place while sacrificing storytelling and character development for world building.

Oh the three films above which films were the most successful financially and with audiences? Guardians of the Galaxy, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-man 2. The result? A new Captain America film next year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 the year after that and Spider-man is being rebooted again.

Comic books are not a genre. They are a medium. Much like film or print. But while most comic books are superhero stories they are not all the same. Fox should know this – look at Marvel. Marvel is consistently putting out hit films. Ant-man is not anywhere near as popular as The Fantastic Four but his movie was loved while Fantastic Four bombed. Why? Consider the plots for the above and the subtext. Guardians was about family. Winter Soldier was about fear versus security and saving a friend. Fantastic Four was about….what?

The Fantastic Four have amazing powers. The story is not how they get them. Batman Begins is about how a man would become more than just a man, about how he would become a symbol. About his training and his drive. Fantastic Four is about an accident. Marvel’s Incredible Hulk covered the origin in the opening credits. Because it’s not important how Bruce Banner became the Hulk. He is the Hulk.

Fantastic Four isn’t a terrible film. It is however a terrible Fantastic Four film. If it was a story about how 4 astronauts go on a mission that goes bad then it’s not bad. In fact the first hour or so of the film is pretty good. It’s wasted time to be sure and should have been trimmed as it’s all setup but it’s none the less decent. But then they get their powers and the film becomes a train wreck.

I can only imagine the original film was taken off Josh Trank after they return to earth. Because at that point we have a distinct tonal shift to a dark and gritty film about – nothing. The Thing is sad and angry. Doom is lost. Johnny feels he should use his powers for good, an interesting idea and concept that literally gets one scene. Sue is absolutely wasted and when you have a strong female character like Sue Storm and Kate Mara playing her then this might just qualify as the worst of the sins of the film if not for Doom.

Doom. How hard is it to get Doom right? In the first half they nailed Doom. When you cast an actor like Toby Kebbell (off his brilliant performance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as a compelling villain) and give him a complicated character then it works out well for all involved. Kebbell creates the only fleshed out character in the film. Then Doom – I cannot describe what happens. He get’s stuck behind, he then gets a weird mask and can harness powers for some dark scenes of making people’s heads explode. He then decided to defend his new planet and destroy Earth cause….some reason.

Doom is flawed. He is jealous of Reed Richards and is jealous that Reed got powers and he did not. Why in hell do these films consistently give Doom powers? Why do they feel the need to take a character defined by his intellect and drive and turn him into something else? Doom is a threat because he is brilliant. He has the drive of Magneto to do what he feels is right. But at the same time – he hates Reed. He hates his brilliance, he hates him for having Sue and most importantly he hates him for stealing his glory.

You cast an actor like Kebbell, let him lay the foundations of this character and then just ruined it.

Fox – give the rights back to Marvel Studios. Please. You made Daredevil light and happy when he should be dark and morose and then you made Fantastic Four dark and morose when it should be light and happy.

I am only a casual fan of the Fantastic Four (being a huge Batman fan) and I remember the heartbreak of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. I feel for the FF fans out there – they are yet to get a decent adaptation.

The Fantastic Four is toneless. It is devoid of joy, hope, character development or logic. It exists purely to exist. There is no theme, no arc, the only time the FF actually interest like you would expect is the final scene. It’s almost like Fox spent the entire run time wasting opportunity after opportunity and then Trank was able to sneak in one snippet of the characters we know and wanted to see.

There’s a story about how the then Head of Fox, Tim Rothman, when told that the fans would be outraged by X-Men: The Last Stand said “Fuck the fans we already have their money”.

Rothman is now at Sony. It is disheartening to see that the mentality continues. I would suggest to Fox – give the rights back to Marvel, agree to share some characters and double whatever it is you are paying Bryan Singer because he seems to be the only one there who understands comic books.

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