Sunday, August 9, 2015

Four on the Floor

I seem to be part of a select group who turned out to see Fox Studio's new version of The Fantastic Four. There weren't many of us! But I'm one, as was Jamas - who shares his review here. And here's my review.

I have no stake in The Fantastic Four as a comic property, so I probably don't care enough, I guess. I saw the two earlier cinematic movies, and didn't really care for them, finding them a bit too campy and more than a little silly. So, on stumping up the cash and braving (somewhat nervously as it turned out) the final, now-infamous product, I find myself preferring this version. It's not perfect, in fact it's a right Curate's Egg. But I can't find it in my heart to cal it a rotten one.  I thought the serious tone and the body horror elements were sensibly matched: it is a new take on the Four in film, and I don't know how I'd have introduced comic elements into that if I was making the thing. That said, there are moments of lightness, and some nice character moments in the first half.

The core Four are fine in their roles, and clearly not playing characters based on the mid-'00s models. I reckon Michael B Jordan brings a lot to the new Storm family dynamic in his performance, and there are seeds of the future family dynamic through the movie - Johnny and Ben's rivalry, a budding attraction between Sue and Reed, but on the whole this is clearly not a story where the heroes come fully-formed. In fact, most of the movie is about them finding their new identity and escaping their confines - it's almost all origin story.

The CG work was pretty good, the score was great, and the support cast noteworthy. There's a good story in here, possibly butchered in post-production, if rumour is to be believed. I'd say the biggest disservice done to the movie is that it doesn't have 'Part One' at the end of its title, because it is true that just as the Four are established, the movie ends. Frustratingly. A post-credits scene would have also been a great addition - not necessarily to link the movie to a Fox/Marvel universe, but to simply promise more; and I think this signals Fox's lack of faith in the project. Any accusations of cynical rights-grabs fall easily on this point; like it or not, in a movie genre dominated by Marvel's shared universe model, continuity and continuance are forgiven, perhaps even expected. 'They' will come if you only promise to build.
Perhaps, though, this movie shouldn't have been 'about' the Fantastic Four, and certainly the second half looks like... unhelpful things happened in the editing suite (maybe not by director Josh Trank's intent, though we may never know.) But I feel I'm repeating the words of others by saying the first half is pretty good, and inventive. Overall I didn't hate this movie, I suspect the current vortex of gloom is dragging down any neutral discussion on it, and I refuse to join the lynch mob. It's a decent take fluffed, that's all - and as I said, I'm just not as invested in these charcters to feel personally wounded by the changes wrought. The movie's terrible opening weekend is awful, though - I do feel for those directly involved; it's a mess. The closest comparison I can find is Ang Lee's Hulk - a stylised and singular take on a known property that may deviate a little too far from its comic origins for some fans.

The future is yet to be written. "Change is Coming", the movie's tag-line reads, and I rather fear it is. We may not see a sequel, a cross-over with more succesful Fox/Marvel properties (X-Men, the forthcoming Deadpool and maybe Gambit) looks tenunous. I find myself feeling similar to how I felt at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, although maybe not as let-down. A sequel could improve, build, reinforce the sound core and casting of this movie - but I fear the revised returns and critical drubbing will just spook Fox's execs into pulling the plug. With Fox and Marvel not enjoying the same relationship as Sony and Marvel, the much-crowed and anticipated 'return of the family' to its Nineties sellers may not happen. Nobody wins this one.

But I went all the same, and I'm glad I did.


  1. I think this might be the most positive review I've read so far, and makes me cautiously optimistic. You draw a parallel with Ang Lee's Hulk, and I only hope another I've heard mentioned: that perhaps this property also just doesn't seem able to work on its own, doesn't hold true.

  2. I didn't mind Ang Lee's Hulk. At least it featured the super powered being for reasonable lengths of time, instead of other movies I could throw stones at...

  3. Al, it may be me but I just don't get the hate - and I'd rather see a troubled or carelessly-made movie than a cynically-made one. So for me at least half of this was carefully made, and where it fails isn't down to the cast or concept. I'm not sure that the fact that neither of those have bene the targets for bad reviews will be enough to save the movie or ensure a sequel, however.

    Is the FF able to work on its own? Well, marvel cancelled the comics because they were allegedly struggling at the newssatnd, but of course the property not being Marvel's to promote meant that second-tier titles that are part of the MCU got priority. Sort of self-fulfilling, in a way. To put it another way, if the proprty returns to Marvel, I think we're more likely to see the likes of Doom, Galactus or the Surfer appear in a Marvel movie (okay, maybe Reed Richards too?) than the Four.

    Jamas - point taken. For some it seems having the heroes fully-realised is a suitable end. Of course that also relies on the promise of a sequel...