A thought occurred to me while I was viewing a screening of “Fantastic Four”: What would an action-less superhero movie look like? How would it play? Would we miss the extravagant action pieces if they were sacrificed for the sake of a better screenplay? I know that action is what people pay to see, but it would shake things up a bit right? I was asking this question because the movie itself seemed to be lamenting this very thing. Here is a movie that is lite on action, heavy on character, all until the end of the film when evil rises and good must conquer it. And, in all fairness, the movie really isn’t THAT bad until we get to (as studio executives say) “the money shot.”
What we have here is an origin story of how the Fantastic Four became the crime fighting family we all know and…alright, in movie form we all know them. This time around the four are young kids, on the cusp of adulthood, with some trying to find their true purpose in life. We mainly follow Richard Reed (Miles Teller), who has created a teleporter that can transport items to an unknown world. The original idea was by Victor Doom (Toby Kebbell) though, who is willing to put aside his pride to help Reed develop the machine that could make this great discovery a reality. They are also helped by Sue (Kate Moss) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordon), a brother and sister due who don’t seem to have a lot of history together despite their upbringing.
For all intents and purposes, these people are coming together because of the dream of discovering something. Discovering what? Who knows? They don’t know, but the promise of discovery is exciting enough on its own. This is where the film works best, as it sets the audience up for the excitement of what’s on the other side of the universe. In some ways it resembles “Interstellar” in this regard. This is not movie about discovery though; this is a movie about rejuvenating a potentially profitable franchise. The only reason it exists is because unless something got made soon, the rights to the characters would revert back to Disney, where they would be able to be included in an upcoming Avengers movie. This need to make something – anything – to keep the copyright is evident in every aspect of this film.
It contains none of the humor or joy that made the characters so well beloved in the first place. It has an intriguing beginning that falls apart so rapidly at the half way point that one cannot help but be befuddled. The film was directed by John Trank, who has gone on record stating that this is not the movie he envisioned, and that the studio completely changed his ending. The studio claims his vision wasn’t working to begin with. Since most of what makes this such a wasted effort comes into play at the end of the film, I’m going to give Trank the benefit of the doubt on this one. Needless to say, the very public feud between studio and director is more interesting than the actual film that has resulted from said feud.
The only reason “Fantastic Four” isn’t an even bigger waste of time than it should be is because it is such an interesting failure for me. Yes, most people will view this and see nothing but a dull, wasted effort, one that is bad in a way that isn’t even fun. I truly think this might have been better if the screenplay didn’t even bother to get into the superhero business. The concept was there, the characters were good enough, and it feels like it would have been better to figure out a way to give them powers without resulting in a showdown. I know that’s what people pay for when they see movies like this, but if people react to “Fantastic Four” the way I think they will they aren’t going to be paying to see it anyway.