Fantastic Four in Cinema pt 4 – “Fant4stic”, or “No, You’re Getting Colder”

May 20, 2020 The Thing Is..
The Thing Is...

by Rick Lundeen

In 2015, with the clock running out on Fox’s possession of the rights to the Fantastic Four on film, they decided to film another one at the eleventh hour, thus keeping the FF hostage at Fox for another seven years. The calibre of film was a bit suspicious as well. They hired Josh Trank to direct the film. Trank’s big claim to fame was Chronicle, a very well done, low budget project that was a cross between a “found footage” doc and a superhero film. I’m only speculating here but if Fox was anxious to just get something out there as a placeholder to maintain the rights, it’s very possible they’d want to keep the budget as low as possible at the same time.

Now, during filming, it eventually became apparent that all was not well on the set. At one point, Trank would just retreat to his trailer and not come out. Later, he was basically fired and there were some reshoots. Obviously *something* was going on behind the scenes. For the longest time after it are out, word of mouth had it that this film was shunned as the rankest piece of garbage anywhere and I had no interest in seeing it. For all intents and purposes, it seemed as if there were a lot of bizarre and just plain stupid decisions.

Evidently, a young Ben Grimm would get beaten by his brother, who’d always say “It’s Clobberin’ Time”. Once again, Von Doom would be involved in the accident that gave them powers and would once again go all robot or something. This iteration was also more loosely based on The Ultimate Fantastic Four comic. This wasn’t the original FF but one from a different universe, all part of the Marvel Ultimate universe, where Reed and Ben weren’t older veterans around 40 but closer to 21. It also wasn’t a real great comic that didn’t even do that well in sales, so to base a movie on it…? And of course the biggest head scratcher was that Sue’s brother Johnny was now black. We just assumed a mixed race family but you’d think it would have just been easier to just make Reed or Ben black, if you absolutely felt like you had to suddenly make one of the team black. A lot of unusual choices.

Eventually, I had the opportunity to see the film on cable and figured, what he’ll. Let’s see how bad it actually is. I’ve sat through Batman & Robin, I’ve sat through The Spirit, so I should be able to take this.

It actually was quite good. For the first 45 minutes or hour. I mean, it wasn’t the FF I knew by any means but instead, that first hour was a really gripping Twilight Zone episode. It approached the team members, their accident and its effects like a kind of scientific horror show. What would really happen if someone went through this and managed to live. Imagine the horror of seeing yourself on fire. Or being strapped to a table and having your limbs forcibly stretched out and restrained. Or simply not being able to see yourself. Imagine being this giant, monstrous creature made of crumbling stone. They showcased the real nightmare this would be. In fact, I highly recommend watching the first hour. It seems to be Trank’s vision and it all works magnificently on its own as a horror film.

But then something happened. That last half hour was when things shifted. Now I can see why Trank was retreating into his trailer and eventually got fired. It’s apparent that Fox wanted to stop Trank’s version, shift away from the sci-fi horror, and pivot to good old fashion superhero versus super villain. And in that shift, they lost their momentum, the narrative, and a chunk of the acting as well. I think the crew would have all been happier seeing Trank’s vision though to the end. Ah well. It was that hostile takeover and dopey shift that sunk the film–at least as far as it being a good film. Even if they stuck with Trank’s vision to the end, it might have been an excellent film all the way through, but it wouldn’t have been the FF as I or any fan know them. And while that’s not horrible, it is disappointing, this being the fourth film made about this team. 3/10, and it’s that high because the first hour was intriguing.

Since then, Disney and Marvel actually acquired the rights for The FF and the X-men, getting them back from Fox by basically buying Fox, or at least the entertainment portion of it. So cheers were loud and glasses were raised. The Fantastic Four had come home at last.

Now, we wait. Probably until 2022, since we haven’t heard anything yet from Fiege, about casting, a time table, etc., which is ironic because if Fox still had the rights, they’d have to shove something out there again by 2022 just to keep ’em, because the Thing IS.

Tomorrow, (the royal) we wrap up FF cinema week with my all star cast…

Fant4stic. Yeah.