'Fantastic Four' marks the fourth try at a big screen adaptation of the Marvel Comics property yet only the third one ever meant to be seen by any actual audiences. With the success Fox Studios has had with the X-Men property, they decided to take another crack at Marvel's original family this time bring Josh Trank on as a writer/and Simon Kinberg as a writer/producer following his success with the X team. The production of this movie has certainly had issues with reports of Trank having been difficult to work with, re-shoots and Fox possibly taking control of the movie away from Trank. I can't speak on the validity of any claims but the final product certainly shows signs that some of this may have been true.
'FF' starts off with another origin story of Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), plus Sue and Johnny Storm (Kate Mara and Michael B Jordan respectively) as they are gathered together to finish developing an inter dimensional travel project that was started by Franklin Storm (Reg Cathey) and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). This project is ultimately a success thanks to the big ol' brain Richards has and they travel to another dimension where things go totally awry, possibly due to the inebriation of the team, and they return all sorts of messed up. Well, most of them return anyway.
'FF' starts off on a high note showing Richards and Grimm as kids in school together where Richards is developing the aforementioned tech in his parents' garage which shows us a little of each of their personalities. This then jumps to them as teenagers where Franklin and Sue Storm discover them at a science fair and bring them into the fold of their massive project. Trank handles this quite well establishing a more grounded tone than the previous iterations of this story had that I found pleasant. This continues into the second act where the story evolves into a sort of body-horror sci-fi movie that has glimpses of Cronenberg's style that I absolutely love. This is where this movie shines! Trank has previously only directed 'Chronicle', a truly wonderful small budget found-footage movie that is in many ways a superhero origin story in its own right and these same sensibilities work well here. Many character traits are setup as well that in a normal movie would carry on to the climax and have an effect on these characters' later actions. Unfortunately this doesn't happen.
After seeing 'FF' I believe that control was taken away from Trank almost entirely as what should function as the third act of this movie is of a completely different tone, quality and feels as rushed as Fox was to wash their hands of this project. This movie has chosen to ignore the entire section of these characters learning to use and deal with their powers, which is fine, but they also skip the entire section of them learning to function as a team, to the detriment of the movie as a whole. The tone earlier established is abandoned. The character traits previously established are ignored and thus, have no payoff or reward. We never see this team learn to use their powers or work together and instead are told this through MAYBE five minutes of footage and two lines of dialogue. Garbage! While I can't speak on any of the issues Trank may have introduced to the production himself, Fox choosing to ignore what he had started and instead tearing it apart with re-writes and re-shoots that effectively shit on what they had before was the wrong way to go. Again, all of this is my opinion as I have zero insider knowledge but I believe anyone who has seen this final product would come to a similar conclusion. These conclusions can even be seen on screen as I think the marks of the two different movies on display here can be deciphered by Kate Mara's two different hair styles that are clearly evident of re-shoots. The actors here are doing their best but it is wildly evident that they were receiving little to no direction in what should be the climax of this movie.
What should be the climax here plays out so quickly that you won't be wrong in feeling bewilderment when the credits roll. Victor Von Doom is brought back almost of nowhere, given no real character motivation or reason to be as evil as he is, rendered absolutely terribly on screen and then taken down in a laughable way by characters that weren't in the rest of the movie. Scenes here are noticeably rushed with bad acting and even poor physical placement within the entirely green-screened environment as markers of such. All of these actors deserve better but having Kebbell as your Dr. Doom and then completely throwing him and his talents out with the bathwater is the most offensive part of this failure. All of this being said, I could see myself going to see a sequel if one director was allowed to see their vision through to the end within this world that was established in the early parts of this movie. It's sad that Trank has almost no chance of being this director.
'Fantastic Four' is at its best when Trank is directing these talented young actors in a smart, body-horror-inspired sci-fi movie and at its worst when it goes off the rails completely as a separate movie in the end. Perhaps we will know ten years from now what truly happened but that may not even happen. I hope that Trank can find a smaller profile project to continue growing as a director with after this failure and I hope this cast will be given the chance to shine as these characters in a more fully realized version of this world later on. There is currently a sequel scheduled for 2017 but the weekend performance of this movie will likely dictate whether or not this happens. This is the only reason I could suggest anyone see this movie with their hard earned dollars and even then, it may not be worth it still.