Forget terrible Rotten Tomatoes scores and damning editorial pieces, nothing is quite as worrying as going to see a movie and having the cinema staff beg you not to buy a ticket. When “hello mate, one for Fantastic Four” is met with a desperate plea of “please sir, I cannot in good faith recommend that you spend money on a ticket for this film”, you know that you’re about to witness something special, something that dives beyond the choppy surface of mediocrity and into the murky depths of sheer atrociousness.
On paper there was no clear indication that Fantastic Four was doomed to fail. Simon Kinberg, the seasoned writer and producer behind the X-Men movies, was at the reigns alongside Josh Trank, the rising star director of 2012’s Chronicle. The Four themselves were made up of some of the hottest young talent available; Ringo Whiplash (Miles Teller), Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell), Zoe Subway from House of Cards (Kate Mara), and “Where’s Wallace?!” from The Wire (Michael B. Jordan). Maybe this is the one, we optimistically wondered. Maybe third time’s a charm for 20th Century Fox and they’ve finally created a worthy Fantastic Four that’ll launch a fun franchise with entertaining sequels for years to come.
How very, very, incredibly, unbelievably wrong we were. Fantastic Four might spend its first 20 minutes looking like a standard comic-book adaptation, with the cliched origin story of a boy genius and his trusty pal spouting off painful dialogue in an effort at character building. The next hour, however, will make Marvel Studios’ worst entries (looking at you, Iron Man 2) look like cinematic brilliance in comparison. This movie has a structure unlike anything previously witnessed, endlessly providing dull build-up for a climax that doesn’t actually exist. If the same construction was applied to a hotel, then the Fant4stic Trank Lodge would have an enormous yet drab lobby, one threadbare room with no bed or TV, and the restaurant/lounge would be ungraciously stuffed into a tiny supply cupboard.
Apparently there was “a fantastic version” of this movie a year ago and “it would’ve received great reviews”, if Josh Trank and his twitter account are to be believed. Frankly, there is almost no chance that this can possibly be true. Fantastic Four is awful at its core and bad in a way that goes beyond studio interference. It’s a great shame to say but even the performances are weak, a strong cast tainted by tired lines and poor direction. They look faintly ridiculous in their uninspiring costumes, stood in front of green screen vistas so woefully obvious that you have to wonder where the $120 million dollar budget went. It certainly wasn’t spent on large-scale, spectacular action scenes because across the whole 100 minutes there are barely any.
When the final scene comes to a close, you’ll let out a sigh that encapsulates a world of emotions that Fantastic Four never even came close to capturing on-screen. A sigh that simultaneously expresses joy that it’s over, disappointment at the whole ordeal, embarrassment for all involved in the project, and ultimately a deep sense of regret. The regret that you failed to heed the warning from the Good Samaritan behind Cineworld’s ticket desk. He tried to tell you and you should have listened. Either undergoing dental surgery or popping a blood blister in the bath are both more exciting, more interesting, and infinitely more climactic activities than watching Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. For the love of God, do not spend money on this film.
Fantastic Four is on wide release in UK & US Cinemas now.