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November 24, 2019 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Director Josh Trank Reviews Director Josh Trank's Fantastic Four (2015) [Letterboxd] “Fant4stic... Huh. Okay first of all, I thought it would be GREAT if I searched FF2015 and the shit wasn’t even on here. Low key I kinda was hoping it wasn’t. But it was! And I’m here. Anyway. Where to begin...The movie is ALRIGHT. I was expecting it to be much worse than it was. I literally haven’t seen it since like two weeks before it came out, and I was in a heavily fucking traumatized state of mind. Why? Eh, save that for another time. Anyway, movie review: Great cast.”
posted by Fizz (42 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fant4stic is definitely bad, very bad, and it has a Frankenstein feel of a movie that's thrown together in haste from a lot of chaos....but, bringing body horror into the FF is fun, especially with the Thing. I'd be much more interested in the Trank cut of FF than the Snyder cut of JL, that's for sure.

That said, Tim Story's first FF is the better adaptation of the comic book, and the first Incredibles is very close to a perfect FF movie, just slightly jumbled around and with different IP.
posted by factory123 at 12:45 PM on November 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


The Incredibles is just some dude massaging his own ego reassuring himself that "society will always pull down wonderful, special people like me". The Fantastic Four is the story of a group of people banding together to explore the unknown and discover the new and exciting. Aside from being four super-powered family members they couldn't be less similar stories.
posted by haileris23 at 1:01 PM on November 24, 2019 [21 favorites]


The Incredibles is more Watchmen + Fantastic Four, with a slight satirectomy on the Watchmen side.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:25 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


Trank's original script seems interesting as far as super hero movies go, but unfortunately Fox looks at all of these properties and films as pulls on a slot machine. If they luck out and get something that succeeds, then they have a franchise they can draw reliable funds from for at least 2 or 3 installments. The fanboy whining after the leak is what lead them to meddle, unsuccessfully, because a lack of fanboy buy-in would basically rob them of a pull on that slot handle. That's the rationale, anyway - in reality, something that's actually interesting instead of a bland carbon copy of the already bland MCU would likely generate a lot more revenue than the final product that they ended up hacking together at the last minute.
posted by codacorolla at 1:32 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Say what you will about Disney buying Fox, but if it means that we get a new FF film that captures the comics' wonderful blend of family sci-fi adventure instead of... whatever this was... that will be a good thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:33 PM on November 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


Most sincere FF so far is the unreleased 1994 version. Yes, it's also bad, but I love the soundtrack!

And let's not forget the tragically-never-made 1963 TV show (although, William Demerest for Ben Grimm? Nah, back then they coulda got the original: William Bendix.)
posted by Rash at 1:33 PM on November 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


All I can think is, wow, I’m grateful that none of my 29 year old self’s professional failures are still available for people to watch today.

The Incredibles is just some dude massaging his own ego reassuring himself that "society will always pull down wonderful, special people like me".

I get where you’re coming from, but I like Emily Todd VanDerWerff’s nuanced take on it:
The closest thing to an answer Bird ever provides is “Do what’s right, and what’s right is what benefits the most people.”

In short, his movies always posit that the exceptional should be allowed to express their talents to the best of their abilities — but only insofar as they can benefit society at large.

What’s interesting is how often Bird’s most openly objectivist moments and story ideas are presented as bad things. That collection of geniuses making up Tomorrowland, for instance, invents a machine meant to bring doom to our world, while the famous line about being special or super from Incredibles is actually spoken twice — the first time by a child and the second time by the movie’s villain. Helen is the closest thing the Incredibles franchise has to a moral conscience, and she’s always the one on the side of the idea that “everyone is special.” We just have different talents.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:41 PM on November 24, 2019 [18 favorites]


All I can think is, wow, I’m grateful that none of my 29 year old self’s professional failures are still available for people to watch today.

Who's 29 in this scenario? Bird was 47 when he wrote a movie where the main "hero" whines that 5 year olds are getting recognized, but he isn't.
posted by haileris23 at 1:52 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Who's 29 in this scenario?

Trank making FF, not Brad Bird. The Incredibles was hardly a professional failure, regardless of how you parse the subtext.
posted by atoxyl at 1:59 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Josh Trank was 29 when he directed Fantastic Four.

"I was 29 years old, making my 2nd film, in a situation more complicated than anything a 2nd time filmmaker should’ve walked into."
posted by acidnova at 1:59 PM on November 24, 2019 [6 favorites]


Zack Snyder is a storied, iconic, legendary filmmaker who has been knocking it out of the fucking park since I was in high school.

This explains so much.

Trank may or may not be a good director, but he was definitely the wrong director for this project. I wish Fox had let him complete his version his way, because there just wasn't any way to convert what he did to what they wanted. Better to just hope it found its own audience, than manage to offend Trank fans and F4 fans.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:03 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Is this where I complain that no one has ever made a decent FF movie? It should have been so simple. The FF saga is one of Lee/Kirby's richest tales, with great villains, some gravitas (especially for Ben), and some truly galactic scope. This is where Lee first started going out of our solar system and it was um...fantastic. The FF used to be the heart of the Marvel Universe but 20th Century Fox so thoroughly screwed the pooch that I would bet that most fans of the MCU barely know of its importance.
posted by Ber at 2:11 PM on November 24, 2019 [14 favorites]


Zack Snyder is a storied, iconic, legendary filmmaker who has been knocking it out of the fucking park since I was in high school.

Zack Snyder’s first theatrical release was Dawn of the Dead, released in March 2004.

Josh Trank turned 20 in February 2004.

The problem is drawing into clearer focus now.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:19 PM on November 24, 2019 [22 favorites]


The 2015 movie suffered from from the one thing that Kingsman called out a year prior: the bad guy defines the hero. In the FF2015, Doom, who is such an iconic Marvel character, was treated like garbage. Shuffled off to a phantom zone-like alternate dimension, Doom is now a conduit to some stupid evil thing/plan. He doesn't even act like Doom. By casting Doom as this garbage villain, it made the movie garbage. The threat never felt real.

If this movie had discarded Doom entirely, and instead focused on Mr. Fantastic running around and hiding, trying to undo this Big Mistake while the rest of the team were working for the US Government as metahuman assassins, the movie would have been great. Fantastic, even. Personally, I enjoyed the first half of the movie. It felt like a great setup to me, one that was different from the usual FF 'fantastic science' but at the same perfectly fitting within the Marvel universe as a whole.

Give us a FF movie (or tv series) where Mr. Fantastic is hunted by his former team mates. Loose the stupid adopted-brother plot (not cannon, not relevant to the overall story, felt jammed in for marketing reasons). The original brother-sister friction is perfect, no reason to mess with that.
Keep Reed's issues with controlling his form, resorting to more and more elaborate contraptions. The face shifting is great, why they never explored that in the comics I don't know. The high-flying scientist is living off the grid, more and more desperate to undo his mistakes. Rural hijinks ensue.
Sue is a bitter leader, lied to by her boyfriend Reed who "made her this way". Each mission makes her more and more resentful, her powers on the edge of control.
Ben is depressed, his own self-loathing pushing others way, unable to form lasting emotional bonds. Only a chance meeting with Alicia keeps him from spiraling out of control, the blind woman hiding her own metahuman backstory.
Johnny is the only one of the trio that fully accepts and embraces his newfound powers, eager to go off on the next mission. Each new task is a chance to show everyone that he's special.
The mortality of being used by the USG to hunt down and kill rouge elements only starts to affect them when they are tasked to bring in Reed Richards, orders given to them by General Von Doom.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


That's... that's an even worse take than whatever the hell Trank foisted on us.

I mean, it's a hell of an idea for a movie. It's a terrible idea for a Fantastic Four movie. We have literally FIFTY YEARS of great F4 storylines to draw upon. Use one of them. Skrulls. Mole Man. Galactus. Annihilus. Namor. They don't need to come up with some novel take on the team, changing literally every one of their personalities along the way. If you don't like the F4, don't do a damned F4 movie. You'd think that wouldn't be hard, but we've had three movies that would be unrecognizable if not for the name.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:44 PM on November 24, 2019 [24 favorites]


Rash: "although, William Demerest for Ben Grimm?"

Wait, UNCLE CHARLEY?
posted by Chrysostom at 3:02 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


That's... that's an even worse take than whatever the hell Trank foisted on us.

Yeah. So sorry. But yeah. Assassins? WTF?
posted by Splunge at 3:03 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


In part, the movie suffers for trying to use the utterly misguided Ultimate Fantastic Four as a template, a series that stripped out the mystery and wonder and replaced it with a hostile universe in which discovery is always threat discovery, and the FF are an underaged special task force in the military-industrial complex.

Trank's approach to movies would have been consistent with that, of course, but it still wouldn't have worked. The FF isn't really suited to that sort of cynicism or to pseudo-realistic aesthetics. Even the body horror elements aren't that pronounced compared to, say, the Doom Patrol, and it's really only the Thing who finds his mutation a burden...and that mostly because he can't recognize himself or live a normal life.

There are definitely things to modernize: the particulars of the "impromoptu amateur" space-flight origin and Sue's role stand out, but the former might make more sense int he era of privatized space travel, and the latter is mostly a matter of emphasizing the kinds of grounded intelligence and practicality Sue always brought to the team. But most modernizations of the FF comics and film have been for the worse, often because they focus on the wrong things.

Trying to make Reed Richards the heavy is a mistake. yes, his 1960s portrayal has aged very, very poorly, but that's really a matter of just not having him act that way, and having his intelligence include some emotional intelligence, enough for other people to reasonably want to be around him. And there's always been a compassionate side to reed, not least in his guilt over Ben's transformation and his efforts to enable his erstwhile "family" to benefit from his mistakes rather than suffer for them.

And let's not even get into the way Chris Evans's Johnny Storm ended up ruining the comics version for years, turning him into an airheaded celebutante stereotype of a superhero, not the earnest but hotheaded and immature youth he was for most of his publication history.

the sad part is, a few of the changes actually could have worked really well. Making the FF a mixed family accentuates what was already there, and the Reed-Ben friendship should be about people crossing cliques and class divisions. But amping up the "realism" and the body horror, as well as the ill-advised Ultimatized decision to make them all younger really does a number on the concept's strengths and wrecks the tone. The original, silver Age Doom Patrol was closer to what these filmmakers seemed to want, and even that was more sentimental in the 1960s and even started as an FF pastiche in many ways.
posted by kewb at 3:18 PM on November 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


I didn't realize people had so much hate for The Incredibles. Is that because it isn't based on existing comics?
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:19 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


If you're into the idea of a GOOD FF movie, and you have 24 minutes to spend watching a nerd pitch to camera, I really liked MovieBob's "How to fix the FF in the Marvel Cinematic Universe" from a couple of years ago. Part 1. Part 2.
Long story short, Reed's rocket launches on 11/8/1961 (pub. date of FF issue #1), but doesn't return until the present day in the MCU. So it's set now, but played by the 60's retro-futurist version of the FF. I won't spoil the rest.
posted by bartleby at 3:26 PM on November 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


Wait, UNCLE CHARLEY?

Preposterous, right? Instead, consider William Bendix, best known from "The Life of Riley." Ben Grimm is quoting him when he says "What a revolting development this is!"
posted by Rash at 3:31 PM on November 24, 2019


> "... the rest of the team ... as metahuman assassins ..."

If you want a Planetary movie, it would be better to just make a Planetary movie.
posted by kyrademon at 3:38 PM on November 24, 2019 [21 favorites]


I didn't realize people had so much hate for The Incredibles. Is that because it isn't based on existing comics?

I think it’s because there are a few quotes in the movie that sound like they espouse Objectivism, despite the fact that the actual superheroes in the movies behave the exact opposite way as Objectivists would.
posted by ejs at 4:01 PM on November 24, 2019 [20 favorites]


In a Six Degrees of Michael Chiklis way, they did make a FF-ish TV show: No Ordinary Family
posted by bartleby at 4:30 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Yeah, The Incredibles is well-liked in general, but the bad guy's one Ayn Rand-sounding line plus Craig T Nelson make it right wing propaganda in certain circles.
posted by factory123 at 4:31 PM on November 24, 2019 [4 favorites]




I quickly decided to ignore Trank's take on his own movie when he alluded to Zack Snyder being some sort of genius, and doubled down with the wrong with his allusion to the ReleaseTheSnyderCut cranks.

As for the FF, I really don't think that it needs to be radically rewritten so much as simply acknowledge the 21st century as it is. Reed is working on one of the private space ventures, Ben is an Iraq/Afghanistan veteran pilot who's from Staten Island (the Lower East Side having long since been too gentrified to host a street gang, although possibly some of the Yancy Street Gang moved to the Island), Sue is obviously the most powerful member of the team, and Johnny's big on Instagram. Doom has his own breakaway Balkan republic, but he's still in armor (and insisting that Tony Stark stole his idea, while running his country with salvaged Ultron tech).

Also, I'd like Paste Pot Pete to show up at some point.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:40 PM on November 24, 2019 [21 favorites]


Haven't had a look at bartleby's Moviebob links but would agree that one of the better ways to adapt FF would be to make it take place in the early 60's. Plenty of retrofuturism and for the continuity nerds you could connect it with Howard Stark and Agent Carter. Have the FF lost in the Negative Zone (or the MCU's Quantum Universe if you have to) or in time (good way to introduce Kang) and then return them to a Post Avengers MCU. Or use Jonathan Hickman's run on the comic as the guide (particularly his Future Foundation comic - Spiderman even has a connection to it so you could use him as a lead in). But also must include Paste Pot Pete.

If you haven't seen it, the documentary on the 1994 Roger Corman produced Fantastic Four film is quite interesting - Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman's the Fantastic Four (I saw it on Amazon Prime).
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:44 PM on November 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


and insisting that Tony Stark stole his idea, while running his country with salvaged Ultron tech).

...The hell is this anti-Doom propaganda?
posted by praemunire at 9:05 PM on November 24, 2019 [10 favorites]


grumpybear69: "I didn't realize people had so much hate for The Incredibles. Is that because it isn't based on existing comics?"

I think they just don't find it credible.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:07 PM on November 24, 2019 [15 favorites]


It would have been extremely easy to make a good Fantastic Four movie. They just did it wrong.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:44 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


There have been three major studio Fantastic Four movies, and none of them have been very good, to my understanding. Maybe it's not as extremely easy as all that?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:53 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Other FF movie ideas I've heard:
- 60's and brightly colored, but over the top for comedy, a la Austin Powers or 1966 TV Batman.
- 60's Tomorrowland retrofuturism, but with a darker edge. Reed Richards is Don Draper; I don't mean played by actor John Hamm, I mean played as Don Draper.
- Animated, educational TV for kids. Science adventures with lessons. Sue teaches us a lesson in optics after subduing Namor with his own reflection; after a tangle with Mole Man, Torch and Thing fool around with rocks "Look Ben, now you're Igneous! haha" "When I catches ya, I'm gonna make yer face Metamorphic!"
- My personal favorite: Don't make a FF movie at all. Make a Doom movie, where he's the younger protagonist reconquering a corrupt Latveria and turning himself into DOOM in the process.
"My name. is Victor Von Doom. You killed. my mother. Prepare. to die.
My NAME is Victor. Von DOOM! You KILLED! my mother! Prepare to DIE!
I! AM DOOM! DIE!"
Get the audience if not on his side, convinced of why DOOM thinks he's in the right. Then have the FF come only in the background, as a plot-driving obstacle, never from their perspective. When they stop him in the end, it's a recalibration of the audience's sensibilities; we've been rooting for villain this whole time.
posted by bartleby at 10:07 PM on November 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


I think it's a two-issue run in ULTIMATE TEAM-UP where Spider-Man runs into the Fantastic Four and they're all a mess and in therapy. Somehow that incarnation went away and we got their run where Doom is a media mogul and I think I blocked the rest of it out...

The Whelk's Shondaland pitch is the best treatment I've heard in a long time. Somebody give him all the money to make it.

Everything in the Marvel Universe runs through the Fantastic Four (Seriously! Kree/Skrull War, introduction of Black Panther, Namor, Inhumans, the list goes on and on...). It's amazing they've managed to do the MCU as well as they have without that central focus or the ultimate baddie that is DOOM. Doom should be amazing. He's the best. He's got the biggest ego, the biggest plans, he is always going to double-cross everybody. In the right hands, he could rival Hiddleston's performance as Loki. Though whose hands those are, I have no idea.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:33 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


But where does Squirrel Girl fit into all of this?
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:41 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


Everything Wrong With the Fantastic Four (2015) in 17 Minutes or Less

Can we not post CinemaSins videos here ? They are complete hackfrauds who have no place in any movie discussion.
posted by Pendragon at 12:52 AM on November 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


one of the better ways to adapt FF would be to make it take place in the early 60's.

Yes! I've been saying this to my nerd friends. Start it out all 60s space age modernism and colorful, run it through some timey wimey wibbly wobbly portal, and they come out the other end in the modern MCU.

Maintain Reed Richards as the MCU's Smart Guy. With Tony Stark gone, they need that brain power, and Peter Parker, while a science whiz, needs to deal with his Personal Life instead of being elevated as Tony Jr.

Reed does Science Things, Sue Storm is their family lead. I like the idea of Johnny becoming an Instagram influencer, and Ben being angsty about being a Rock Guy is classic and doesn't need any major changes. Being thrust into our modern times could give him more things to be grumpy about.

This doesn't seem like it should be that difficult to implement, but I guess there are too many people trying to Modernize All The Things that they keep messing it up.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:37 AM on November 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


...and Ben being angsty about being a Rock Guy is classic and doesn't need any major changes

That makes him, with Cap retired, the "I'm missing sixty years of culture"/"I understood that reference" comedy relief!

On one hand, bringing the FF in to fill the voids left by the events of Endgame makes sense in a "keep the standard quo if it's working" but doesn't make things super exciting, however finding something new is both set up for failure but also chances coming up with an amazing new dynamic that starts another cinematic universe. Those with the pursestrings are predisposed to 'status quo' though.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:19 AM on November 25, 2019


So FF was probably the comic I bought most back in the late 70s/Early 80s but for whatever reason, it's never really felt like a favorite since then. Still, the non-comic representation of them that I liked best was the one in The Venture Bros. No actual real take on them felt even slightly right.
posted by jclarkin at 7:27 AM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I love good movie adaptations of super-hero comics, but filming FF with human actors feels like a demotion to me. I grew up with the Kirby version, which was so heavily and perfectly stylized that it's hard for me to welcome reality aboard.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 12:15 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of Johnny becoming an Instagram influencer

And Chris Evans is available to step back into the role!
posted by The Tensor at 12:18 PM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Incredibles is just some dude massaging his own ego reassuring himself that "society will always pull down wonderful, special people like me".

Similarly, Fantastic Four sucks because Lee & Kirby think that Doom character deserves to rule the world just because he's stronger and smarter than everyone else.
posted by straight at 1:48 PM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


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