An Open Letter to the Director of Fantastic Four
I have so many feelings.
Dear Josh Trank,
What exactly were you thinking when you went into production for Fantastic Four, your “gritty reboot” to the 2005 flop? Were you emboldened by your success with Chronicle, the realistic innocent-civilians-imbued-with-remarkable-powers hit that catapulted you to stardom in 2012? Did you feel as emboldened as your main characters, the hapless teens you sent to another dimension and imbued with insane powers? Did you feel invincible as the superheroes you created?
If I were more polite, I would ask: Did you stop to consider the cinematic task you were taking on going into Fantastic Four, one of the more fraught franchises of modern cinema? Since I just sat through your torturous, godawful reimagining, here’s a more direct question: Why have I had bowel movements more interesting than your vision for Marvel’s founding team?
Did you realize that the first family of Marvel, as the Richards/Storm clan is called, has an atrocious history on the big screen? Did you know that the first iteration in 1994, the gross Roger Corman production, never saw the light of day because it was so horrifically terrible? Or that 2005’s Fantastic Four and lukewarm sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer delivered an underwhelming dose of cookie-cutter action-comedy despite premiering in the height of the pre-Avengers, pre-Dark Knight era of campy comic book filmmaking?
How did it make you feel to know that your own cast was keenly aware of the fragility of the franchise? That poor Kate Mara, treated like a disposable love interest in your miasma of boring characters, had to argue to the Associated Press that the film represented “completely different and a modern take on the comics”—even though you told her not to read the comics? Or that writer-producer Simon Kinberg spent the last few weeks attempting to lower expectations, claiming that it’s “not a disaster”?Were you simply trying to meet expectations in the worst way possible?
Sorry, I’m being a bit unfair. Let’s back up a bit: You’ve cast a young, sexy slate of actors as your leading lads and ladies, with Backpfeifengesicht Miles Teller as the the brilliant Reed Richards, Mara as the transparent and milquetoast Sue Storm, Jamie Bell as the Thing, and the perpetually-handsome Michael B. Jordan as the smoking hot Human Torch. But what am I supposed to make of this cast once they’re all on screen? How am I supposed to give a shit about Mara’s Invisible Girl, a leading lady basically remanded to a few lines of denatured snark leveled at her soon-to-be love interest Richards and her brother Johnny Storm? What about hacker-turned-computer-prodigy Victor Von Doom, a perennial Fantastic Four villain who was reduced to a eurotrash narcissist gamer with a patchy beard and incalculable megalomania? Aren’t movies supposed to have characters we connect with and root for?
This gets at a deeper issue: Did it occur to you to write in, I don’t know, an actual plot outside your nubile young cast of unexpected heroes? Or was it an aesthetic choice to gloss over character development and dialogue in service of some utterly underwhelming climactic action sequences? Do understand what it’s like to produce a superhero movie in the modern age of superhero movies, against the hulking Avengers and Dark Knights of the world? Do you think this is 2005, when your disastrous but somehow superior Fantastic Four predecessor hit the big screen? Where, despite the obscure cast and aggressive lack of subtlety, the film managed to entertain national audiences? Or did you just phone this shit in?
It’s not like you spent time building a plot puzzle for me to unravel. In fact, I need to ask: What the hell was the goddamn rush? Why did you walk me from scientific accident to accident, from breakthrough to Jamie Bell serving as a rock-hard military asset? Why does a movie so obviously fixated on a dark, vaguely realistic world of super humans (although it’s worth noting that, despite the praise of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, grit and darkness are not the same thing as realism) try to reduce what’s supposed to be a moral and scientific odyssey to 94 minutes of a fat, wet fart?
In fact, where’s the family in this movie? If the Avengers are a dysfunctional club, and the X-Men are a dysfunctional school, then why didn’t you at least try to imbue the Richards/Storm clan with the dysfunctional family vibe that made them accessible and appealing in the 1960s and 70s?
Even more pressing: Why is this movie so boring and predictable? “A sense of heaviness, gloom and complete disappointment settles in during the second half, as the mundane setup pays no dramatic or sensory dividends whatsoever,” the Hollywood Reporter astutely noted. “Even if lip-service is paid to some great threat to life on Earth as we know it, the filmmakers bring nothing new to the formula, resulting in a film that’s all wind-up and no delivery.” They aren’t wrong: How else can you explain the absolute lack of action in this flick? Superhero flicks are supposed to be like pizza, so far that even when they’re bad, they’re still vaguely enjoyable. Have you ever even eaten a pizza?
How did you not see this coming? Did you even watch your own movie before it hit the big screen? Did you realize that none of your laugh lines landed at all? Why doesn’t this movie offer up anything less than contrived and convoluted? Why did Ant-Man, a movie about a jerk who can make himself teeny-tiny, manage to conjure up more entertainment than one of Marvel’s most storied franchises? How gullible and predictable do you think audiences are? And why do you hate us so much?
So can I have my money back?
Photos by 20th Century Fox