by Christian Galassi
From reading the title of this piece, many different films and properties probably come to mind. There are those such as the Transformers or G.I. Joe films that take beloved ‘80s cartoons and turn them into soulless cash grabs. You might even be thinking I’m talking about the abomination that is 1997’s Batman & Robin. That film is at least enjoyably bad compared to the mess I am referring to. Yes, I’m talking about Fantastic Four (2015) or, as it is now infamously known as, Fant-4-stic.
Where do I begin with this film? Well, let’s start with condolences. I want to send my thoughts and prayers to all those who were involved with this mess of a cash grab. The one name I would like to focus on is Josh Trank. This man was on the path of a promising career as a director with the success of his first feature, Chronicle. However, his future was erased faster than it started. Thanks to this flop, and other events that don’t pertain to the actual film, Trank is the latest in a long line of lost and forgotten talents. Alright, now onto this stinker.
The first problem with this film is the tone. Just like (almost) all movies after The Dark Knight, the filmmakers went for a realistic and gritty tone. The movie is based on a comic book series about four individuals that go into space and are hit with gamma rays that give them powers. Their enemies include a metal man with magic powers, an internal being in a goofy purple outfit that eats planets with a herald that surfs through space on a cosmic surfboard, green shape-shifting aliens, a literal “mole man”, and a giant talking planet (yes, the one that was in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). What part about that sounds gritty and realistic? The Fantastic Four is made up of weird and goofy characters that exist in a world where conventional ideas don’t exist. It is possible for films that are out there to be successful. Like I mentioned earlier, look at Guardians of the Galaxy. On paper, that film should not work. However, because they embraced the concept and the characters for who they are, they not only made a successful film, they made one of the most beloved films of all time. In fact, they went so far as to steal a Fantastic Four character for the sequel. Just goes to show you that if the material is solid, anything,no matter how weird it is, can work.
Going off of that point, another significant problem with the film is the setting. While the Fantastic Four is from Earth, the stories are anything but that. Their adventures range from traveling through the cosmos fighting aliens of distant worlds to traveling through dimensions and fighting robotic insects that are reborn after every encounter. These films can become the next Star Wars if they really wanted to. However, Hollywood was/is too scared to mess with those types of settings so Fant-4-stic was set on Earth. Plus, it’s cheaper to stay on Earth then to travel through dimensions. However, another one of the studio’s rivals did this based on the comics of another obscure character: Dr. Strange. Before his film came out last year, he was considered one of the most obscure characters in all of Marvel Comics lineup. Now, Dr. Strange has a hit film and will now be a part of the Avengers, one of the most successful franchises in history. “Why?” you may ask. It’s because the studio did the characters justice. He is a magic using superhero who fights demons and other wicked beings through dimensions that look like visions you would see on an acid trip while Pink Floyd played in the background. He’s another example of how the competition is doing better due to their willingness to do the source material justice.
The biggest factor on why the film was a flop was why most films fail: the studio. Fantastic Four was produced by 20th Century Fox, the company that produced the last failed attempt at making the Fantastic Four (including the one made in the ‘90s that you were never meant see). They were so afraid of who the characters are, they gutted them so they could be presented in a way that wasn’t too frightening for the executives and costed the cheapest.
While 20th Century Fox is getting the brunt of this attack, most film companies are guilty of this sin. Hollywood has only a handful of stories and they’ve perfected the way to tell them.So, when something new comes along, it makes them panic and they don’t want to touch it. A perfect example of this is Dune. While it was adapted into a film by David Lynch in 1984, that is not the version I’m referring to. In the early ‘70s, experimental filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Holy Mountain) attempted to adapt the book into a 14 hour film full of psychedelic visuals to make it appear almost like a dream. The crazy part is that it was almost made and it had ridiculously big names attached the project including Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, and Mick Jagger. Sets and character designs were to be done by H.R. Giger (The Alien franchise) and music orchestrated by Pink Floyd. The film was ready for production, but then “Hollywood” killed the project. The industry was frightened of what this film was and what it might do to the future of the industry.
Hollywood is a juggernaut that has taken many chances that have lead to the evolution of this art from as a whole. However, those chances are far and few between and Fant-4-stic is the perfect example of Hollywood’s fears of the unconventional. Dark, bland, and cheap looking: that’s how a franchise was turned into a dead brand. I pray that Hollywood will soon learn why holding back the artwork will lead to it’s collapse. When you don’t put forward the next step in the evolution of something, you will become obsolete and be replaced. To prevent this from happening to themselves, the studios need to wise up soon or they’ll be on the way out the door of entertainment.