“Fantastic Four” (2015): A 120 Million Dollar “Sharknado”

Have you heard this one?  Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi and David Cronenberg got REALLLLY drunk at a party, and decided to direct a SyFy Channel Original Movie, a radical remake of an unreleased Roger Corman superhero flick.  Each wrote a separate major act of the experiment. Then they threw  the script into the air, and each man grabbed as many pages as he could.  

searchSome pages might have drifted under the couch.  

The final product is both really interesting and infuriatingly, FASCINATINGLY bad, I mean the kind of bad that makes me think there was a really, really good movie in there.  Extensive reshoots suggest that a copy of the original shooting script would be instructive indeed.  The resultant tale of five young geniuses (well, four geniuses and a big hearted Best Buddy who tags along and, well, gets stoned) who take an interdimensional jaunt and end up becoming Stretchy, hot, lumpy and really really clear-headed. Oh, and megomaniacally villainous with powers that more or less do whatever the screenwriter says at the moment.

Let me be clear: FANTASTIC FOUR was not a good movie.  But neither is it Marvel’s PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE.  “Green Lantern” is 26% on Rotten Tomatoes and I couldn’t watch that thing when it was free on a transcontinental flight.  Nine percent for FF?  That makes no sense to me. Yeah, they change things left and right from the comics, but did you really think that even drunk and scrambled, Spielberg, Raimi, and Cronenberg would make something uninteresting?

The story of what precisely went wrong will be pieced together over the next year, I’m sure.  But there is enough that went right: the characters, the basic world, the approach to the material…that when things go off the rails: unearned character beats, offscreen plot developments, stereotypical villains, truncated climactic action, you wonder who screwed up, and why, but even when it’s bad it’s still pretty fun.  When it’s good you can see the movie Trank was trying to make, what he probably pitched in the room, the movie that was in his head:  a tale of brilliant kids who don’t trust the system and end up with powers and abilities that said corrupt system would give its eye-teeth to control.

Man, when it goes “Good Will Hunting” with the relationship between nerdy Reed and Dead End Kid Ben Grimm, and Ben says goodbye to his childhood friend at the posh and ultra-tech Baxter Building, telling him “this is where you belong,” I felt that.  I HAD a friend like that, and we loved each other.  I see that movie, those relationships. See all the pieces in place, even if they don’t fit together.  Another draft or two on that script, perhaps…

Or something else. I have to think. But I wanted to get this out. Fantastic Four is a LOT better than that 9% number would indicate. But on the other hand…all those critics ain’t totally wrong, either. It’s the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time that I really liked, a body-horror, superhero, childhood fantasies $120 million “Sharknado.”

And if you can dig that, or wonder what might have been…you’ll enjoy it.

I’d give it a “C.”

Steven Barnes

www dot lifewritingnewsletter dot com

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