I watched 20th Century Fox’s The Fantastic Four over the weekend. My wife and I had some pre-ticket trepidation, and went to a matinee instead of an evening show. We had studiously ignored all the reviews so we could make our own judgement. Long story short, the movie was not as bad as everyone seemed to think.
I am going to be somewhat contrary here and give the movie 6 out of 10 stars. (For the record, my wife gave it a 7.) Yes, it had some plot problems and it wasn’t as good as either of Disney/Marvel’s superhero offerings, Age of Ultron or Ant-Man. However, the film did take a new look at the core characters, and it did offer some improvements over previous takes on the FF. The Tech Insider has offered a thoughtful look at why the film may have came up short, and Flickering Myth another. I wanted to share what I liked about the film.
The biggest improvement over the 2005 & 2007 films was having Kate Mara as Sue Storm instead of Jessica Alba. In the comics world, Sue Storm not only possessed scientific chops, she was the FF’s moral compass, and had a steel spine to boot. (See the Marvel Civil War crossover.) IMHO, Alba’s Sue Storm was whiny – no better word for it – and not the least bit believable. Mara brought a quiet intensity to the role, doing more with her eyes than Alba did with her entire body.
The other casting I liked was Reg E. Cathey as Franklin Storm. In some ways, Franklin Storm was the main protagonist for the film. He brought the team together, advocated for them and took responsibility for them. His relationship with each team member was the glue that held them together. He spoke softly, with the confidence that comes from experience and wisdom. Coaching and teaching wannabees take note.
The other element that really worked well was the zeal for discovery that infused the first half of the movie. No soap operas, no love triangles, just a bunch of people doing what they love. Watching Reed and Ben as middle school kids was also fun (and very imaginative), and fun is the main ingredient in any superhero film. When the fun and discovery stopped, the movie faltered.
So, is the FF franchise cursed as some say? No, it just needs an excellent script and editorial direction from someone who understands what made the original source material resonate with readers. Give the cast something they can sink their teeth into, get out of the way and let the fun begin!