Will we ever see “The Fantastic Four” done well?
20th Century Fox”s 2015 iteration of “Fantastic Four” will likely go down as Tinseltown legend. Not only did it suffer from the stain of the previous “Fantastic Four” outings, it was also riddled with publicly reported issues throughout the production. Which included, but were not limited to, on-set meltdowns on the part of director Josh Trank.
Continuing the trend, Trank sent out a now infamous tweet disavowing any connection to the final version ahead of Thursday”s midnight release. (The tweet was of course swiftly deleted. However, screen grabs.)
At the close of its opening weekend, the film”s seemingly doomed (yep) nature has come to fruition. It made $26.2 million domestically – well below the projected $40 million — coming in second to “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.” Critically, “Fantastic Four” stands at 8% on the review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes. The film hasn”t faired much better with audiences, with a 2.5 user score on Metacritic.
The result of all of the negative press has been that film pundits were postulating that the Fantastic Four – as characters – are unadaptable both prior to and post this version”s release. I think that we can all agree that four tries in, it hasn”t been adapted well. That doesn”t mean that cracking the Fantastic Four code is an impossible task, however.
Take a look at what Donna and I have to say on the matter in the video above.
Below are some quick thoughts.
It”s fair to say that capturing the essence of the Fantastic Four presents a challenge in the sense that the source material, if mishandled, has the potential to read as over-the-top or — as in the 2004 film — downright cheesy. It would be somewhat natural to want to take an approach that hits on the emotional core of who they are after that attempt. However, the characters were born of a very specific moment in our cultural history and have a wild and kitschy — though lovingly familial — quality to them that certainly doesn”t gel with the tone that this latest Fox film attempts.
I heard one film critic say that the trouble is that they are simply not to be believed: “An invisible woman, a rock monster…it”s too much for an audience to take in!” Yet, we saw James Gunn take on — and nail — characters that are on the surface entirely inaccessible to a mass audience in 2014″s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I postulate that he was able to do so because he genuinely loves and knows those characters. What the Fantastic Four needs is a filmmaker who gets and likes who they are.
Look, there”s been a lot of blame going around when it comes to Fox”s latest stab at the “Fantastic Four.” The he said/they said of if all will likely continue for years. What”s clear as a viewer, however, is that this is a film at odds with itself. That is, of course, in part an inevitable result of massive reshoots that reportedly didn”t involve the initial director. It”s entirely clear that Trank”s take on these characters, and this world, didn”t connect with how Fox wanted them presented on screen. Nor does his vision truly resonate with who the characters are on the page. It”s a tonally dissonant film, and that may be because the initial take was to essentially reinvent the wheel. Trank may have made an interesting film if he was given full reign to do so, but it likely would have been a “Fantastic Four” film in name only. As it stands, the version that was released is serving too many masters – and none of them all that well.
There are plenty of examples of films and television series that blend kitsch, heightened circumstances, and emotionally impactful pathos. We need look no further than “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” In fact, if we want a film that essentially captured the Fantastic Four, it can be found in 2004″s “The Incredibles.” If we want one that blends a '60s and contemporary aesthetic, well, that”s Peyton Reed”s “Ant-Man.”
“Fantastic Four” is ripe for an adaptation that leaves audiences enthralled. It only needs the right creative team to usher it into contemporary cinema.
While I don”t think the Fantastic Four are unadaptable as characters, at this point I believe they may be unadaptable by Fox. The third time – barring the unreleased 1994 version – wasn”t the charm. To use another metaphor, three strikes and you're out.
The central conceit of the Fantastic Four should be easily adaptable. A family with superpowers, each with their own motivations and relationship dynamics. Either sent on a mission or hijacking a mission only to return and become celebrity superheroes. How they would be mentally and emotionally affected by their physical changes. A montage of learning to use their powers, to work as a team. A villain to fight (that isn”t Doctor Doom) to hone their powers. A life lesson learned. This isn”t rocket science.
But with this latest outing by Fox being dead on arrival, perhaps it”s time to return the First Family to their home at Marvel. Whether introduced in the 1960s with Peggy Carter and Hank Pym only to be lost for years and remerge in the present day, or as a modern adaptation where young heroes want to grow up to be like Iron Man and Captain America, there are dozens of ways the MCU could insert the Fantastic Four into their line-up.
Now we just have to pry the rights out of Fox”s cold, dead hands.
Take a look at our full thoughts on the matter in the video above.
Now have your say in the comments below!
Is it impossible to adapt the “Fantastic Four” for the big screen? Or do they simply need the right team? One who truly understands these characters?
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