Nope, I’m not giving this movie the dignity of calling it by its actual title. It doesn’t deserve it.
After Rise of the Silver Surfer disappointed at the box office (despite still making a profit), 20th Century Fox waited until 2009 to announce their plans to reboot the Fantastic Four film franchise. They soon hired Michael Green to write the screenplay (also known for Blade Runner 2049, Alien: Covenant and co-writing Logan). By the way, all of those movies released in 2017. It’s also worth noting that the first movie released with his writing was 2011’s Green Lantern. Of course, after Josh Trank signed on to direct the film, he decided to work on his own script, ignoring Green’s draft completely.
The original script written for this film sounded a bit overly complex, with Dr. Doom working as a herald for Galactus as a spy, who somehow becomes the dictator of Latveria. Yeah, as great of a “villain” as Galactus was, and how it would be nice to see him represented properly on film, he’s not a first movie villain. Jeremy Slater was also hired to write the movie at one point, but when he and Trank’s tones were completely different, Slater left the project. Long story short, Slater saw The Avengers as a template for the tone they should aim for, while Trank “hated every second of it.” In October of 2013, X-Men film writer Simon Kinberg joined the project to co-write and produce.
Even before the movie released, it was clear that there were disputes behind the scenes, and confusion. Mark Miller, comic writer and 20th Century Fox’s consultant for their Marvel films, said that this Fan4stick movie would take place in the same universe as their X-Men films. Kinberg disagreed, yet Singer (director of three X-Men movies) talked of a potential crossover between the two franchises. Meanwhile, Trank said that the film was heavily influenced by 1981’s Scanners, 1986’s The Fly, and said the overall tone would be a “cross between Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton.”
Yeah … a franchise that is inherently light hearted and a somewhat silly sci-fi superhero is being inspired by two 1980’s horror movies, with a bit of Tim Burton’s weirdness thrown in. I’m sure a lot of people lost interest in the film when that interview came out. I would have if I was even paying attention.
Even the movie’s casting became controversial, and Trank’s inflammatory comments blaming the fanbase didn’t help. They cast Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger in Black Panther), a black actor, as Johnny Storm. This actually caused quite a bit of anger among fans of the franchise. He later admitted that he also wanted to cast Susan Storm with a black actress, but the studio blocked it. “I was mostly interested in a black Susan Storm and a black Johnny Storm and a black Franklin Storm.” He later said that being denied that should have convinced him to step away from the project.
Here’s the thing, he probably wouldn’t have gotten as much backlash if he cast Reed Richards as a black man. Why? Because there are several alternate universes where Mr. Fantastic is black. But when you have two characters who are supposed to be biological siblings, with one white and one black … yeah. I don’t normally like commenting on these matters, but this controversy did hurt the movie before its release. It’s worth mentioning that a lot of movies lately are pushing the same sort of race swapping or gender swapping, and most of those movies aren’t doing too well. Last year’s Eternals did the same thing with several characters, although that movie failed because it’s a complete mess with way too many ideas and characters, and was based on a group of relatively obscure characters, and not because of the casting.
Anyway, after considering Kit Harrington and Richard Madden as Mr. Fantastic, they ended up casting Miles teller, who would have been in his mid-20s at the time. He just looked too young to be the sort of genius the movie required him to be. They cast Kate Mara as Susan Storm, Jamie Bell took on the role of The Thing, and Toby Kebbell plays Dr. Doom. Rounding out the cast, you’ve got Reg E. Cathey as Dr. Franklin Storm, Susan and Johnny’s father. As the movie reveals at one point, Susan is adopted.
During the movie’s filming, reports started emerging that there were significant disputes between Fox and Trank. With the studio being unsatisfied with Trank’s original cut, Fox ordered major changes to the film without the director’s supervision. They changed and even omitted major plot points. Some sources claimed that Trank behaved erratically on set, but as far as I’m aware, none of those sources were substantiated. Whatever the case, Trank openly disowned the film on Twitter the day before it released, saying “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.” He deleted the message shortly after, but the internet never forgets. He also removed Fan4stick from his Instagram filmography.
Kebbell also said in an interview, “I tell you, the hones truth is Trank did cut a great film that you’ll never see. That is a shame. A much darker version, and you’ll never see it.” Honestly, I have no interest in this darker Fantastic Four film, not when the movie is already too dark and depressing for its own good.
After Stan Lee passed away in 2018, Trank admitted that he felt he let Stan Lee down, even though he received a personal letter from Lee asking him if he was ok after the movie’s release. Later in 2020, Trank admitted that he never got a chance to film a number of scenes he wanted to film, which would make a director’s cut impossible. Also in 2020, Mara talked about how her experience on the set of the movie was “horrible.” She didn’t go into much detail, but implied that her discomfort came from questionable directions, and that she regrets “not having stood up for myself.”
When Fan4stick released in mid-2015, it was destroyed by critics and audiences alike. It earned a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 3.6/10. The Rolling Stone called it “the cinematic equivalent of malware”, and “worse than worthless.” Variety praised the movie’s visual effects, but called the movie out for uneven pacing and writing. The Hollywood Reporter described the movie as “a 100-minute trailer for a movie that never happens.” The review called the movie “maddeningly lame and unimaginative.”
The movie “won” three out of the four Razzie nominations, with Worst Picture, Worst Director, and “Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel”. The other nomination was for Worst Screen Combo. That one went to Fifty Shades of Grey. The Golden Shmoes Awards and the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards also named the movie the worst of the year, with the Golden Shmoes also crowning Fan4stick “Biggest Disappointment of the Year.”
The movie also bombed, earning only $167.9 million on a $120 million budget. The financial losses for this movie are estimated to be somewhere between $80 and $100 million, making it the second biggest bomb of 2015, behind Tomorrowland.
As for myself, I fell asleep trying to watch this movie the first time, and right when it started picking up the pace. That’s not a good sign considering I don’t usually fall asleep while watching a movie I’ve never seen before. This movie’s biggest problem is how boring it is. Whether you’re a fan of the Fantastic Four or not, Fan4stick is a slog. It spends way too much of its 100-minute runtime introducing the movie’s characters and droning on about the plot, with most of the action being reduced to seconds of footage of The Thing on special missions, and the Human Torch and Invisible Woman in a demonstration room of some sort. It doesn’t help that none of the major characters seem to care all that much.
I said earlier that Teller just looks too young to be playing Reed Richards. He’s also not convincing as a socially awkward scientist. He just seems like an ordinary guy. Jordan plays his role well enough, but he doesn’t feel the least bit like Johnny Storm from the comics. He’s too confrontational, too serious, and he’s the wrong kind of hothead. He’s the kind of hothead who seems to like getting into fights, not showing off, pranking The Thing, and partying. Mara looks uncomfortable at times in this movie, which seems to jive with her story of the experience being horrible. She’s not necessarily bad as Susan Storm, but it’s such a flat, uninteresting role that nobody could have pulled it off. Nowhere does she have her confrontational attitude, her fiercely protective nature, or being annoyed at Reed missing her obvious hints. Bell really doesn’t have much to do in this movie once he becomes the thing, besides being grumpy. He’s clearly angry at Reed for a time, but they somehow reconcile completely off-screen.
The worst offense in this movie may just be Dr. Doom himself. The Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie actually gave Doom his proper origins. The mid-2000’s miscast him and messed with his origin story, but they at least kept his world conquering ambitions intact. In this movie, he’s a computer scientist who accidentally discovers teleportation. He somehow gets trapped in some sort of alternate dimension, gains powers there, and decides that this new plane of existence is his home. He wants to destroy Earth to stop the humans from destroying his new home. The movie never even tries to explore how he came up to this conclusion.
His powers are also poorly defined. We see him killing people with the wave of hands, ignoring bullets as he’s walking down the hall, and apparently he’s the source of power for his own doomsday weapon. Yet all the members of the Fan4stick team need to do is punch him to beat him. At least in the previous two movies, the Fantastic Four need to use science in addition to proper teamwork.
Oh, and he was originally going to be called Victor Domashev, but they changed his name back to Victor von Doom after fan backlash.
In this movie, the five characters gain their powers from an alternate dimension instead of a cosmic cloud. That in itself is not a problem, in fact it’s similar to how the Fantastic Four gained their powers in the Ultimate Universe. However even though this place is basically the Negative Zone, they never use that term in this movie, at least as far as I can recall. They just call it Planet 0. But the mere fact that they don’t bother giving this other plane of existence it’s comic book name leads to yet another problem, as does Doom’s alternate name.
This movie feels like it’s made by people who are ashamed of the Fantastic Four franchise. They attempted to race swap half of the cast. They never once say “Fantastic Four” in the movie, nor do they get uniforms with the number 4 logo. They don’t use any of the superhero names, and just refer to each other as Reed, Ben, Susan and Johnny. They don’t even get matching uniforms. They just get these boring, nearly black outfits. The tone is completely different from any other adaptation of this franchise I’ve ever heard of, besides alternate comic universes. Even the movie’s art direction directly conflicts with their usual portrayals. Everything is so dark and gloomy looking, when the Fantastic Four are supposed to be bright and colourful. The Negative Zone is a barren wasteland that’s mostly gray, with a touch of green energy every now and then. The negative zone is supposed to look well varied, and you can usually see stars, floating rocks, and some sort of colour everywhere you go.
If I watched this movie with no prior knowledge of its reputation, I would have left feeling depressed. Fan4stick is a joyless, sluggish waste of time. Considering the conflicts between the director and the studio, it’s hard to know exactly who to blame for it, but I know that most, if not all, of the cast is better than this. It’s not even interesting as a bad movie and it’s not worth talking about anymore. Save yourself the time and watch anything else, like watching ants carry food into their colony. You’ll feel more fulfilled doing that than watching this movie.
Next week, I hope to finally look at Spider-Man: No Way Home. Next month, I’ll be revisiting a couple of Disney movies I watched back in 2017, and haven’t seen since, while also catching up on Disney and Pixar.
Fantastic Four (2015) is a dire film. Considering its production nightmare it a wonder the thing ever got made. Worse still this movie doesn’t even feel like a superhero film. Its a shambles and a total disservice to the characters. Yet again they make a total mess of getting Doctor Doom right. I’ve high hopes for the debut of the FF in the MCU, but its going to have to be something really special to lift the dark cloud cast by this miserable effort of a movie.
If they wanted to go the horror movie route, that can work with certain superheroes and teams, Blade being one of them. I get the impression that’s what they wanted, but that just doesn’t suit the Fantastic Four franchise. It’s sad that the only faithful live-action interpretation for Doctor Doom was in the Roger Corman movie that never got released. But even with his changed origins and powers, along with an actor with virtually no charisma, the mid-2000’s movies still did Doom much better. At least there, his ambitions of world domination are still intact. He’s still got a genuine rivalry with Reed.
This movie … I look forward to never thinking about it again.
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LOL, I know what you mean. I watched this film and I just couldn’t believe what that done to Marvel’s first family team. The comics have always been fun and had a certain charm to them, this Fantastic Four movie didn’t even try to do that in any way, it was just grim and grungy. Hopefully the MCU Fantastic Four will lighten up! LOL
I watched this a while ago with no prior knowledge of the Fantastic Four and yeah, I found it a terrible slog. Which is a shame, because I like at least a couple of the cast members. But it was so boring. 😛
Johnny and Susan are both played by great actors, but Michael B. Jordan just isn’t the right choice for The Human Torch, and I’m not even talking about his skin colour here. Kate Mara is given nothing to work with, so whatever potential she may have had was completely wasted. I’m not sure if I can even recommend any animated shows to check out the Fantastic Four, because they’re all mixed in terms of quality too.
Hopefully, they’ll make an actually good adaption one of these days!
A total disaster! It was fun reading through your thoughts on this tragedy. I applaud you for not saying the movie’s name all the way through. It really is something that never should’ve been released. At least now, anything Marvel/Disney does with F4 is bound to be better than this last interpretation.