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Why Fantastic Four Isn't As Bad As You Think

Make no mistake, Josh Trank's 2015 reboot of Fantastic Four is not a great movie. It's not even really good. Prior to the movie's release, rumors swirled for months of Trank's fight with 20th Century Fox and the need for last-minute reshoots to fix what Fox seemed to consider a fundamentally broken movie. Trank tweeted on the movie's release day that he "had a fantastic version of this" that "would've received great reviews," slamming Fantastic Four along with the critics that combined to give it a dismal nine percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

But here's the thing: while Fantastic Four never comes close to living up to the superlative in its own title, it's actually not nearly as bad as its score would have you believe.

There's A Good Movie In Here…Somewhere

There are more than a few scenes in Fantastic Four which seem to pinpoint exactly where Josh Trank's movie ends and Fox's movie begins. They feature wooden, expository dialogue (often times looped in over existing character dialogue), or Sue Storm (Kate Mara) wearing a cheap blonde wig. But for roughly the first half of the movie, starting with Reed's entrance to the Baxter foundation and ending with his stretchy escape from the government facility, Fantastic Four actually seems pretty good.

There's a catch, though: the good movie we're seeing is actually a pretty lousy adaptation of Marvel's First Family. Rather, Trank's vision for a group of kids getting drunk, doing bad science, and being saddled with horrific bodies as a result is compelling. Unfortunately, a good science fiction movie borrowing more from The Fly than The Avengers doesn't sell "Slamtastic 4" meals at Denny's. Fox panicked and reshot half the movie to be more superheroic—and those are the bits that not only stick out as being terrible, but highlight just how good Trank's scenes actually could've been.

Great Special Effects

Reed Richards' powers are notoriously difficult to make cool in a film. In the previous Fantastic Four franchises—including the one made for a million bucks by Roger Corman in the late-nineties—Mr. Fantastic's stretching abilities look laughably bad. They don't improve much by the time Tim Story made his two FF movies in 2005 and 2007.

In Trank's film, Reed's stretched-out limbs look gross and unsettling, and pretty convincingly so. By the time Reed figures out how to fight with his powers, his action scenes come off seeming kind of cool rather than straight-up ridiculous. On that same note, Sue and Johnny Storm look mostly great when they're all powered up, and the effects used to create the all-CGI Thing are decently convincing too. In all, the technical wizardry necessary to make the Fantastic Four seem like a group of superpowered freaks is present and accounted for.

We're Closer Than Ever To A Comics-Accurate Doctor Doom

Doctor Doom from Tim Story's Fantastic Four movies is terrible. He's a two-dimensional, mustache-twirling bozo, and he gets dumb electricity powers and a metal face for no good reason. In Trank's Fantastic Four, the Victor we watch before he's transformed actually starts out as a relatively complex character. He's a petty genius, jealous of both Reed's achievement and his easy rapport with Sue, the object of his affection—who doesn't return his feelings.

Despite lacking the bombastic details of the story's 1960s origins, the movie also hews pretty close to Doom's backstory in some important ways. In Trank's reboot, Victor and Reed are convincing as both friends and rivals, and it's easy to see how Doom might blame Reed for his disfigurement and the failure of their teleportation experiment. If the movie had stuck with this thread and made Doom's motivations in the final act truer to the character we see in the beginning, we might've finally enjoyed the big-screen Doctor Doom we've been waiting for.

It Embraces Diversity

Early in the film, we catch a glimpse into the blue collar upbringing of Ben Grimm. While the movie inexplicably injects an abusive older brother, what's really important is what decorates the house: there are shots of a Chanukah menorah and a mezuzah in the doorway to the Grimm home. In short, there's unmistakable evidence that Grimm is Jewish, an acknowledgment to the character's ethnicity and religion in the comics, not to mention that of the Fantastic Four's original creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Moreover, Michael B. Jordan, a black actor, plays Johnny Storm, a character who's portrayed in the comics as white. Jordan is a great actor who does as much with the part as he can, and the movie's willingness to add some much-needed diversity to the superhero landscape is a check decidedly in its favor.

Marvel Might Actually Win The FF Back

The best part of the Fantastic Four reboot is the fact that it bombed so hard at the box office during opening weekend. With a budget of roughly $120 million, it only managed to pull in about $26 million over three days. While it may eventually break even (or turn a profit) after its international theatrical release and DVD sales, there's no telling how much more the studio paid to promote it. In short, this is a big black eye for 20th Century Fox's superhero movie record. And since this is the third failed attempt to make a movie with this franchise, Fox may decide to cut its losses and sell the Fantastic Four rights back to Disney and Marvel to make up the difference.

That's not as crazy as you might think, either. The studio's 2003 attempt to turn Ben Affleck into Daredevil panned out slightly better than Trank's Fantastic Four. But despite Daredevil's profit-earning box office, Fox's efforts to make a sequel or reboot for Daredevil hit the skids. The rights eventually reverted to Marvel, resulting in 2015's popular Netflix series of the same name. Meanwhile, Sony's Amazing Spider-Man franchise performed even more admirably in theaters, but didn't destroy box office records or win much favor with fans or critics. Soon after Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony and Marvel reached an agreement to bring Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In short, it took way less failure than Trank's Fantastic Four reboot to reunite Daredevil and Spider-Man with Marvel Studios. Given what a disaster the film has been for Fox, don't be surprised to hear about an impending deal with Marvel to bring the Fantastic Four franchise back into the fold as well.