21 years before this debacle by 20th Century Fox, and we’ll get to the psychology behind the 2015 terrible adaption of “the Greatest Comic Magazine in the World” – Roger Corman put together a very decent casting and better paced quickie featuring Joseph Culp (son of I Spy’s Robert Culp) as Dr. Doom, Police Academy’s Commandant Eric Lassard (George Gaynes as the professor, Alex Hyde-White as Reed Richards, Jay Underwood as Johnny Storm (eventually to play on Star Trek Voyager the character Mortimer Harren) – just a taste of what could have been had Cormon gathered a budget together and taken the film seriously. It remains a cult novelty a la the Captain America and Hulk made for TV movies.
1994’s The Fantastic Four has pretty much the same title as 2005’s dreary Fantastic Four and now the seemingly intentional implosion that is 2015’s Fantastic Four. At least all three expeditions got the name right.
For Dr. Franklin Storm, the alleged father of Johnny Storm and stepfather of Sue Storm (talk about a doppelganger series) fine character actor Reg E. Cathey – who had the distinction of being Warden Martin Querns in 1997’s prison TV series Oz, Barry Querns/Victor Tybor in Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, The Baron in the tv series Grimm (no relation to The Thing, Ben Grimm) – and even a voice in a Star Wars game, the tradition continues. From George Gaynes in the Corman 1994 film to Cathey in the 2015 FF flick, these veteran actors bring a touch of class to that which is, otherwise, the most poorly produced set of films of an iconic set of characters – quite possibly – in the history of film.
Now it isn’t hard to get it right. In Fantastic Four #56 after the battle with the “master of sound,” KLAW, Dr. Doom in Latveria is watching the herald of Galactus in a most dramatic scene:
“Meanwhile, over in Europe, the Silver Surfer lands atop a mountain. A mysterious man watches from a castle, then starts making plans involving the Surfer…”
Instead we get two very poor performances from Mile Teller, probably 27 years of age when he filmed this …and looking like he’s 17, Much better as Peter Hayes in the Divergent series, he has not the depth nor the look of obsessive/compulsive scientist Dr. Reed Richards. Michael B. Jordan, who appeared with Teller in the film That Awkward Moment, is beyond awkward here, the two actors are miscast and just terrible and drag the film down so hard that it can’t be retrieved.
Kate Mara was good in her first film, Random Hearts, and traveled through opposite worlds such as Brokeback Mountain and Transcendence. Here she is decent as Susan Storm, not outstanding, but certainly better than the comedy crew of Jordan and Teller. Poor Jaimie Bell, from 2005’s King Kong and terrific in 2011’s The Eagle – which could have been more of a gay classic than Brokeback Mountain had director Kevin MacDonald gotten away from the blood and gore Channing Tatum’s Marcus and Jaime Bell’s Esca despised each other because of the war that went on before both they were both born. At the end of the film it is obvious they have become a homosexual couple in the year 140 AD. Check out the alternate ending on the DVD “Marcus and Esca are then shown approaching Hadrian’s Wall on foot and talking about their plans for the future.” Right.
Here Bell could have used Channing Tatum, Bell as Johnny Storm, Tatum as The Thing, Ben Grimm. It would have been a brilliant casting, but, you see, there appears to be an ulterior motive to 20th Century Fox dropping the ball.
Things are so skewed between Marvel Comics/Disney and 20th Century Fox that – purportedly – the comic book series was cancelled in April 2015 with FF #645 for multiple reasons, this being one of them: “That, as a result of Disney’s highest single shareholder and Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter’s anger with Fox Studios over negotiations regarding the film-and-related rights to The Fantastic Four, that Marvel would cancel the Fantastic Four comic rather than provide any promotion, however small it might be, towards the Fox Studios film”
There was also the matter of slumping sales, due in no small part to the mishandling of the movies. This appears to be a high stakes game of “chicken” with the film company willing to take a bath by creating this terrible new film in order to stick it back at Marvel…and probably hope Marvel pays them off to get the rights to the film and all its characters back.
The End of the Fantastic Four?
Of course heroes always get resurrected, but look at the hype on Comicbook.com: This is the end of the Fantastic Four – 4ever! Be there when the most controversial Fantastic Four story concludes in the extra-sized FANTASTIC FOUR #645!
My take as a film critic and long-time fan of the FF starting with the comic book when it was numbering in the 30s (it went up to 645! – as noted above) – nothing this bad could be made in today’s climate without it being some kind of negotiation tactic. The script is awful, the directing pedestrian, some of the acting banal bordering on inept, but some excellent special effects.
The critics at the screening in Boston were bashing the film loudly, sales reflect a unanimous opinion that this is a bigger turkey than the previous three Fantastic Four outings, from 1994 to earlier in the 2000’s.
Could the film have been saved? Of course it could have, somewhat. With marketing geniuses and plenty of great editors walking the planet this was intentional self-sabotage, part of a ploy to see how much bang 20th Century can get for the rights it holds to the Greatest Comic Magazine in the World.
“Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS)-owned Marvel Studios has clawed back the film rights to a handful of heroes in recent years. After a spectacular flop at the box office last weekend, speculation is rampant that the Fantastic Four could return to its Marvel roots.
Duh! Ya think?
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.