Dig Baton Rouge

Film in Review

By Bill Arceneaux

The new, Baton Rouge-shot Fantastic Four, both as a production and as a film, may become the stuff of legend.

From a critical standpoint, it’s a bomb. From a box office standpoint, it’s a gross disappointment. From an editorial point of view, it was hastily assembled. From a directorial point of view, it was a blown approach. From every angle you look at it, the movie appears to be a train wreck of the highest order—an over $100 million order.

Was the movie watchable at least? Can one sit through it and “enjoy?” Maybe.

We’re four films deep into Transformers territory, but all of a sudden the movie-going public are movie scholars. I think there is a difference between why this new Fantastic Four doesn’t work for them, and why it doesn’t work for critics. For them, it’s not big enough, nor does it follow the familiar patterns of a Marvel movie. For reviewers, it’s the odd shifts in tone and heavily exposed seams of studio interference and reshoots. Neither group is more right than the other, but I do find it interesting that such vitriol is pouring out over THIS flick.

To put it another way—it’s not nearly that bad. Controversial, yes. Batman & Robin? No.

Even with its shoddy deep editing—and I do mean deep—there is something worth watching here, if only once. From what I understand, the Fantastic Four team have always leaned toward Star Trek territory, if only more, well, fantastical. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a lighthearted tale, but a sense of wonder and whimsy is called for.

This iteration of the foursome begins with a Super 8 crossed with Real Genius feel, which works to its youthful favor. Then, it transitions to Cronenberg’s The Fly, body horror and all. This change, while drastic, makes sense given the experiments and discoveries made.

Near the climax, there is a quick sequence where Victor von Doom (the one character that hasn’t been done right in these films), burned and glowing green, is stalking laboratory hallways with terrifying telepathic powers. Heads explode, lights go out, blood spurts. Our heroes, one by one, make their way to the danger, and begin to come together against a common enemy.

This whole bit suggests a hidden gem of a movie underneath the gobbledygook of poor, bare bones editing. A contained and confined story, localized and intimate, giving an innovative origin before expanding into a bigger world.

Then the climax happened.

The finale isn’t bad by itself; it’s just completely out of place. It is so painfully a cheap Avengers reshoot. It’s a last ditch effort by a studio with no confidence in its helmer to “bail out” and “appeal” to a wider audience. Again, by itself, it’s an exciting piece. As part of a whole puzzle, it’s pathetic. We’re talking about a neck breaking turn here. One that will physically hurt.

Bad pacing, out of pattern rhythm, editing that only hinders, and an ending right out of left field, Fantastic Four is another Amazing Spiderman 2, only worse. I mean to say, it’s an example of young talent getting axed by people with money but without vision. I gave AS2 a good review mostly for its colorful atmosphere and character. Fantastic Four can be watched and imagined for what could’ve been, but for what it is, we have to live with. Oh well.

1.5 / 5 *s

For more from the author, follow him on Twitter @BillReviews and visit his blog www.billreviews.us


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