Best. Superhero. Movie. Ever.
With the influx of movies, TV shows, games, and comic book tie-ins, the threat of superhero fatigue looms large over the genre. With so many movies coming out, how long can the industry support superhero films? It’s a complex topic, with lots of moving pieces, so a succinct answer may be hard to come by. Audiences are expecting a critical and commercial failure to come quite soon. This film, however, is not that failure. In fact, it just might be the best superhero film ever made.
20th Century Fox and Josh Trank team up to deliver us the best superhero film ever produced. It’s a satirical masterpiece that exploits the genre’s main weaknesses and calls attention to the overused tropes that are becoming mainstays in Hollywood. Its a thoughtful comedy that will have you laughing consistently and thinking critically.
Fant4stic‘s greatest strength is the density of its humor. It’s bold, smart, and apologetically meta. The film is loosely based on Marvel’s Fantastic Four comics. By choosing to adapt a property that has failed three consecutive times to work on the silver screen, Trank pokes fun Hollywood’s desperation to create franchises out of whatever rights studios can get their hands on. It’s a hilarious statement on the lack of originality in Hollywood.
But it doesn’t end there! By retaining almost no similarities to the source material, Fant4stic makes a bold accusation regarding the fidelity of studio adaptations. The changes made to character roles and plot are as side-splittingly funny as they are astute. During production, rumors were surfacing that Trank forbid the cast to read comics to study for the film. It was a daring move on the director’s part, but it ultimately paid off, as the film is delightfully removed from anything even tangentially related to the comics.
The actors, too, deserve much praise for their part in the film. It’s very easy, when filming a comedy, to break character and show genuine emotion. Luckily, every character in the film maintains their professionalism. By portraying the characters as bland, uninteresting, and bored human beings, the film furthers its scathing criticism of Hollywood’s lifeless casting procedures. The actors play it straight, showing no signs of awareness of how poorly written they are and how little chemistry they have, which only furthers the humor.
Fant4stic also delivers a profound critique on sexism in Hollywood. Critics of the characters have in the past commented on the sexism inherent in their powers. All the men have powers that make them more aggressive, while the only female has a power that makes her more passive. Trank furthers the sexism by diluting Sue Storm’s role on the team even further. Sue takes no part in the journey to Planet Zero, the delightfully stupid other dimension thing where the film’s plot kind of happens. By taking the sexism to an extreme, the film delivers a scathing remark on the role women play in major motion pictures.
The plot structure is equally as impressive in the film. Big budget action blockbusters, not just superhero movies, are often criticized for squeezing in action sequences, even if the plot doesn’t call for or need any. Fant4stic is extremely astute about this trend, and therefore delivers us the most disjointed and incomprehensible action sequences possible. The short and unnatural climactic battle feels so out of place and unnatural that viewers will be laughing so hard they’ll be gasping for air at the genius of the joke. It’s a meta-criticism of the highest caliber.
The love story, likewise, is equally unnatural. Attempts at emotion and connection in the genre are often ham-fisted and out of step with the characters as defined by the film. Fant4stic displays a shocking awareness of the apparent necessity of juggling romance along with the other elements of the film, and shoehorns in a love sub-plot that is so contrived and forced that audiences won’t even see the joke coming until it’s ultimately delivered. While most romantic arcs, and jokes for that matter, require set-up before delivery, Fant4stic defies convention by giving us the punchline without introduction. It’s a hilarious criticism at the poor writing and characterization that plagues so many blockbusters.
And this is a blockbuster, make no mistake. Gone are the days when our favorite movies can be made on real sets with real props and real effects. What’s brilliant about the humor in Fant4stic is that it doesn’t just make jokes, it also speculates. By taking the CGI to its natural conclusion, a digital world that is cartoonish and over the top, Trank delivers an amazing commentary on the overuse of computer graphics. It truly speaks to the dedication of the filmmaker and the actors involved in the project. By allowing their characters to enter a fictional setpiece that looks fake, ridiculous, and hilariously shallow, we are given a spectacular warning about what Hollywood will look like if we continue down this path. It’s a cautionary question posed to all moviegoers: What if a serious movie actually looked like this?
Delivering a film this dense and nuanced is not easy, so everyone involved in the process deserves the highest praise imaginable. Satire/parody is never easy, but films like Fant4stic make it look like a piece of cake. It’s a comedy masterpiece, and it will forever be remember as one of the greatest examples of satirical movimak–
Hello? Oh hey, Steve, what’s up? Yeah, I’m reviewing it right now. Oh man it was hilarious. i’ve never seen a comedic superhero movie that was one so well that…what? No, it was comedy. What do you mean it was a drama? But that would mean that…
Hello darkness my old friend…
Alex Russo likes to talk. A lot. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.