Days before Fantastic Four opened, director Josh Trank sent an email to some members of the cast and crew to say he was proud of the film, which, he wrote, was "better than 99 percent of the comic-book movies ever made."
"I don't think so," responded one castmember.
A while back, someone asked me, “Have you seen the latest Fantastic Four trailer yet?”
This was, I believe, the final theatrical trailer for Josh Trank and 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four (2015). No, I hadn’t seen it. I hadn’t heard about it. I wasn’t interested in it or in the movie. I had seen the first trailer, and it had looked lame, which was what I had expected. I knew early on that this was never going to be the Fantastic Four movie for me—basically, ever since they cast a Mr. Fantastic that was younger than me (I’m in my early thirties), though that was, as it turns out, the least of the production’s problems. (I mean, what could this man-child director know of heroism—this brat who allegedly defaced the family photos of his landlord, whose house his dogs wrecked? In retrospect, doesn’t it make total sense that the most monstrously powerful character in Chronicle was the loser kid with the camera?)
So, anyway, I watched the new trailer, and the movie still looked lame, which was what I expected. My question was, Why do people keep directing me to these lame Fantastic Four trailers, as if I should have some special interest in this crappy superhero movie? It made me wonder, Am I supposed to watch this movie? Is that what is expected of me? Am I now the guy that goes to see every last superhero movie (based on a Marvel or DC property)?
I actually had to stop and think to recall the last time I had missed a theatrical release based on a Marvel or DC superhero comic. There was 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, but I had passed on that one for reasons unrelated to the content of the movie. The last one before that was 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, which was more than three years ago. (And that character exists somewhat outside the mainstream of the Marvel universe anyway.) The last DC superhero movie I skipped was Green Lantern in 2011. Since then, I had watched every MCU release, every Amazing Spider-Man, every Batman and Superman, and even the clearly second-rate The Wolverine. Using Wikipedia as a reference, I can count 19 (of 24) Marvel and DC universe films that I had watched in theaters, dating from 2008, the year of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, through to this year’s Ant-Man, the last major superhero movie before the new Fantastic Four.
So, yeah, I definitely seem to watch a lot of these—a majority, even. It’s all over this blog, too. They’re, like, the only movies I watch, right? I mean, seriously, yeesh! I overwhelm myself looking over the embarrassing quantity of words I’ve spent blogging about what are, at the end of the day, rather simplistic escapist fictions for teenage boys. And, having already dug myself in so deeply, I do feel an almost inescapable sense of an obligation to carry on and have an opinion on every new Marvel or DC superhero movie.
Then again, 12 of those 19 superhero movies I saw were part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is sort of a single series. Is it a given that I’ll see every new movie in that series? Maybe. But all of the MCU movies thus far have consistently looked pretty good, and indeed been pretty good, so I’ve never had to consider not seeing one.
Basically, since Marvel really stepped up to take proprietorship of its own movies, and arguably of the genre and maybe even the whole entire film industry, there have been 1) a lot more superhero movies coming out (hence why I’m watching so many), and 2) much higher expectations for each release, effecting a level of “quality assurance” to protect the investments of studios and moviegoers alike. Up until Fantastic Four, it had been a long time since we’d had an Elektra or a Pitof-directed Catwoman slipping through to a single-digit Rotten Tomatoes score. Well, Green Lantern was lousy, and, sure enough, that was a case where I had enough self-respect not to pay money to see it.
So, no, I don’t go to see every single comic book movie that comes out. Only maybe 99 percent of them.
(Yes, I did go to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007, and, yes, it was the worst superhero movie I ever saw in theaters. But that was a weird summer, after I had just quit my game tester gig and started a new job, which, while providing me with a steady income and work schedule at last, also left me momentarily with an identity crisis and no idea how to spend my suddenly abundant free time, except by going to the movies almost every weekend.)