Last summer, I took a drive out to Canton, Ohio to try out the new Thing burger from Denny's. Okay, I didn't drive out there SPECIFICALLY for that, but still, it makes it seem like I was on a trek to eat a hamburger named after the Thing and would stop at nothing to accomplish this goal. Why not.
I was surprised to see any kind of marketing campaign come out of the 2015 Fantastic Four movie, which had tons of bad publicity hanging over it even before filming was completed. Denny's seems like an odd choice, but I guess if you're Fox and someone wants to promote a film you've put a lot of money into, beggars can't be choosers.
It wasn't long before the film was scheduled to debut that I first saw the commercial:
It was also the first time that I said "huh, the Thing doesn't look so bad!" with regard to the new film. Of all the things the movie messed up, giving the Thing five fingers and making his eyes ANYTHING OTHER THAN BLUE is probably something I could have lived with. But it still annoyed me. Anyway, seeing a Thing promotion was pretty neat in any context.
The Denny's I went to had promotional imagery all over, which was, again, a surprise.
They even had special menus with Fantastic Four logos on them. I considered putting one under my shirt and walking out, but then I simply asked the waiter about them - and he gave me four (there were four different menus, each designed after a different character). Now I have four Denny's menus at my house. What will I do with these things? I don't know. But I'm glad I got them.
The Thing burger was the item being promoted most heavily, but there were actually a number of limited-time offerings, including a Human Torch skillet and Invisible Woman...pancakes:
Interestingly enough, Mr. Fantastic was the only member of the group who didn't have a menu item specifically named after him. There was a Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, but nothing that mentioned Reed. There was even a Dr. Doom-style dessert!
I don't often eat at Denny's (it had probably been two or three years since I had been to one), and the FF specials were limited-time deals, so there was no way I was taking a chance on anything but the Thing burger. Here's what it looked like:
The Thing burger came on a cheddar-cheese bun and came topped with bacon, cheese, an egg, hash browns and...Thing sauce (plenty of jokes to make there) with a side of fries.
The sauce tasted rather mustard-y. All in all, I liked it for a fast-food burger. I enjoyed the egg on top and the sauce was okay. I probably would get the hash browns on the side the next time I order it, in a parallel universe where this promotion lasted more than a few weeks and I felt like making another trip to Denny's. I'm glad that I was able to try out one of these - how many Fantastic Four-themed food items have there been since the 1970s? Now I've got visual proof that I tried some out in 2015.
So, I haven't seen the Fantastic Four movie yet. Is it strange that I bought FF-themed merchandise even though I have no interest in seeing the film? Yeah, I guess. I'm sure I'll see it at some point - hell, I'm sure I'll buy the DVD in a few years, when it's cheap - but everything leading up to it put a bad taste in my mouth (and not even the Thing burger could overcome it!).
I understand that Fox wanted to do something different this time around, if nothing else than to differentiate this new film from the lackluster effort that was made a decade ago, but it seemed that everything that could have gone wrong did, from casting to filming and everything in between. My biggest beef was with director Josh Trank, who seemed almost combative when presented with a skeptical audience. At every turn he seemed to ignore and outright refuse to pay attention to anything that had made the concept so popular over the last 50 years. And yes, I'm aware that the FF aren't as popular as they were in the '60s and '70s, and I'm aware that the Avengers and other Marvel properties have leapfrogged them in recent years for a number of reasons. But that doesn't take away the core elements that can still be something great, on screen and in comics.
I bought the above magazines a few weeks ago and was amused at how downbeat everything is, from the headlines to the inside article, about the film...and this is just weeks before it was released. It all came across as "the new Fantastic Four movie! People think it'll be terrible! But maybe it won't be!" It's obvious everyone involved was hedging his or her bets pretty heavily on this thing. My favorite part of the inside article came at the very end, from Trank himself:
So Trank "insist[ed] he wouldn't do anything differently" with the film...and then, a day after it premiered, he put out a tweet that said, basically, "I would have done a lot differently".
What a train wreck. Fantastic Four was easily one of the biggest flops of 2015. And, unfortunately, I can't help but feel like everyone involved on the creative and management end of it deserved everything they got. Do I sound bitter about all of this? I guess I am, but only because I love the characters so much. Movies - good or bad - don't define the franchise, but wouldn't it be great to see an Avengers-level Fantastic Four movie? One in which the Thing gets all of the attention and exposure the character deserves? I know I'd like to see it, and so far Hollywood is 0-for-4.
Oh well. We'll always have the Thing burger.
So what was I doing out in Canton, anyway? Why, I went there to see Pittsburgh Steeler great Jerome Bettis finally get inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame.
It was a great evening. Steeler fans outnumbered others by at least nine-to-one. It was raucous and lots of fun.
There were lots of pro football players at the event, including a number of Bettis's teammates. Here's James Farrior.
And here's Brett Keisel! What an impressive beard.
What else have I been up to? Oh, I made it into the trailer for the Christmas movie "Love the Coopers" with Olivia Wilde. In this scene I'm reading my copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. 3. How...exciting? Sure.