It’s the crater of Fox’s creative ingenuity, or of their pockets, that is clearly larger than the small-town size destruction created by our third-act villain in the new corporate mandated Fantastic Four movie, a film one no one really asked for, unless it clearly captured the spice and flair of Marvel’s super-team correctly. We’ve already seen three sub-par outings with this title (one was never theatrically released), but not a single one has even remotely gotten this story correct. It’s sad, despite encouraging marketing on this thing, to report that this is about as lazy and lack-luster as a superhero film can get, and is behind its time in both story-telling and visual effects.
Round them up, it’s an uninspiring assembly of exaggerated youth scientists, all in one room attempting to make a quite unique style of spaceship. There’s Reed Richards (Miles Teller), the wiz-kid recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm to head this project, the possibility of untapped resources in other planets, new life-forms, you know the whole gig. Essentially, Reed’s job, with a couple of other recruits, Dr. Storm’s adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), his reckless son (Michael B. Jordan), and ego-maniac co-scientist Dr. Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), is to create a machine that can warp space-time into being able to traverse into another dimension. The physics of this are not important, it’s mainly a fancy teleportation machine. Problem? Not the science, actually, but the way the scenes are handled. The film has your typical cliched montage of the young scientists tinkering with parts and scrap metal, and somehow creating this monstrous achievement. Like always, we’ll be fine with it if the result is worthwhile, but it’s just not this time.
We see slight tension in Victor over Sue and Reed’s budding friendship, and perhaps we see a side of ‘me-first’ politics that rule his decisions, but he’s a pretty unimportant character through 95% of the film. There’s also your typical, cynical military-industrial complex involved in the science, because every underground research facility has to have a dominate the world figure-head. Once the machine is operational, the U.S. government wants to send astronauts in it (obviously), but the young scientists decide to launch it themselves, along with Reed’s childhood friend Ben (Jamie Bell). Victor is harmed during the departure, and the other three (along with Sue once it lands back in the facility) exhibit traits that make them superhuman, a sort of mutation like an X-Men character would have. The drunken (yes, drunken) decision to go to the distant planet themselves obviously leads to consequences that go far beyond their mutations, especially once they learn that Victor may still be alive on that planet.
The script writing here, a clear one-time pass-through, is riddled with so many familiar, worn traits of the worst kind of hero film: the government intervention that harms the main characters, making them weapons, corporate CEOs that have an interest in the technology as well, the list goes on and on. These thread-bare ideas are not uncommon for films even of the M.C.U. but they’re delivered in the flattest way possible. ‘Government’ is not a buzz word, it’s the overarching organizational form that every industrialized nation has, but if someone says ‘government’ it means someone will die, or be enslaved against their will for an immoral cause. Wouldn’t you think the ‘government’ would at least somewhat appease brilliant kids who suddenly have super-powers? I don’t think you really can force them to do anything. So, even if you can get past the obscuration of the biggest space project ever, I doubt that you would also make enemies with the people running it.
Once our four main guys (Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny) are changed into Mr. Fantastic (Stretch), The Thing, InvisiGirl, and Human Torch, Reed decides to leave, both out of fear, and in a hope to help his friends return to normalcy. He lives for a year undiscovered, but once found, a few of his former colleagues are quite upset with him for leaving. He never states, ‘I was looking for a cure,’ he just allows them to be upset, thus fracturing the team. This was confusing, as was why the even bothered to throw this in, when after a two minute montage, he’s back with everyone, anyway. Small things like this, outlets in the film, squashed sub-plots, show how disorganized this entire process really was. Director Josh Trank (also of Chronicle) has publicly blasted the film and the studio, especially after different altercations about Trank being often intoxicated during filming leaked, and other huge production problems actually left the film with two different sets of producing credits. To the film’s credit, the best parts about it are when we learn more about the people. We have a young, solid cast with Mara, Teller, and Jordan, and there are some decent moments in the beginning. They may be unbelievable, the entire conception of the plot being far-fetched and mediocre, but it’s a worthwhile adventure in the beginning, and at least passable.
That’s really the reason these types of films are made, you can always watch them with an innate curiosity, and most people will swallow them up. Even the bad ones put people in the theater, but something changed with this one. This is the first hero film of the modern era that pushes people away because of its lack of credibility. This review comes in a bit late, so it comes fully aware of the 2nd place finish at the Box Office, meager numbers at best, and a Rotten Tomatoes score that comes in lower than all 4 Twilights, The Room, and Batman & Robin. It’d be beating a dead horse to say this movie isn’t necessary, but it’s an example of what happens opposite the mostly good Marvel film-making presence. Corporately mandated film-making is a complete disgrace to the industry, and Fantastic Four has managed to completely dispel any positive feedback from the promising trailer.
As you watch, you begin to smell something, perhaps not too appetizing coming from your theater. It’s not the large man next to you with cheese doodles he managed to sneak into the theater, no, this is a sharper smell. It’s the smell of shame mixed with desperation and it may come floating from the screen towards you. We know Doom has a lot of it, with his skin being all messed up and shit. It’s hard to describe, perhaps you should go see it to find out. Just kidding.
Dr. Doom is one of Marvel’s proudest super-villains. He’s brilliant, scary, intense and a pretty big pop-culture phenomenon considering all that’s been based upon him. The film here accepts that he’s a marvelous scientist, but is too selfish to really hold relationships with Richards or Johnny. He has affections for Sue that don’t ever work out, and once the accident occurs on the Planet Zero expedition, he becomes one with the temporal energy field on the planet, giving him powers and unmatched durability. Making him into a complete science experiment and having his appearance be littered with burns instead of his trademark cyborg armor is pretty disrespectful to the source material.
Once found, he threatens our heroes by saying that the human race must be wiped out. He doesn’t have a why, he becomes entirely a creature of impulse, which essentially makes him as smart as a very large and powerful hornet or bumblebee. It’s not like a ‘build the machine Terminator-style like Ultron,’ hell, I’ll take Loki over this Doom guy. This is, for me at least, the largest flaw of the new disaster Fantastic Four, they took the ‘pissed-off villain’ cliche and made it even worse. Doom is nothing more than a hurt, wild animal, and kills entirely on impulse. There’s nothing exciting, spooky, relatable about that. The best villains are either disturbed to the point of hurting us for their sacrificing of morality and society, or they’re too close to home, perhaps too like us, perhaps too real for us to watch without becoming frightened within ourselves. Motive is a big part of that, why is the villain doing what he is doing? The other big part of it is not necessarily the why, but the how and to whom. How is he hurting people, and what are the stakes? We know Doom as a lame, boring, self-indulgent scientist who doesn’t like Reed because he’s gonna take Sue under the Invisibility Cloak out back. Maybe there’s jealousy? In reality, we get a minor character, barely established because of the intent of establishing the Fantastic Four, who gets in a bad accident and decides, once rescued, that he wants to murder everyone by sucking the Earth up into a black hole. He creates the Black Hole,and it does about as much damage as a small Thunderstorm after a half-hour of combat. The admittedly brilliant Fantastic Four come up with a logical, wonderful way to defeat him. Jump on separate sides and punch him. He’s stronger than each of you, but not stronger than all of you. (sigh…)
All of these problems are worse than the production problems, the issues withCGI or with costumes. Many reviews will complain about the effects, such ashow the face-morphing scene looks like Uncharted for PS2, most green-screen backdrops are Twilight noticeable, Planet Zero looks about as fake as Joan Rivers, and the combat scenes feature rapid cuts to distract us from anyone actually getting hurt. The Fox guys, in their oversized T-shirts and flip-flops made this whole movie in their computer. You believe it?! In their computer. We’ve really come a long way.
Just remember, Miles Teller played the drums until his hands were bleeding through scenes and Michael B. Jordan captured the race movement in this country with 5 minutes of a terrific performance a few years ago. For every minute that this movie goes on, it undoes everything that made you love these young actors. It’s not really the Fantastic Four, because there’s nothing above the scale of mediocre about them.