My views towards superheroes films is similar to that of Disney movies; very complicated, convoluted, and getting tired of their formulas. A main contributor to this is most superheroes films feel the need to tell an origin story, and all feeling the same in outline form. Usually you have a young main character getting into an accident, is a good-doer, and after learning about his new-found abilities becomes a hero for the greater good. Our main character could suffer from blindness, being bullied, or simply being beautiful which limits the type of characters that are created. Superheroes films, at the moment, don’t experiment much to the point that female-led superhero films can be counted on a single hand.
Fantastic Four was different for me as director, and writer of the film Chronicle, Josh Trank, brought in new ideas to a genre that refuses to experiment. It was a good film that while limited to the found footage format actually managed to be one of the rare times a found footage film worked. So for the first time since Man of Steel in 2013 I had expectations to experience a different kind of superhero film. Allot of what I learned about the film seem promising, and the teaser trailer got my interest. Now the point I started getting worried about the project wasn’t the reshoots since one of my favorite movies, Jaws, and one of the best superheroes film ever made, Superman (1978), also endured reshoots. It was with the first official trailer for Fantastic Four that made me lose interest as the trailer was generic.
You think reviews would have kept me away, except for the fact superheroes films are the least trustworthy for me when it comes to critical, and audience reviews. If “The Dark Knight” is held to the highest standards for many of these reviewers so I had little reliable sources to turn to whenever one of these films get release. So out of the hundreds of reviews for this film the two reviewers I actually trusted with this genre both wrote negative reviews for the film. This caused me to be cautious. Then came in the talk of cut content which is where my interest raised again.
Fantastic Four follows four young outsiders teleported to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. The first ten minute of the films seem promising showing a young Reed Richard, and Ben Grimm attempting to send a toy car into another dimension. Unlike the rest of the film, the character are enthusiastic towards this goal, and dedicated to achieving it. What’s wrong with these first ten minutes are simple. For starter, Ben Grimm “It’s Clobberin Time” catch phrase originates from the times his older brother beat him up. Now I, expected this eventually pointless discovering would lead to some sort of repressed memory for Ben Grimm. This film clearly wanted to go in a dark direction so why not repress murder? It wouldn’t be pleasant, nor worked well, but would have been different, and explain Ben Grimm lack of social skills or friends in the film.
In the first ten minutes, Reed Richard succeeds in building a teleportation device in his parents garage. Before that though, Reed Richards tells the entire class he wants to be the first person to teleport himself. His teacher, naturally tells him to pick a real career seemingly wanting to crush a young kid dream. I would argue against the realism of this scene, but school is where dreams go to die. My college professor told me that once when I, and several others, talked about our desired career on the first day in class (no joke). So after succeeding in teleporting a toy car what happens to Reed Richard? Fast forward seven years later. Neglecting what could have been interesting events to follow-up on. Why this timeskip is so damaging is plain simple; it glosses over the possible introduction of Reed Richard to the Baxter Foundation at an early age, and meeting the other major characters. If the film chose to show Reed Richard working within the Baxter Foundation at a such young age, and communicating with the other major characters developing the cast could have been easier. Also, I’m expected to buy within the first ten minutes a young kid developed a teleportation device in his parents garage, but a research institute aiming for the same thing completely missed this story in every possible way. This is the moment I gave up hope for good, sensical writing in the film.
In a science competition Reed Richards shows his teacher who told him to pick a real career. Demonstrate in front of his teacher eyes, and hands covering his ears a teleportation device. This same teacher who failed to crush Reed Richard dreams disqualified Reed Richard under the basis he believe Reed Richard perform magic. Yes, because Reed Richard who had his hands covering his ears build a machine in order to make an elaborate light show in order to perform magic. I would argue how this teacher got his job, but the US education system is terrible so it’s not far fetch when depicting this teacher.
All of this was meant to develop characters within the first hour. However, that soon evaporate with one major mistake. So in the film Reed Richard, along with other young bright scientists that make up the core cast have to work together to make a teleportation device for the Baxter Corporation within the building. Instead of showing the trial, and error process of making such a machine would be a good excuse to develop characters, and their bond. The film decides to speed up the process by only showing the group talk to each other every now, and then. Not showing any hardship that has to be overcome when building a machine straight out of science fiction. Therefore, the completion of this teleportation device doesn’t feel like a group achievement. Feeling more like the writers went through another plot point keep the story rolling.
It might read like I skipped over a lot of material, but the sad truth is hardly anything in the first hour contributes much to the overall picture. The only thing that needs to be brought up is the group decides to go to Planet Zero because they got drunk, and want to stick it to the man by going to this other dimension first. Something goes awry when the group goes to Planet Zero, and eventually return home with one less member. Now, Sue Storm, not going to Planet Zero would have been fine if she didn’t get her powers by getting blasted by a computer. At most, a computer will catch on fire, and burn you. There are other side effects, but none of which include the powers to be invisible. To be clear, I’m not referring to Kate Mara (the actress who plays Sue Storm) career after this movie either.
Another issue is, like every live action Fantastic 4 film, is it desire to follow trends for of the time for unexplained reasons. For instance, as unsubtle as a villain like Red Skull in Captain America is, that film doesn’t undermined the audience intelligent, and actually plays up on that aspect. Here, there’s a character named Victor Von Doom. Hm, there’s clearly nothing wrong here. I am one-hundred percent positive someone named Doom will not, in any way, be the villain of the film or turn out to be evil. Noticing this I am dealing with yet, another instance of “Obviously Evil Bad Guy”. Unlike in say something like Mad Max: Fury Road where the “Obviously Evil Bad Guy” worked because the aesthetics of the film complemented it. In Fantastic 4 it is attempting to be more realistic (for some reason) where it goes against such a cartoonish name. The film attempts to humanize Dr. Doom by making him difficult to work with, rude to his peers, getting jealous when Reed Richard is talking to his possible crush Sue Storm, and doing stupid things when he is drunk. Wait, some of that is still evil behavior. Well, the writing really sucks for this film.
By the time the second act finally ends you’re given enough reasons to dislike the film. The rush pacing, glossing over obstacles, missed opportunity for character development, and failing in setting up a grand story. One aspect that could have been engaging simply goes away due to a time skip. Ben Grimm returns to Earth as a pile of CGI, walking, talking rocks, and when the film shows Ben Grimm in this form for the first time he is scare. However, this turmoil for Ben doesn’t last long as soon as he talks to Dr. Allen minutes later he accepts his new body. Well, that was pointless. There’s also another scene where Franklin Storm sees his son, Johnny Storm, confuse in pain burning endlessly. Instead of making a somewhat emotional moment of Franklin Storm talking to his son, and calming him long enough for Johnny to be in human form. Viewers are instead greeted with a scene of Reed Richard escaping from a military base that has little security despite the fact they are holding people with abnormal abilities. Though, the film is not entirely to blame for this lengthy review. I got admit I missed an opportunity to make a racist joke as to why Johnny Storm is black in this movie unlike every other incarnation of Fantastic Four.
One line of dialogue in the film pissed me off way more than it will the average movie viewer. It was during a scene where supervisor Dr. Allen is showing footage of The Thing working in military combat fields. At the moment the camera shows The Thing ripping off the upper half of a tank Dr. Allen says “He’s been involved in covert operations”. Really? A walking, pile of rock has been involved in several covert operations? Not only that, but apparently none of this footage, nor the enemies footage of The Thing has been seen by any form of media? I’m expected to believe , The Thing, existence is unknown to the world when he is shown ripping apart the upper half of a tank, and throwing it at enemy soldiers? Now the reason this line pissed me off was because in my time off I played a video game called Binary Domain. The entire game was meant to be a covert mission, yet in one level I fought against a Spider Robot the size of tall building. This occurred in one level so try to imagine an entire video game spanning around ten hours with events like that. The game events unfold in the span of a couple of days, and of course it eventually get public attention. Yet, I’m expected to believe for an entire year The Thing has been a part of military operations, and none of the enemy soldier that saw him told anyone? Dr. Allen says The Thing saves people while The Thing is hurting people on footage. So if this claim is true, HOW COME THERE ISN’T A SINGLE NEWS REPORT OF SEVERAL SOLDIERS REPORTING THEY SAW A GIANT PILE OF ROCK IN COMBAT! I’m willing to accept any leap of logic, but not, when it is very clear, that the film itself is attempting to be realistic, and wants to be taken seriously to the degree of Fantastic Four.
The final act is entirely ripped from another movie. A generic superhero movie without giving its main villain a motive for destruction, or has heroes that care that a military facility is filled with dead people. Seriously, there’s no emotional reaction from the Fantastic Four when ordinary people die. When the Fantastic Four have no chemistry with each other, than showing them be concerned with the fate of planet Earth in the climax there’s no sense of weariness from them. At this point in the film, the team isn’t even referred to as the Fantastic Four, nor is the name ever uttered in the film. It’s ashame of it for some inexplicable reason. What this final act also contains is a force “Save the World” climax, and a weak final fight for some action. When the film actually ends, it becomes evidently clear the film amounted to nothing. From the first hour that set everything to the last act that goes in an entirely different direction. Losing faith along the way before becoming a film that satisfies no one.
The cast of Fantastic Four includes the talented cast of Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell. Performances they aren’t bad when showing the inner struggle of their characters alone, but together the cast don’t have any chemistry together. Jamie Bell, and Kate Mara for instance, never make eye contact with each other in the entire movie. When the Fantastic Four are all together on-screen they don’t come across as good friends or a family. One issue being Jamie Bell is absent for a good portion of the film while the other cast member play characters who built a teleportation device. Toby Kebbell who plays Doctor Doom provides a stale performance. As soon as he appears on-screen there’s no question he’s a villain. He’s gets the worst part to play since his costume for Doctor Doom is expressionless, and his mask seems like a crash test dummy head painted black with neon green lights implanted on it. It’s look terrible on-screen.
Miles Teller gets a few scenes where his acting chops adds to a scene. For example, there’s a scene that requires Miles Teller to crawl to a pile of rubber after an incidents. His display of concern is convincing, but when he turns around to see his body stretched out his mortification sells this moment. It’s a good moment in the movie, but this is only of one of about three scene where the characters come across as people. The other two scenes being Jamie Bell voicing his distraught in being The Thing for the first time, and the other being Michael B. Jordan screaming as he is engulfed by flames. These snippets make the character seem real since they are afraid of they new-found abilities they don’t understand to use. However, there’s where their most human moments end. Unlike other films in the genre, we don’t see the Fantastic Four gradually accepting their abilities.
The supporting casts are entirely one note for the film. Reg E. Cathey who plays Franklin Storm maintains a similar facial expression of disapproval for every scene he’s in. He’s can’t do anything in the role. Tim Blake Nelson who plays Dr. Allen has to look smug, and pretend to be chewing gum for every scene he’s in. He makes little no lasting impression. That’s about it for the supporting cast. Most of the actors in the film appear briefly in a scene or two then never appear again. One of them being Ben Grimm mother, and his brother who disappear after a single scene.
This film contains a few practical effects, and they are convincing looking. Like the mentioned moment when Reed Richard is crawling, and legs stretches out for a couple of meters. CGI on the other hand never blends into with the live action portion. It’s rubbery whenever Reed Richards stretches his body in the few moments near the end when powers are used. However, the CGI isn’t used for action scenes, nor in moments of showing off the heroes good sides. At most, you’ll see briefly clips of The Thing military operations, one brief fight with Reed Richards attempting to fight off military gunman, and towards the end when the Fantastic Four team up to fight Doctor Doom. So very powers usage throughout the world. The Thing looks convincing depending on the lighting, but when he’s fully visible isn’t convincing. Kate Mara wig changes throughout the film, and so does her style. It’s distracting, but the least of the film problems. Planet Zero itself is simply an empty planet with nothing living on it. The music is just forgettable.
Fantastic 4 is a bad film that had potential, but was squandered. It’s a shame to be what it originally wanted to be opting to be a film that pleases everyone, and in the end becoming a film no one wants. Some ideas it had could have led to a good movie, and certain moments in the film are inspired, but the whole thing is a big mess. Good talent is wasted, special effects quality are uneven, and the script is weak on all front. In the end, the biggest let down of seeing this film is the only thing that makes it stand out in the genre is how bad it turned out.
A Silly Afterthought:
I had no idea where to include this piece of thought in my review so I just place it here in the end. One thing I noticed about all the Fantastic Four films, and some of the comic books is The Thing always wears pants, but in this film he’s always walking naked. So, I find it funny the MPAA considers this PG-13 material, yet something like Steve Jobs has probably like small uses of the F word is rated R. If I understand this correctly, I could display nudity in a movie so long the character is entirely CG, yet simple foul language will get me an R rating. Every movie watcher probably knows this by now, but the MPAA really needs to update their regulations for movie ratings. Oh yeah, there’s also the costumes which I didn’t comment on. To be honest, I prefer the costumes in this film over the comic books which basically are blue tight suits with a number four on it.