REVIEW — “Fantastic Four” (In Depth)
Josh Trank, Simon Kinberg, and 20th Century Fox succeeded where Doctor Doom, Galactus, and Annihilus always failed: they destroyed the Fantastic Four. Fantastic Four – or Fant4stic, because Fant4stic is so much cooler, hipper, and edgier than “Fantastic Four” – isn’t just a bad comic book movie. It’s not just a bad movie. It’s the worst movie of the year, and below is the third installment of “Under Further Review,” taking an in-depth look at this Trankwreck.
Mere minutes before Fantastic Four came to an end, the Human Torch flies past the screen and declares, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” That’s the one and only moment Fantastic Four is on the same page as its audience, who are undoubtedly thinking the same. As soon as Fantastic Four ended, and “FANT4STIC” flashed across the screen, I sat in my chair in a dark, mostly empty theater, and felt as I had just witnessed a snuff film. I felt dirty – as if I saw something I wasn’t supposed to. It brought me back to the sex ed class I had in middle school: I was left confused, bewildered, and with many questions. Namely: what the hell was that?
Early on, I thought Fantastic Four had the Fant4stic branding because Fox wanted to streamline the title, further separate this film from past attempts, and update the title for modern audiences. After watching the film, however, the Fant4stic branding became clear: it’s Fox admitting that this isn’t a Fantastic Four movie. It’s not “Fantastic Four In Name Only.” If Fox didn’t hold the screen rights to the Fantastic Four, they would get sued for copyright infringement. This is a film that shamelessly rips off and steals from the Fantastic Four comics without bothering to be an actual, accurate adaptation. Fox wanted the Fantastic Four branding – as weak as they’ve made it – because in Hollywood, the brand is king. A short history lesson for those not in the know: the day after the Walt Disney Company announced they purchased Marvel Comics – including Marvel Studios – for four billion dollars, 20th Century Fox announced their reboot of the Fantastic Four.
However, it wasn’t until four years later, in 2013, when the now ill-fated reboot actually started being produced. It was clear from day one – day one being the day after a rival film studio would now hold the screen rights to the majority of the Marvel Comics universe – that Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot was a film that was being produced solely to keep the rights to Fantastic Four. Fox has a certain amount of years to produce films of the Marvel Comics properties they own – currently the Fantastic Four and X-Men properties – and if they don’t produce a film in that time frame, the rights revert to their initial, true owner: Marvel. You don’t think Fox wants to give Marvel Studios yet another property to turn into a viable franchise, do you? Of course not. In a time when comic book adaptations are hotter than ever – especially the Marvel Studios films – Fox rushed Fantastic Four into production solely as a means of rights retention. Marvel Comics films are hot, Fox owns the screen rights to a Marvel Comics property – giving that up is like possessing a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and then letting it expire instead of heading down to the factory and bathing in a chocolate river.
We all know that studio films exist as product; they’re made to make money. However, a film being product doesn’t mean that’s all a film has to be. The Dark Knight was a product, produced by a major studio with the intention of making a killing at the box office with an A-list, name brand character, while also selling enough merchandise to bring in Scrooge McDuck levels of money. But The Dark Knight, like other good films, isn’t solely a product. It’s more than that; it’s a well-crafted, entertaining film and a piece of art. To deny that films are made in hopes of profit is naive. To acknowledge that films can be both product and good movies is common sense. Fant4stic – I’m going to stop calling it Fantastic Four – exists purely to play “keep away” with Marvel. The one, sole reason this movie was greenlit – the reason it was forced and rushed into production, the reason it’s playing in theaters right now – is so Fox can hold onto the screen rights of a property that Fox doesn’t understand or care about. They wanted to make money off of it, sure, but the film began as a direct response to the news that Disney purchased Marvel. That’s not to say that a movie made solely for
clinging onto holding onto rights is automatically bad. A movie can be made in the name of rights possession and still be good. It just so happens that Fant4stic isn’t.
In a time when other studios are making faithful, accurate, and true adaptations of the comics – and having them be record-breaking smash hits – there’s no excuse for something like Fant4stic to exist. Fantastic Four In Name Only isn’t going to fly in 2015. It might fly with general audiences, audiences who aren’t familiar with the comics and as a result don’t care how true or untrue the adaptation is to the source. But it’s not going to fly with what would be your biggest built-in audience: the fans of the original source material. When Marvel Studios can take something like Guardians of the Galaxy – with a talking raccoon and a talking space tree – work, there’s no excuse for Fox to not be able to make Fantastic Four work. As negative reviews for Fant4stic spread across the internet like a plague, many have wondered: maybe the Fantastic Four material isn’t good enough for a movie? Maybe it’s not cinematic? Maybe it just can’t work as a movie? To that, I say: bullsh*t.
There’s proof a Fantastic Four movie can work, and it’s probably sitting on your shelves right now: it’s called The Incredibles, and Disney/Pixar made it ten years ago. The problem isn’t the Fantastic Four material – the problem is the holders who possess the screen rights of that material, and that’s 20th Century Fox. If a cook turns out a meal that’s based on a recipe, and the meal turns out bad, you don’t blame the recipe. You blame the cook, because that’s who messed up.
Fox doesn’t get a lot of things about the Fantastic Four – and we’ll get to those below – but here’s what Fox primarily doesn’t get about the Fantastic Four:
The Fantastic Four are superheroes third, explorers and adventurers second, and family first.
That, above all, is why Fant4stic isn’t the Fantastic Four. This is a soulless, shameless rights retention movie. I don’t need a copy and paste job of the source material. I expect something that’s faithful, but I don’t expect – or want – filmmakers to feel beholden to the source material. I just want those filmmakers to have, at least, a fundamental understanding of the material that they’re adapting. More than that, I want you to take that material and make a good movie out of it. I don’t want you to take that material, use the bare minimum to fulfill the requirements of a screen rights contract, and then try to pass it off as an adaptation when it’s really just a film that bares similarities to the property you own. Here’s the first, biggest problem with Fant4stic: it proclaims to be about the Fantastic Four, but it’s not.
It practically comes off as false advertising, selling this as a Fantastic Four movie. This movie should have been called “Quantum Gate,” because that’s what the movie is about. This movie isn’t about a group of superpowered individuals known as the Fantastic Four. This movie isn’t about a family of explorers who all undergo a tragic accident and receive fantastic, super abilities together. This movie is about a bunch of pre-college kids trying to build a teleporter. It’s about the government trying to replicate a teleporter that those pre-college kids built.
Other, better team movies – like The Incredibles, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy – all spend time building the characters, and building their relationships. Fant4stic is just concerned with building a teleporter.
The Fantastic Four – “Marvel’s First Family” – aren’t a family in this movie. They’re not even like a family. There’s Reed and Ben, who have been best friends since the fifth grade, even though Reed is an assh*le and a terrible friend to Ben. Sue and Johnny are siblings, Sue is adopted, but they barely interact; and when they do, it’s like they don’t like each other. There’s no real familial relationship here. I don’t give a damn that Sue and Johnny – blood siblings in the comics – aren’t related by blood in Fant4stic. Adopted or blood, you’re family. But there’s no sibling or familial relationship here. If you went into this movie not knowing Sue Storm and Johnny Storm are siblings, you’d barely have any idea. In fact, you’d find it a shock when they both exclaim “dad!” to the same man towards the end.
I didn’t get the sense that they grew up together. I didn’t get the sense they were raised by the same man (Dr. Franklin Storm). They barely talk, and when they do, Johnny is distant and standoffish. We never find out why this relationship is the way it is, and it never gets repaired. It just… isn’t addressed. Gone is the Susan Storm of the comics, who had to grow up playing “mother” to her younger, more irresponsible brother, Johnny. Gone is any kind of caring, loving relationship. It’s non-existent. It’s a non-factor. I never buy that Sue cares about Johnny or that Johnny cares about Sue, because we’re never shown that. You’re thinking: “they’re siblings, of course they care for and love each other.” But you never, not once, get a sense of that. They act more like strangers who just met than siblings.
Early on, at a school science fair, a kid calls Reed, point blank, “d*ck.” It’s played for laughs, but the kid is right. Reed is a d*ck. He’s an unlikeable d*ck. And for the protagonist of the film, and the leader of the Fantastic Four, it’s a problem if he’s an unlikable d*ck, so much so that even a ten year old can see it. Reed keeps proving that kid right. In that same scene, Reed announces that he and his “associate,” Ben Grimm, have been building a teleporter since the fifth grade. Reed gets whisked away to the Baxter Institute – a think-tank of young, brilliant minds – and he does everything short of saying, “well, it’s been real, but you can f*ck off now, Ben.”
It’s practically foreshadowing for what Reed does later on in the film, when he once again abandons his “best friend.” After the teleportation accident that leaves Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Sue transformed with powers, Reed wakes up – with his limbs stretched to unbelievable proportions – and cries out, “where are my friends?” Five minutes later, Reed escapes the locked down government facility, abandoning and leaving those “friends” behind. “Help me, Reed,” cries a terrified, transformed Ben, now a creature made purely of rock. Does Reed attempt to rescue his best friend? Comfort him? Try to break him out? No. He scurries through vents like a fart and escapes into the wind. You think, “He can’t be that much of an assh*le, right? He’s going to get out and figure out a way to free his friends from the facility, right?” Except, no. Reed – our “hero” of the film – bails like the coward he is. He runs off to Brazil and, sigh, works on his machine, because this movie is about the Quantum Gate teleporter, remember?
Once Sue and Reed finally meet up again after Reed abandoned them all, you think – did he escape so he could find a way to fix his mistakes, even though he would have been better off not abandoning his friends, working with the government and using their resources to find a way to fix everyone, instead of hiding out in a shack in the jungle and working with literal scraps? No. Reed tells Sue, “you were better off without me.” Reed Richards ran away, because that’s who the character is in this iteration.
Reed Richards doesn’t care about his friends, why should we?
We’re never given any reasons to care about Reed, or any of the four. (We’re given plenty of reasons to dislike them, though). I guess I’m supposed to care about Sue because… she sees patterns? Because she’s really into music? Because she rudely puts in her headphones when Reed tries to talk to her in the library? I guess I’m supposed to care about Johnny because… he has daddy issues? Because his father thinks he has untapped potential? Because he selfishly puts innocent people in danger by drag racing in a P.O.S. car? (Johnny would never be caught dead in such a piece of crap, by the way – not even one he built himself). Because Johnny eagerly wants to be a government soldier so he can use his new-found flame powers to burn people alive and receive a government paycheck for it?
I guess I’m supposed to care about Ben because… he’s just kind of there? Actually, I can’t come up with reasons to care about Ben, because he disappears from a large section of the movie once Reed reaches the Baxter Institute. Ben only re-enters the picture once a drunken Reed calls up his buddy in the middle of the night, inviting him along to a dimension-hopping teleportation adventure the way you’d invite a buddy to a strip club.
Ben Grimm of the comics is one of my most beloved characters in all of fiction, so the fact that I didn’t care about him in this movie is a huge, damn shame. Fant4stic took one of the most tragic characters from the comics and completely stripped him of all of his pathos. Worse, this movie turned the Thing into a government killing machine, with 43 confirmed kills. That’s not the Thing. A guy who goes around killing people as an organic tool of the government is so far removed from Ben Grimm, that it displays a complete lack of understanding of the character. The Ben Grimm I know wouldn’t take orders off some shady government stooges. The Thing clearly is powerful and near unstoppable by human forces – we see him effortlessly destroy a tank and combat soldiers with guns (albeit, we see that in a brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse) – so why the hell is he taking orders from the government and going around killing people? Why not just use those powers of yours to bust out? It’s not like anyone can stop you. It’s never shown that the government is actively working towards curing Ben – though one line, and one line only, has a government stooge claiming that they are – but these are the people who had to turn to an eighteen year old to crack interdimensional travel. And they’re supposed to be able to fix Ben? Ben isn’t so naive that he would believe them. But in this movie, he is. He just goes around killing people for the government, and it makes Ben look like an idiot. The Thing is the government’s biggest, baddest, most powerful, most unique weapon. Ben is stupid enough to think that the government would actually try to cure him, thus taking that weapon away? In this movie, the answer is an unfortunate “yes.”
Fant4stic turned the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing – Aunt Petunia’s fav’rite nephew, the pride of Yancy Street – into a bland, forgettable, mopey crybaby. It’s not that Ben doesn’t have valid reasons to be sullen and depressed – he completely does. As mentioned, the character of the comics has a tremendous pathos to him that is perfect for a dramatic film adaptation. But in Fant4stic, he comes across as a kid pouting because he didn’t get to stop at Dairy Queen on the way home like he wanted. After Ben’s transformation into the rocky Thing, he sits in the corners of a dark cell. He sits in the corners of a dark room. He sits in the dark corner of a plane.
After Ben becomes the Thing, he and Reed only talk about it once. Well, they don’t so much “talk” as they “sit on opposite sides of the room, being quiet and making passive aggressive remarks for two seconds before it’s never brought up again.” Even 2005’s Fantastic Four – for all its cheese – goes more into depth in this topic. It’s a giant, major source of conflict between Reed and Ben. Ben loves Reed, but he kind of hates him for taking away his normal life and being responsible for turning him into a grotesque rock creature, but at the end of the day, he has Reed’s back because they’re family.
In Fant4stic, there’s nothing like that. Reed is a douche, he’s 100% responsible for turning Ben into the Thing and ruining his life, Ben confronts Reed once, they barely talk about it, Ben is kind of passive aggressive towards him, they fight together against Doom, the end. There’s no “I promise I’ll find a way to fix you, Ben,” on Reed’s behalf. There’s no guilt from Reed. Reed should have a nagging, persistent guilt – a drive to cure his friend. Reed is supposed to be a man possessed, obsessed with fixing his best friend’s life. This Reed is more, “sucks, bro.” There’s no forgiveness towards Reed on Ben’s behalf. There’s no exploration of this obvious, major conflict between the two – and there’s no resolution of that conflict, either.
Throughout the entirety of this movie, it never feels like Ben and Reed are best friends. It never comes across as though they even like one another. They don’t make jokes the way friends do, they don’t express warmth, they don’t have any scenes where they just kind of talk and it’s clear they care deeply for one another. There’s one, solitary, brief moment where Reed – taking a selfie in front of the teleporter – sends that picture to Ben accompanied by a text saying, “Couldn’t have done it without you, buddy!” And Ben, upon reading it, smiles to himself. Your friend ditched you, but okay, you’re a good guy – you’re happy for him.
But there’s never that sense of a real, genuine friendship between the two. It comes across more as Reed and Ben are friends because Reed had no other options. He’s the naggy, needy, pushy friend who doesn’t care what you want, he only cares what he wants. A drunk Reed calls up a sleeping Ben. Ben isn’t having it. Reed, like a nagging puppy, relentlessly urges him to come along onto a dangerous teleportation mission to a literally unknown and unexplored dimension. (This, by the way, is after all the government and scientist types teleported a monkey to and from “Planet Zero.”)
They send a monkey off once, the experiment works, and Johnny immediately declares, “we’re next!” Really? Super-smart, boy-genius scientist Reed Richards – who is the key to unlocking interdimensional travel – does one experiment? I’m no scientist, but aren’t you supposed to test things, you know, more than once? What if it was a fluke? But, no, the monkey made it back in one piece. We should be fine. We’re just human guinea pigs in an interdimensional experiment that we tested out exactly one time. This makes Reed look like a douche and an idiot. (Do you like him yet?)
Once Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Victor actually get to ‘Planet Zero,’ they do a bit exploring. Because he’s not an idiot, Ben tells Reed, “That’s enough, we need to get back.” Reed, because he’s a selfish douche, says “This is important, Ben.” Again, he ignores what Ben wants because Reed wants what he wants, and Ben is enough of a pushover that he just goes along with it. This, of course, is where the accident happens and the event occurs that causes Ben to turn into the Thing. Reed is entirely, completely to blame, and he doesn’t even have a good reason for it. In the comics, Reed wanted to be the first to get to space (it was 1961) – he wanted to do something major, something important. This Reed Richards just wants to go into the dangerous teleportation machine and visit a dangerous alternate dimension because he doesn’t want someone else to get there first, using the machine he helped create.
In Fant4stic, the Fantastic Four are born because Reed, Johnny, and Victor got drunk and decided to take daddy’s car for a spin – except “daddy’s car” is a dangerous, only-tested-once interdimensional teleporter.
That’s right. The Fantastic Four exist because three irresponsible pre-college kids got drunk. That’s just spitting on the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and spitting on everything the Fantastic Four represent. Reed makes vague, non-specific references to “I want to do something important,” with his teleportation work, but he never specifies what that is. He wants this teleporter to work to… what? Collect space rocks? Because that’s all it does, at first. How hard would it have been for them to throw in a line about the potential, real world applications for such a device? How about if this machine works, you can use it to potentially save thousands of lives during a natural disaster such as a tsunami, evacuating a mass number of people out of a dangerous area. There, that’s a good reason. But the film offers none, because it’s a lazy hack job that had no logic or sense put into it.
The Fantastic Four get no development. They barely interact. As a result, we don’t care about them. They never feel like a unit. They never feel like a team.
If the filmmakers behind Fant4stic weren’t going to go with the “family” aspect of Fantastic Four – which is like ignoring the “responsibility” aspect of Spider-Man or like ignoring the “justice” aspect of Batman – they could have, at the very least, let the quartet be a group of close friends. But they’re not. The main four – Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben – don’t share a scene together until the last five minutes. I sh*t you not, they are never in the same room together at the same time. In a team movie, that is an unforgivable sin. They aren’t close, they have no chemistry, they have no reason to care about each other – and I don’t care about them.
None of the actors give a sh*t. Even Michael B. Jordan, who is among the most talented actors of his generation, is wasted here. I don’t care that this Johnny Storm is African American. I thought Michael B. Jordan would be the best part of Fant4stic. Instead, he’s uncharacteristically boring and lifeless. He, along with the rest of the four, half-asses his performance. In a scene where Johnny has an argument with his father in the lab, there’s no passion in Jordan’s words. “This is the same guy from Fruitvale Station? No way,” I thought. He has more passion and zest in the two-minute Creed trailer than he does in the entirety of Fant4stic. You have one of the best, most talented and charismatic young actors working today, and you waste him by having him be this bored, boring character? It’s worse, because Josh Trank – friends with Jordan – gave him the role. They didn’t test anyone; Jordan was given the role. For a role that he owned from day one, you would think he’d have given more.
Miles Teller as Reed is perfect, actually – because Reed is a giant douche, and asking Miles Teller to portray an unlikeable, frat boy-esque douche is like asking Robert Downey Jr. to portray Tony Stark: no real acting required. This is the first Fantastic Four movie where I said, “You know, I can actually see why Doom hates this Reed Richards assh*le so much.” Doctor Doom has always shaken his fists at the Heavens while screaming “RICHARDS!!,” and I finally get it. Kate Mara is just kind of… there. The Invisible Girl, indeed. None of Sue’s passion, power, or strength is present in this movie. She’s furniture, and that’s a shame, because Susan Storm is a strong character. She’s the heart of the Fantastic Four. But this movie has no heart, and Sue Storm is just some girl who has a thing for music and patterns. Jamie Bell, too, is furniture – so forgettable that the movie itself forgets about him for twenty or so minutes. Ben Grimm – the most dramatically rich character of the Fantastic Four – is sidelined the entire movie, probably as a cost-saving measure due to the CGI nature of the Thing.
That brings us to “Doctor Doom,” who is the worst villain in a comic book movie since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ice-pun-slinging Mr. Freeze of Batman & Robin. If C-3PO from Star Wars and a crash test dummy had a baby, and then raised that baby in a Hot Topic, that baby would be Fant4stic‘s “Doctor Doom.” You know the famous, iconic Richards/Doom rivalry from the comics, where Doom has an absolute, all-consuming hatred of Reed Richards? Not present here. Victor is presented as being smarter than Reed, and Victor has – at best – a mild distaste for the guy at one point. He never hates Reed, and he’s never given a reason to. Reed and Victor are actually friends at one point, and whatever beef they had early on is squashed two minutes after they meet.
We first meet Victor while he’s in a dark, shut-up room, seated in front of a monitor and playing computer games. Doctor Doom – the ever-ruling, iron-fisted monarch of Latveria, the greatest villain of Marvel Comics, who has conquered literal demons, ruled the universe, and fought cosmic beings and possessed cosmic powers – is presented as a guy who plays computer games and moans about his unrequited crush on Sue Storm. There’s nothing wrong with playing computer games – it’s just not Doctor Doom. He just would not waste his time with such a thing; he’d consider it beneath him. He would consider it like playing with children’s building blocks. He’s too intelligent, too advanced, and too arrogant to ever spend time on such a futile, pointless exercise. Once he finally gets powers – powers that are never explained or specified, so his powers are basically “can do anything because the script says he can” – he goes around spouting off crap like, “There is no Victor… only DOOM.” What’s his motivation? I don’t know. I haven’t seen a villain with such a distinct lack of an objective, goal, or without any kind of philosophy since the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.
Victor spends some time on “Planet Zero,” surviving there for a year (somehow without any sustenance), comes back to Earth, and wants to destroy Earth so “his” planet – Planet Zero – can live. Why? Because he’s eeevviiill! And this movie needs a villain! And – oh damn. We’re at minute eighty of our movie, and we have to wrap this up. Eeeevviiill!! Reasons! Frankly, he’s the worst villain in a comic book movie that you could ever come across. He’s worse than Spider-Man 3‘s Venom – another character who showed up in the last ten minutes of the movie, was defeated in a lame way, and promptly died. At least Venom looked cool, for as bad as an adaptation he was. Doom just looks, sounds, and acts like an idiot. The actual design is so bad, it’s like someone lost a bet. You have a cool, badass looking Doom with various depictions in the source material, and you make him look like a Glow Worm doll that got thrown in the garbage?
To make matters worse – yeah, it gets worse – this Doom is a more-violent rehash of the Doom from 2005’s Fantastic Four. That, too, had a scene where Doom – bemoaning his crybaby unrequited crush on Sue Storm, again – tries to kill Susan with his electricity powers, again – and says, “I had a different future for us in mind, Susan,” again. Seriously, go watch the 2005 Fantastic Four again. This scene is an exact copy of a scene from that movie, where Doom tries to kill Susan while talking about “the future they could have had.” Except that Victor was actually in a relationship with Sue, at least. This Victor is just a creeper who definitely has Susan Storm’s Instagram page as the homepage on his computer. What is it with Fox and having Victor be a guy who has an unrequited love thing with Sue Storm?
What is it with Fox and having Victor look like complete garbage as Doom? At least the 2005 Doom had a metal mask. This Doom doesn’t even have a mask. He’s, once again, composed of a metallic skin. He, once again, has electric based powers. But wait! It’s actually different: this Doom has… telekinesis? Rock throwing abilities? Earth controlling abilities? Electrocution abilities? …Head-exploding abilities?
This Doom can do what he wants, when he wants, as the script calls for it. Doom walks down a hallway, effortlessly exploding people’s heads with his mind. When he fights the Fantastic Four, does he employ these abilities? No, he throws rocks at the Thing, a rock monster. He shoots electricity at Susan, who has force fields. He gets in a fist fight with Reed. What the hell, Doom? You’re evil, remember? (You just told us, two minutes ago).
Bullets bounce off your convenient force fields, but you blow up the heads of soldiers and civilians who are no threat to you… but when you’re faced with an actual, genuine threat – four people with super powers – you suddenly stop using your super duper evil powers? Why don’t you just blow their heads up with your mind? Because this is a stupid movie, completely lacking any kind of internal logic or sense. At one point in the film, Victor gives the finger to a government worker. At the end, Trank, Kinberg, and Fox give us the finger with this stupid, pathetic Power Rangers villain.
The final fight – the only action in the entirety of this “superhero movie” – is reminiscent of Power Rangers. The fight is terribly staged, unexciting, and uninteresting. Honestly, the whole movie is such a damn bore – so tedious and uneventful – you would think a fight between the “Fantastic Four” and “Doctor Doom” would make me sit up, perk up, and be engaged. No, because it was like one of those fan-made lightsaber fights you see on Youtube.
The CGI is bad, as it is in the rest of the film, to the point of being both laughable and outdated. When you can’t even make CGI slime (lava?) convincing, in 2015, it’s a bad sign of what’s to come: swirling rocks, a big blue beacon (that you’ve seen every summer for the past five years), generic, green electric blasts, and a Thing that looks like he was made out of poop and clay. Reed’s stretching abilities are so poorly done, so laughable, that when he engages a handful of soldiers in a five-second fist fight in the jungle, I let out a laugh in the theater. He looked like a hula hoop blowing and bouncing down the street on a windy day.
Fant4stic is boring. A movie about a giant rock man, a guy who can turn into flame, a woman who can turn invisible and create force fields, and a man who can stretch his body is boring. 95% of the movie takes place in dark, grey labs, underground bunkers, and poorly lit, stuffy cells.
If you’ve seen even one trailer or one TV spot for Fant4stic, you’ve seen all the action there is to see in this movie. It’s worth mentioning that half of the “action” you see in the TV spots is actually glossed over in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpses on computer screens. (That counts as false advertising in my book, Fox). The film is primarily about a group of boring, uninteresting characters who spend a lot of the time staring at computer screens or spouting science mumbo jumbo. The movie isn’t engaging in the slightest. I love the Fantastic Four, and if I – someone who loves these characters – didn’t care, how can the general audience care?
The movie is so damn drab, deary, and trying desperately (but failing) to be the masterful Batman Begins, that you start to feel like you’re at a boring, lifeless college lecture. It tries to be so serious, that it completely leaves out any sense of fun or brevity. Sorry, Trank and Kinberg, but having Reed say “yo mama” in a pathetic attempt at humor isn’t how you make your movie “fun.” This movie isn’t fun. It’s anti-fun.
This is the movie you’ll threaten your kids with as punishment. “Stop hitting your brother, or I’m putting on Fant4stic.” “But mom, it’s clobbering time!” It’s worth mentioning that the Thing’s iconic, rallying battle cry from the comics – “it’s clobberin’ time” – is used here so pathetically, so offensively, that it makes me genuinely angry that three screenwriters were paid to write this sh*t. Ben’s older brother uses “it’s clobbering time” when he physically abuses his younger, smaller brother. Jamie Bell then delivers the line in the final (and only) confrontation against Doom so half-heartedly, so limp, that I’m not entirely convinced Bell didn’t say “Do I actually have to say this sh*t? Are re-shoots over yet?” in the same take.
Fant4stic is a mess. The acting is lifeless. All the actors – aside from Toby Kebbell and Reg E. Cathey, who with Fant4stic have proven that they are absolute professionals who will give 100% even when the material they’re handed seems like it was written in crayon on a napkin – sleepwalks through this movie. Kebbell and Cathey are great actors, and they clearly thought they were in a better movie. Kebbell could have been a great Doom, if he were actually allowed to play Doom. The editing is atrocious. Either the editor forgot to include the second act or Trank and Kinberg forgot to write one, because Fant4stic has no second act. Any first year film student could tell you the basics of the three act structure, but Fant4stic jumps from its boring first act to its rushed, uneventful, crappy third act and resolution. Fant4stic is all build up, build up, build up, build- completelyrushedandundeservedending. Credits.
Where act two should start, act three begins, and you’re left wondering if there was an error in the projection, or if you fell asleep or were hit in the head with a meteor and blanked out on the last thirty minutes of your life. The dialogue is so generic, bland, and stale, I’m not entirely convinced this wasn’t a first draft of 2005’s Fantastic Four that was in some Fox executive’s desk drawer since 2002. This is a movie where the Thing – when he’s being overpowered by a bunch of rocks that were thrown at him by Doom – cries out to Reed, “Reed, help me!” He begs him for help, and he’s on the verge of tears. That’s not the Thing. The Thing would get pissed, summon his strength, burst out of the rocks, and declare “It’s clobberin’ time!” and punch Doom in the face. This is a movie where Reed, the undisputed leader of the Fantastic Four, abandons his “friends” and runs away at every opportunity available.
Put the source material aside – the filmmakers did – that’s just a bad movie protagonist, period. This is a movie where the most Sue does to contribute is put Reed and Ben in a force field and bounce around like a giant hamster ball. This is a movie where the heroes aren’t heroes. This is a movie where those “heroes” are all unlikable jerks. (The movie ends with Johnny saying, “…and the thing that no one wanted,” referring to Ben. But because Johnny and Ben’s relationship is non-existent – they don’t have the playful “big brother, little brother” relationship from the comics where they tease one another, but it’s done with love – this just makes Johnny look like a giant assh*le. Throughout the movie, Ben and Johnny talk, literally, one time, with one sentence. And that’s it. Johnny’s dig at Ben isn’t playful – it’s mean. This is a guy who is suffering, who is miserable, and it’s basically Johnny making fun of a kid in a wheelchair).
The story isn’t captivating, the characters aren’t interesting, the effects aren’t impressive, the jokes (all three of them) don’t land, the editing and pacing is poor, the designs are atrocious, the acting is lifeless, the action is non-existent, the action (all five minutes of it) is atrocious, the plot forgot to show up, and the entire thing reeks of an unimaginative, generic, “seen this already a million times” vibe.
You’ve seen everything in Fant4stic in other, better movies. This is a bland, generic, Young Adult wanna be movie that is so bad, so not-so-fantastic, that I can’t believe it got made in an age where comic book movies are better than ever. After Iron Man and The Dark Knight in 2008, I thought we were past the era of sh*tty comic book films. Obviously, Fox is still stuck in the “we don’t take comic book movies seriously” era. Last year’s fantastic X-Men: Days of Future Past is starting to look like a fluke.
Last call: Fox made Fant4stic as a desperate, last minute measure to cling onto the Fantastic Four screen rights. If there weren’t an expiration date on the Fantastic Four screen rights, this movie would not exist. Fant4stic has no identity. Fox didn’t want another Fantastic Four film – they needed one, for legal reasons.
Here’s what happened: Josh Trank made a small budget super powers film, Chronicle, for Fox. Josh Trank wanted to make Chronicle 2. Fox needed a Fantastic Four film to retain the Fantastic Four screen rights. Fox approached Trank and offered him Chronicle 2. The catch? He had to use the Fantastic Four characters, use the powers, and call it “Fantastic Four.” This isn’t Fantastic Four, this is Chronicle 2, masquerading as – or, more accurately, impersonating – an actual Fantastic Four movie. This is “Chronicle 2: Fantastic Four,” a cynical, soulless, lifeless, heartless product, excreted by a studio who needed a movie out by a certain date to hold onto a property that they have no idea what to do with – clearly.
Fant4stic is a lazy rehash and remake of a movie that came out just ten years ago – 2005’s Fantastic Four – doubling as a sequel to Chronicle 2, leaving a movie made for no one. As of this posting – August 6th, 2015 – Fant4stic sits at a pathetic 9% on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s more than it deserves.
Fant4stic is the most offensive, lazy, boring, pathetic comic book movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all. I’d rather be stranded on a deserted island with Halle Berry’s Catwoman on a loop rather than watch this piece of sh*t again. The “Fantastic” Four don’t appear in the same scene together until the end. How can you have any sort of team dynamic in a team movie when the team doesn’t share a scene together until five minutes before the movie ends? Fant4stic proves that you can’t.
Instead of forming a tone that is true and faithful to the comics, the filmmakers decided on their tone and then tried to shoehorn Fantastic Four into that. If you think the source material is lame, or embarrassing, or not believable, or not grounded enough, then don’t adapt it into a movie. It’s that simple. Go make your own thing and leave the Fantastic Four to someone who would let the material dictate the tone, instead of letting the pre-conceived “vision” for the movie dictate the tone. It’s like trying to stuff a round peg into a square hole: it doesn’t work, it doesn’t fit, and it’s not going to fit. The Fantastic Four aren’t dark and gritty. They’re not Batman. It’s not Batman Begins, as much as you desperately wanted it to be.
There’s a parent, and they have a kid, and that kid loves ballet. But the parent loves football, and wants a kid who plays football. So the parent ignores what the kid actually is – someone who enjoys ballet – and they say, “no, you’re going to be a football player.” That parent puts the kid on the field and that kid gets clobbered because that kid isn’t a football player – that kid is a ballerina. When that kid fails at football, you can’t blame the kid: you blame the parent. The “parent” being Fox, Trank, and Kinberg. They took something that isn’t dark and gritty – and which was never meant to be dark and gritty – and tried to apply this “grim-dark” ultra serious, Batman Begins, super duper serious and grounded tone to it – instead of accepting the material for what it is and adapting it accordingly.
You don’t get to be ashamed of the source material, and be so ashamed of it to the point where you completely alter the tone and leave most of the “comic book-y” stuff out, while at the same time using the Fantastic Four members, using their powers, and using the “Fantastic Four” branding. If you’re going to make a Fantastic Four movie, make a Fantastic Four movie. You want the name brand, you want the iconography? Then use the material. Don’t say “we’re using the character’s names, we’re using the Fantastic Four name brand, we’re using the powers, but we’re leaving the rest out because it’s corny and outdated.”
You don’t get to make Fantastic Four In Name Only. Either adapt the material properly or don’t adapt it at all. If you wanted to make a story about a bunch of high school teenagers who get transformed with powers, and then explore the body horror genre, make Chronicle 2. Don’t say “I’m going to make Chronicle 2 but use the Fantastic Four because the Fantastic Four is an established brand.”
Just make Chronicle 2. This is Chronicle: Fantastic Four. This is Chronicle 2. Whatever this is, it’s not Fantastic Four to the point of being false advertising. Those Fantastic Four comics, the ones that have been around for more than fifty years, will still be around in another fifty years. Those Fantastic Four comics – the ones Trank, Kinberg, and 20th Century Fox so gleefully, willfully ignored, wiped their asses with, and tossed away, in favor of making “their vision” of Fantastic Four – will still be around, whereas Trank’s/Kinberg’s/Fox’s Fantastic Four will be forgotten by the end of the month.
I’m not some biased Fantastic Four fanboy, who decided I would hate this no matter what. I wanted to like this movie, and I’m fine with changes to the source material, as long as it makes for a better movie. If I weren’t a Fantastic Four fan, my list of problems with this film would be unchanged. As a movie, especially a summer blockbuster, it doesn’t work from any angle.
The one and only good thing Fant4stic could offer is this being the film that finally, finally lets Marvel Studios resume control of the Fantastic Four screen rights. The ideal Fantastic Four movie would be a mixture of The Incredibles, Interstellar, Iron Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Get Brad Bird to direct, have him co-write it with Michael Arndt, and there’s your Fantastic Four movie. There’s your successful box office franchise that has eluded the Fantastic Four all these years. It’s not the material – it’s the people handling the material, and the people handling the material, Fox, have proven they don’t care.
Fox doesn’t care about this movie, and neither should you. Let it go, Fox. Third time isn’t the charm for you – don’t try for a fourth.
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