God that is a snarky title, although at least it isn’t one of the many puns I read online like “Fantastic Bore” or “Snoozetastic Snore”.
I try not to read too many reviews or watch too many previews for movies that I know for a fact I will go see in the theater. I really think doing too much of either of those things can really prejudice your opinion of the movie and lower the amount of enjoyment you get for the movie going experience. If I am paying 10 bucks to see a movie, then I don’t want any of the hopefully cool, exciting, or surprising parts ruined or spoiled.
Sometime however, it is hard to not catch wind of when a movie is getting dogged or praised online, especially if it comes as kind of a surprise. Mad Max Fury Road was like this, except for the positive. Fantastic Four is like this but in the negative. I didn’t read any full reviews but I did see several headlines that gave a general “meh” impression of the movie.
This didn’t fill me with dread and I kept an open mind when I sat down in the theater but I did have a slight nagging feeling that I was going to be underwhelmed. As it turns out, that nagging feeling was spot on. Let’s try and tackle this in a linear fashion from what I can remember, and be warned there are spoilers ahead.
The movie starts out with a very young Reed Richards giving a “What I want to be when I grow up” report in class. This scene set a really bad tone for me for several reasons. First of all, it’s not a bad scene in of itself. It would totally work in a lot of other movies. My first problem though is that this is the Fantastic Four. We are kind of beyond needing an origin story at this point for most comic book movies. If you do need to do an origin though, make it brief unless there is something truly important or profound that needs to be relayed to the audience.
This is going to be a movie with a guy who can stretch like rubber, a girl who can turn invisible and make force fields, a dude who can light himself on fire, and a god damn rock monster. I don’t know how nuanced of a back story we need, and especially not one that starts when a kid is 11. That brings me to another point, and I think it is mostly a “me” thing and nothing to do with the movie.
I really struggled to figure out the age of the characters and justify it. It started with the kid giving his presentation before Reed naming “Eli Manning” as his hero. As he was saying this the screen says it is the year 2007. So this would presumably be the year after the Eli won his first superbowl. This bugged me mostly just because it made me feel old. The idea that in an adult’s flash back to when he was an 11 year old references something that happened when I was out of college and working a full time job really depressed the hell out of me.
Ok, I really should warn you I am going to nitpick the hell out of this part of the movie.
Also, I don’t know how old 11 year olds look, but these kids looked crazy young. Ok I just looked them up… which made me feel creepy, and I guess this isn’t a phantom menace thing and they actually are about the age they are suppose to be portraying. Still if the kids are that young (the kid playing Reed and the other playing Ben Grimm) and this scene is set in 2007 then present day the kids can only be 17, 18, or 19. I don’t know if I want a teenage version of the Fantastic Four.
So all of those worries are floating around in my head, and then the scene continues with Reed talking in front of the class about how he wants to be the first person to teleport matter. The kids in the class barely care enough to call him a nerd and laugh at him, so the teacher in the class instead mocks Reed in what really seemed like an attempt to get the other kids in the class to laugh and turn on Reed. Kind of Fucked up honestly, but I got the feeling it was a public school in NYC so who knows. BTW the teacher in the class is none other than the great Dan Castellaneta best known as the guest host of Thoughts for Your Thoughts from Parks and Recreations… or as Homer Simpson. Either one he is probably equally well known.
So Ben Grimm walks up and peeks at Reeds notebook and sees that it is a bunch of smart nerd stuff and then we go to the next scene which features Ben living a semi rough and tumble youth where his family owns a junkyard and he catches Reed trying to steal a power converter. Ben helps him and they go to Reeds place and do an experiment and transport a tiny matchbox car away and get a bunch of small rocks or sand in return. The experiment causes a blackout for a about a mile around the house. His dad was watching the Jets and is heard getting annoyed at Reed although you don’t actually see any exchange between them.
Here’s the thing. We don’t need any of this opening. First of all, it really reminded me of movies like Project Almanac and Earth to Echo where there are some kids messing around with futuristic technology that they couldn’t possibly comprehend. Once again, this is probably just me being old, but I don’t really like movies with genius kids. I guess it’s a combination of me being jealous of kids that are smarter than me and me wanting to call bull shit on otherwise normal kids being super geniuses as if they would be able to gain that knowledge without having to constantly be reading and actually learning.
I should also mention that I totally enjoyed both of those movies, but it’s not exactly the kind of movie I associate with the fantastic four. Let me add another caveat, I maybe would be ok with this type of movie version of the FF but only if they went all out and made it less about action and sci fi and more about adolescence and youthful spirit and interpersonal family dynamics and all that bull shit.
So this whole opening part of the movie with 11 year olds is suppose to do a bunch of things and I think it fails at a lot of them, chief among them is giving Reed and Ben some type of life long friendship bond. Another thing is that Reed is suppose to look like an outcast that isn’t nurtured by his real family and the same maybe for Ben which is another reason why they care so much for each other.
Fuck, just typing this pisses me off because if you look at the rest of the movie you kind of can see where they were laying the ground work for some of these story lines and themes, but they never have any resonance. You never really feel a deep connection between Reed and Ben so when Reed kind of betrays Ben later on you don’t really feel any real tension, which is also why at the end when they don’t really have a moment of reconciliation and are kind of just buddy buddy again, you don’t really care that it isn’t earned.
I really can’t believe I’m not past the first 15 minutes of the movie, but after the stuff where they are 11 year olds in 2007 we jump ahead to them in 2014 at a science fair. I… jesus Christ, I don’t know if this is a realistic version of a science fair in new York or not. I always remember science fairs as being something where your project competed against kids in your same age bracket. Well in 2014 we have the 28 year old Miles Teller playing a presumably 17 or 18 year old Reed Richards but his science fair trifold stand is right next to an 11 year old kid’s trifold science fair stand. Once again, I’m sure if this is just something you see in NYC where it might be a regional thing with a bunch of age groups, but it seemed foreign to me.
The other thing that made this scene so weird to me is that one of the science fair judges is Dan Castellaneta again. Not the actor but him playing that same teacher that had basically made fun of Reed in the 5th grade. So why is he judging a science fair if he is a fifth grade teacher. Ok maybe he is a fifth grade teacher but has a science background that makes him worthy of judging a high school senior. Or maybe he changed positions since 2007 and is now something else, like maybe a principle. It doesn’t matter because whatever the circumstance his reaction to Reed and Ben’s science fair project should not have been what it was in the movie.
If Reed is a super genius then this teacher should probably know about it. So when Reed shows how he is able to transport matter and bring it back with some sand, well the teacher shouldn’t have automatically assumed it was a god damn magic trick. So Dan Castellaneta storms off after Reeds experiment because although it worked at transporting a small model plane (which he had to borrow from that 11 year old’s trifold display I mentioned earlier) it also caused some kind of surge that shattered a glass basketball backboard.
Seconds later Dr. Franklin Storm walks up and starts talking to Reed about how he was able to bring the mater back and that the sand isn’t from the desert but actually from another dimension. It is almost apauling how little effort they put into the dialogue between two brilliant scientists. Reed had solved one of the major hurtles that Dr. Storm had been struggling with and he basically just points at Reed’s machine and is like “Oh so you just added an extra coil there and you did it! That’s cool. Hey would you like a scholarship to work at a quasi school slash laboratory slash research center that I think has a bunch of other orphans like you, eventhough you aren’t an orphan at all and have a dad that we never actually get to see who is supposedly alienated by your smarts, and we only know that cause you ham fistedly mention it to Sue when you are kind of starting to get feelings for her which are never addressed later in the movie.”
Maybe only the first part of that sentence is similar to what was said in the movie and the rest was just me venting. Either way, this whole scene really means that you don’t need the first scenes where they are 11 years old. I’m not saying the movie was too long but, man it was just an odd choice to have both of these scenes.
Let me just stop here an mention what I think is a big problem with the movie and what I have read other people mention as a big problem with the movie. It really felt like there were large swaths of the movie that were missing. Like they wrote the scenes and maybe shot them, but never put them in the movie for some reason. I did read that some of the other scenes that were in the movie were reshoots that the producers had to do after the director was basically let go and a bunch of his stuff was re written.
Something else that I noticed is that some of the scenes from the trailer were not in the movie. The first being the Thing being dropped from a stealth bomber and the second being Ben Grim hitting baseballs as a high school seniorish aged guy in his junk yard. I don’t know what the context of those scenes were supposed to be…. Oh jesus, there also was the scene in the trailer where the Thing is raising up his fist slowly as the camera is shooting him from below almost like he is on top of someone he is about to destroy with lighting in the background I think. also when Sue in the movie pushes the cargo containers with her force shield it only moves one but in the trailer it moves like five at once violently. Johny in the trailer says “I’m going to need a heat resistant workspace and a big ass un roof.” That’s not in the movie from what I remember. Also Dr. Storm says some awesome voice over shit about how things are different now that they have Reed Richards, but that never gets said in the movie I don’t think.
God damn it. 21 hundred words into this review and I have barely gotten past the half hour mark. Ok I need to pick up the pace.
Next either Reed strikes up a meaningless conversation with Sue in the Library or Dr. Storm visits Dr. Doom. I forget the order of these two things, but the Reed talk with Sue annoys me because he is trying to chat her up and it is hard to tell exactly what he is trying to do. And by “he” I mean the movie. It kind of seems like he is just trying to be friendly like he would with anyone whether it be a girl or boy or non gendered space alien, but we all know that this is the person he will one day marry. So if they are trying to add some layers to Reed they could have made him nervous around her or awkward although that would be a little or cliché. But better yet they could have made him kind of arrogant in a not over the top way. He could straddle that fine line between confidence and quite arrogance.
This is emblematic of the whole problem with this movie. Reed is kind of a shitty guy, but the movie refuses to commit to it. He lets his enthusiasm for the science blind him to the consequences. Ben is a tragic figure in that he is an outcast that ends up being completely taken advantage of by the military after his best friend abandons him. BUT we never really get to see that. It’s like they are just paying lip service to his feelings and motivations. Johnny Storm is a hot head who is just about to become a military pawn, and then just kind of doesn’t cause all hell breaks loose. Sue… has pattern recognition. Like she is really good at that and uses that to track down Reed who escapes at one point.
Christ that is another plot line that is bizarre and ultimately goes no where. So I am jumping ahead a little bit,, but after Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben get their powers they are held in a government facility where the government tries to figure out what the hell is going on. All 4 of them are in bad shape and not yet in control of their powers. Reed is able to sneak out of his restraints and finds Ben who is scared and alone and reed tells him he will come back for him and Ben is like “no don’t leave me” and Reed is like “peace out hommie” and runs away. A year passes and ben becomes a weapon of the government while Sue and Johnny also work to develop their abilities. Keep in mind we only get to see some poorly filmed viral news clips on a TV screen of Ben in action and Sue and Johnny don’t really do anything that interesting either.
During this year Reed is working on creating a machine to go back to planet zero (yes that is the stupid fucking name they gave the place that gave them their powers) so he can presumably find a cure. Well Sue kind of betrays Reed and uses her awesome powers of pattern recognition to find out where he is hiding. It should be noted that this betrayal has zero impact on the relationship between sue and Reed. It also should be noted that nothing he did in that year away has any impact on the story. It also also should be noted he puts up no fight once he is back at the military base, doesn’t really need any convincing, and immediately starts helping the government create the transportation thing like nothing happened.
Next up the government sends a bunch of redshirts over to planet zero to check it out and find a cure for the fantastic four, but not really because they want the power to make more super powered soldiers. So when they are over there they find out that Dr. Doom is still totally alive and has been living off the planets energy or something for this whole time. ughhhhhh we should probably stop here and talk about dr. doom and how he ended up on planet zero.
So when we first find dr. doom he has shut himself away from the world and is in some home laboratory where he is controlling everything like the doors and windows with a fancy google glasses upgrade. I swear to christ I thought he had Parkinsons when we first meet him because of the way he was positioned in his chair and wasn’t moving anything other than his head and eyes.
Doom says some shit about how we as the human race keep shitting on the planet so why should he bother doing science stuff, but the dr. Storm is like “hey i found this young kid name reed richards who solved the problem you were working on.” and Doom is like “yeah that’s cool, hey is your hot daughter going to be there?” Doom and Reed and Sue get to work on the transportation thing while Johnny has the boringest street racing battle ever filmed. Seriously. It was painfully boring. Maybe the transporter and Fast and the Furious movies have spoiled us, but this street race with Johnny Storm is incredibly unexciting. For reasons that are dumb, Johnny losing the street race means he has to help out with the Transporter thing being built by everyone in the movie except for Ben Grim who at this point is still at the junkyard although we don’t really see that.
They finsish the build and send a monkey to planet zero and bring him back and everyone is like “awesomesauce” and then the guy in charge above Dr. Storm is like, “sweet, let’s bring nasa and the evil government on board.” and everyone is like “awww hell nah, we should get to use it before them and be the first ones to go over there.”
Why am I retracing this part of the movie? Because this part right here is so absolutely stupid I couldn’t believe it. Dr. Storm is upset because the government wants to select its own people to send over and be the first ones to walk on planet zero. Here’s the thing; that plan makes perfect fucking sense. You know what two things don’t make any god damn sense. #1: Using your kids as guinea pigs and sending them to an known planet where they could fucking die horribly in an unlimited number of ways. #2: Sending the only people smart enough to create the mode of transport to this crazy dangerous planet on a journey to said dangerous unknown planet.
Doom even bitches about how Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren are remembered as the first people on the moon and no one cares about the people who built the rocket. that kind of makes sense except for the fact that those two dudes trained specifically for that job and its not like… oh fuck it. i can’t believe i am over 3400 words on this piece of shit movie. Ok maybe it isn’t a piece of shit, but man is it half assed.
Btw, I also take umbridge with two more things with Dr. Doom at this point. The first thing is that at one point viktor starts saying some gloomy stuff, and Sue jokingly says “wow, ok Dr. Doom.”. Here’s the thing. It has never been established that he has a doctorate and in fact I don’t think he does. Since he doesn’t then her comment must be a play on words or a reference to a popular saying or phrase like calling someone a “Debbie Downer”. Well I don’t know anywhere where some one who is acting all pessimestic would be called a “Dr. Doom”. Couple that with the fact that his last name is actually Doom, it seems like something that made sense to the writers because the character in the comic books is called Dr. Doom but they never stopped to make sure it made sense in terms of the universe the movie is set in.
It would be like if there was a movie with a guy who was really gung ho about america and he is talking about how much better the US is than every other country. Even if the comic book person “Captain America” never existed, it would make sense to jokingly call that guy “Captain America”. What wouldn’t make sense is calling that guy “Captain America” if he actually was in the military and had the last name “America”. in that situation the guy would just go “umm… yeah… that is my last name you know that right? Why didn’t you just call me ‘Captain Freedom’ or ‘Admiral liberty’ instead?”
This type of joke really only works in these movies when you have a character from the comic books where you don’t want to use their comic book name. It would really work in a situation like if you had William Tockman hanging out with his friends and he’s like “Oh sweet I just won an ebay auction on that cool clock I wanted. And then his friend is like “Jesus Bill, you got like 20 clocks in this house. No one needs to tell time that hard or that often. Your like the god damn clock King.” See, there we did a little wink and a nod to the audience who actual care enough to know who this guy is. The TV show the Flash doesn’t this flawlessly. This movie did it shitingly.
Also Doom appears at one point to get jealous of Reed chatting up Sue Storm, which leads you to think that at some point later they would have some tension revolving around that and there might be a showdown between just reed and Viktor that partially involves that love triangle in some way. That doesn’t happen. That blip of a moment could have been taken out and it would have had no impact.
For a movie that feels too short as it is, i am amazed at how many moments there are that could have been cut and had no affect on the movie. Not only that they could have gone the other way in some of those scenes and made the movie better. Instead of having Ben feel betrayed by Reed, Have reed feel betrayed by Ben like ben didn’t have faith Reed would be able to fix him on his own. Or like Ben goes and gets Reed cause he wanted to save him from what the military would do if he wasn’t there. Instead of trying to cause friction in their friendship (and failing) they should have done it in a way that reinforced it and made it appear even stronger to the audience.
Let me explain what I mean. So causing a schism between Reed and Ben only really works if you really believed in this great friendship in the first place. They don’t do that, nor do they do anything to make that falling out have any consequence. Since drama is built on… DRAMA , it is hard to have drama, tension, excitement, betrayal, hurt, loss, and love, without high peeks and low valleys. A symphony isn’t as good when the composer always keeps the volume of the notes between a 5 and a 7. It gets good when there is contrast. When you have that 2 and 3 and butt it up against a crescendo going up to an 8 or 9. Then save the ones and tens for the moments you want to have the biggest impact. This movie is all about the 5s and 7s.
The love triangle between Viktor, Reed, and Sue, has a range of 5 to 6. Why not take the energy wasted on Doom being a part of that dynamic and instead use it to up ramp up the egomaniacal aspect of doom from a 7 and take it up to a 9. Johnny arguing with Sue over becoming a weapon of the government was a bland as hell 5 at best. Use that time to have Ben get down about all the death and destruction he has been doing at the governments request and how his outside form is going to start to reflect his inside. Make him a real tragic figure and take him down to a two. Give the audience a deep valley that they want to see the Thing climb out of so when he accepts what he has become and how it can be a good thing, a necessary burden, the audience actually feels like they and he went through a journey to get there.
By the way, at some point along the way, one of the worst lines in this movie was said prior to all the actual action happening.
“What if you had never come to the science fair that day” – Reed Richard to Sue Storm circa 2015.
I don’t think it would have been that bad a line if the rest of the movie wasn’t dragging scenes like that down. In the context of the rest of the movie it was hard not to isolate that line and not laugh.
Fuck, we need to wrap this up.
So back to the time line of the movie, the red shirts help bring Doom back. Once back he starts walking around exploding heads. I was never a big FF guy or really cared about Doom, but I was really confused about what actual power he had. He seemed to have some kind of telekenisis and was doing a pretty good impression of the movie Scanners as he wasted every body on the military base. He then used the transporter to go back to planet zero… ughhh, what a terrible name, … and then started some kind of space bridge death ray to destroy the earth.
At no point do we have any idea what Dr. Dooms powers are, how he is creating his giant inter dimensional suction laser using only rocks and more rocks, or if he is doing this because being on the planet by himself made him mad or if he really thinks the earth is a piece of shit using his normal logic he had earlier in the movie before being abandoned on planet…. ughhhh… zero.
The fantastic four are able to follow the laser/wormhole back to …… god damn it…. planet zero. There they get involved in one of the most uninspired fights ever. About 2 minutes into this conflict you realize “holy shit, this is the end of the movie. This is a comic book movie with only one god damn fight scene.” There is a reason that most action movies have more than one fight scene. The reason for this is because you use the or one of the earlier fight scenes to set up the final showdown. You have the hero loose to the bad guy early in the movie to show that when he wins at the end, the hero did so by over coming some kind of great long shot odds. Or you use an early fight scene with the hero and someone else to get a good idea on their ability or lack there of so that you can kind of get a general idea of their skill set and powers. You also do this with an earlier scene with the bad guy so you know how bad ass he his and how scared you should be of his or her likely victory.
You could argue that this movie does this by having DR. Doom wreck shit on earth before going back …. morther fucker…. to planet zero. You could also cite how when the final battle first starts doom punks each member of the ff before they regroup and come up with some similar to a plan. Still there was virtually no time between any of those two things and the final fight happening. It all takes place over the course of like, 15 or 20 minutes. You really need some time in between battles so that the audience can do their own little power rankings before you move on, and also so the characters can grow or change before the final showdown.
We basically are at the end of the movie and as I hinted towards, the FF fight a s a team and beat doom. Here’s whats fucked up. They kill him. Ben punches Doom into this circle of blue energy that Doom was using to vaporize all the matter that was being transported through the giant laser/warmhole thing. We seem Doom get vaporized. Like, he is gone. Not defeated, or incapacitated. He is straight up disintegrated or atomized. You can’t even look at him and think, oh I am sure he’s dead but then find out that he was only mostly dead. No there is nothing of him left to look at because every cell and atom of his body was ripped apart and spread amongst the ether.
The film makers just took the fantastic fours most important villian, and killed him off. Any sequel couldn’t even have him. Gone. Forever.
Why not have the blue distructo disk suck out his green energy stuff that was powering him while reed held him with his stretch arms and ben held him. Afterall Viktor wasn’t evil until he got abandoned on a hostile uninhabited planet by himself for a full year. The “heroes” should have tried to save him especially since one of them use to date him and another work side by side with him for like 6 months to make crazy advances in science.
I am now over 5 thousand words. This is probably the longest post I have ever made, and the movie isn’t actually terrible. That is what actually kind of makes it extra extra terrible. The people who made this movie had the actors, directors, special effects, source material, writers, budget, and supposed intentions to at least make a decent movie if not a great movie. This is what worries me about the next Star Wars movies. The previous fantastic four movie should have been a warning of how difficult the movie might be to make while all the other marvel movies could have been a road map to how to do it well. Instead of learning from the all of this information and history, they made brand new mistakes with the movie and ensured that there won’t be a good fantastic Four movie for at least another 5 or 6 years.
i give this movie 3 out of 10 PLANET FUCKING ZEROS!!