Fantastic Four and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Josh Trank
Look, you all knew this movie would be bad, right? The negative press coming out of the screenings for this was fucking insane and there’s no way it’s gonna be a hit. It MIGHT make some cash its first weekend, there isn’t a ghost of a chance that it survives into next week. That’s not what you want to know though. The box office totals are secondary to the quality of the actual film, and you’re ALL here to take a safe glimpse into the utter madness that many of us had to suffer through. Well never let it be said that I’m not about giving the reader what they want, so step right up as I take you through this modern day monstrosity!
The movie is about super genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller) who is discovered during a science fair by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E Cathey) who is the father of Johnny Storm (Michael B Jordan) and Sue Storm (Kate Mara). Franklin offers Reed a full scholarship in exchange for working at his lab on a teleporter that can send organic matter between dimensions, which Reed eagerly accepts. With the help of another protégée of Franklin’s, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), they build said teleporter, but it backfires and gives Reed, Johnny, Sue, Victor, and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) who is Reed’s best friend, superpowers. Will they use these powers for good, or will their actions lead to the destruction of Earth?
Let’s start with something simple. Every character in this movie without fail is TERRIBLY written to a degree I didn’t think existed outside of Transformers films. This might be worse though because at least when Michael Bay is filling the screen with the bottom of the barrel of humanity, he at least knows enough to frame it correctly (that people are dog shit) and doesn’t try to convince use otherwise. Here? No matter how scummy our heroes are written, the movie expects us to be behind them and love them until the very end. Reed Richards is so compassionate! Sue Storm is so smart and take-charge! Johnny is SO FUNNY!!!! No. None of these things are true no matter how much the movie tries to convince you otherwise and it’s embarrassing to watch them try to deliver this dialogue with any sort of conviction or humanity.
We’ll take a look at Ben Grimm first. I mean, he’s in the movie so little and has absolutely nothing to do with what’s happening that I should AT LEAST give him top billing here out of pity. Yeah, they fuck this dude up. His supposed tough guy routine is underwhelming considering he never questions Reed’s decisions until damn near the end of the movie to the point that he comes across less like a loyal best friend and more like an abused partner. It’s INSANELY frustrating to watch this guy who SHOULD be the one to ground Reed’s short sighted ambition get used instead to be his damn Red Shirt for no discernible reason.
Speaking of Reed Richards, he is a narcissistic dickhead with a persecution complex to rival that of Fox News anchors and Miles Teller never once convinces you he’s anything more than a wormy jerk-off. The guy’s written like a nerd from the eighties and if you want to know how off putting that is, just try to rewatch Revenge of the Nerds without constantly cringing. He’s just lacking in any sort of common sense, but feels he’s above such things because of his intellect. He’s not aware of the danger he puts people in despite being smart enough to create a fucking inter dimensional teleporter, and a lot of people (including his best friend) end up suffering because of it. Seriously, there’s no need to make nerds this fucking stupid unless you’re a writer on The Big Bang Theory. This type of character is not endearing, they’re just assholes who have long outlived their relevance in popular culture. If he’s making such terrible decisions throughout, why should ANY of us root for this guy? His redeeming quality is that he wants to make up for it, but he frankly does a piss poor job of it throughout the movie which leaves his redemption arc feeling woefully underdeveloped.
Sue and Johnny storm are a LITTLE bit better, but not by much. They don’t try to push the Sue/Reed relationship too hard in this movie which is thankful (they have as much steamy chemistry as a dead fish in a mud puddle) but she’s practically a blank slate. There’s no emotional connection to anything she says or does and her characterization is so limited that one of her defining traits is that she likes music. REALLY!! They make a big deal out of one scene where they have her put on headphones while she works! While they may not have given her any real characteristics, at least they don’t do anything with her that makes her intolerable like Ben’s cowardice and Reed’s selfishness. That only leaves Johnny who is BARELY in the fucking movie but at least Michael B Jordan is trying his ass off to rise above the shit material. I don’t really like his character (brash dude with daddy issues of course) but Michael B Jordan’s natural charisma was enough for him to at least be somewhat enjoyable at moments, which is more than can be said for everyone else in this.
But we can’t have a super hero movie without the villain, right? I mean a good villain can make up for A LOT in these kinds of movies, so how do they handle Victor Von Doom? Ugh… Well I really don’t know that much about the guy in the comics, but what they do with him here would be insulting for ANY character. He looks and acts like a hacktivist, MRA, GGer, dumbass libertarian, shit bag douche-nozzle with no idea how the fucking world works and wants everything to be about him and his “ideals” or whatever the fuck it is he’s rebelling against. Seriously broham, you’re really sticking it to the man with your rebellious facial hair! While other scientists are clean cut, you say NO to the razor!!!
He’s obnoxious, self-righteous, and might just be worse than Reed because while Reed SHOULD know better, this guy DOES know better. And that’s all BEFORE he turns up again as Doctor Doom in the final reel of the movie. Yeah, the mother fucker disappears for over half the movie (without ANYONE BRINGING THAT FACT UP but we’ll get to that in a minute) and then just reappears at the end with some anti-human manifesto as an excuse to feed his sadistic nature. Aside from a brief moment where he’s attacking the facility, he’s not threatening in the least and is just a pain in the ass to have to watch on screen. So the movie fails on all counts for its characters. That alone will irrevocably destroy a movie (like it did with Pixels), but that is SO far from the only issue in this movie (also like Pixels). The movie is a total mess in terms of story structure and pacing. While the movie displays these failings at every conceivable term, I’m gonna point out two major places where the things they get wrong are bafflingly obvious and inexplicable. The first is HOW they get their powers. After months of work where Doom, Richards, and the Storm twins are instrumental to building a teleporter to another dimension, they finally complete it and show it to the company that is backing their research. The moment the bad corporate utters the word NASA in regards to starting manned explorations, Doom throws a HUGE hissy fit about government… stuff. Seriously mother fucker? Where did you think the money was coming from to fund this project? A guy this obnoxiously self-righteous would have known better than to even start working on this project unless he knew the money was coming from a legit source like Bit Coin donations. This of course leads to him convincing Reed and Johnny (no Sue because chicks got cooties I guess) to sneak in at night and use the teleporter themselves. Oh, and Reed calls Ben in at two in the morning to catch a fucking bus and come into the city to join their suicide pact. Yeah, our heroes get their powers from being the dumbest supposed smart people in existence. They have no training, no staff to monitor their progress, and don’t have any way to call for help in case something goes wrong which of course it does. Are we expected to LIKE These people? This is how a fucking horror film starts where we get characters too damn stupid for the audience to WANT them to live, yet here they are in a supposed super hero film where this experience will lead them to getting great power that they should use for good. Well if their actions here are any indication, then they are not going to heed Uncle Ben’s advice and probably just make things worse for the world. It’s amazing to realize that the fucking Tim Story movie did their origin better. At least in that film they had a reason to be on that spaceship or whatever. They were doing legit science work or something while here they’re just acting like a bunch of drunken frat dudes who broke into the school after hours.
That though I MIGHT have gotten over. If they legitimately learned from their terrible mistake here, then it could have been forgivable. This is where we run into the OTHER most blatant example of the movies poor storytelling and unimaginably bad pacing (which implies that some REALLY heavy cuts from Fox where made in the editing room). The mission goes as bad as you’d expect with Reed, Ben, and Johnny getting powers before teleporting back and Victor getting lost on the other side. Sue was somehow alerted to their tomfoolery (yet no one else was) and when the teleporter beams the remaining three back, she gets hit with something that gives her HER powers. They’re all snuck away to some government facility where they’re either unconscious, writhing in pain, or absolutely horrified by their own existence. Reed ends up escaping and promises to help Ben get back to normal before he leaves to do whatever the hell it is he plans to do. At this point, there is a huge time leap where they flash on screen that a year has passed by and then we get a brand new set of circumstances and character dynamics that they might just bother to tell us about but more likely will just ask us to fill in the blanks. Oh hey! Everyone’s powers are all developed! The three of them who stayed are government agents now which are totally not the same thing as super heroes! They’re also working on a new teleporter to… somehow get themselves cured or whatever. I mean, that’s the story their told while in this place, but why do they even believe for a second that that will work AND that if it did the government would LET it work on them? Oh, and they hate Reed for… not being a solider too. So how the fuck does this work!? They’re all working out of the fucking base with Ben going out on missions, Sue doing… stuff, and Johnny fucking up drones, so they got their own things going on! I mean, I guess they’re prisoners but then why would they be mad at Reed who was able to escape? Are they that selfish that they want to be the crabs in the bucket pulling everyone else down!? If they AREN’T prisoners, then why should they care that Reed doesn’t want to be a part of this? Isn’t it a free fucking country and people shouldn’t be forced to work for the government without a draft being issued, right!? Oh it gets better. The military is looking for Reed who’s only been briefly glimpsed around the world, and they want to forcibly bring him in to… do something. So what do our HEROES do? Well Sue helps them pinpoint his location and Ben fucking drags his ass back to captivity. WHAT THE FUCK!? YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT THESE TWO ARE PERFECTLY FINE WITH EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION!?!?
So to summarize, the second act of the movie begins with us cutting to a brand new situation where these characters have developed into even bigger jerks and it was all done off screen. Who the fuck wrote this thing or edited it together? None of this works! You’re character arcs just got fractured by jumping so far into the future where so much had to have happened where we couldn’t see it! So as they head into third act, they capture Reed and lo and behold he fixes the teleporter in ten minutes because fuck pacing! We need to get this shit over with. In fact, that might just be a random positive thing about this movie. It’s edited to hell so much that it actually feels pretty short. Since everything in this movie is only half finished, it just kind of speeds past you which for a movie like this is a damn mercy. Anyway, they fix the fucking teleporter and they find shitty ass Doctor Doom on the other side, who I want to point out was never ONCE MENTIONED after he disappeared! For an entire act of the movie, they forgot that Victor existed. I get that they think he’s dead, but their minds weren’t wiped of his existence and the movie never deals with the fact that someone did in fact die (or supposedly died). They bring the guy back, figure out that THAT was a dumb move, and then spend the rest of the movie trying to stop him from blowing up the Earth or whatever. The one thing that KILLS me about this movie (besides how shitty it is) is that there is the seed of a good film in here and the last third kind of shows that (as well as some stuff early on in the second act). Not a good Fantastic Four movie by the way, but the direction they take this story and some of the imagery they use are very reminiscent of eighties sci-fi horror flicks like Galaxy of Terror or The Thing. It’s not executed WELL, but the way they show off their powers throughout the movie are more in line with The Fly (or Fly 2 or we’re taking visual quality) than anything we’ve seen in a super hero movie before. Even when they start to embrace and control their powers, they tend to have a sort of uncanny valley effect that makes them off putting in an interesting way. The way that Reed Richards’s arms slowly elongate at first, Ben Grimes’s rock chest rising and falling with his breathing, and even Johnny Storm’s eyes and mouth as he’s engulfed in flames are decently realized ways of making these characters come off as alien. Of course, Sue Storm can’t afford to look strange for even a minute (GOTS TO HAVE THAT SEXINESS APPEAL!!!) so her powers don’t really match the other three’s and looks like any sort of energy based power. Still, there’s a scene towards the end of the movie where Doctor Doom is rampaging through the facility and’s it’s really similar to the opening scene in Elfen Lied, only he’s not naked (I think) which makes this movie interesting for the minute and half he’s doing it.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good stuff ends as we head into the ACTUAL final fight which is weak. Doom’s got a big energy beam thingy that’s gonna destroy the world and the douchebag quartet have to punch him until that stops happening. Oh, but they learn to work together so yay for a good message here. After all, it’s for the kids.
And that’s really it. They stop Doom (I think he’s dead), and the government gives them their own facility to work from as I guess they’re going to still be government agents, but on their own terms now. And thus the movie ends with them making a ham handed joke as they try to figure out what to call themselves. I’m sorry, but you did NOT earn a superhero team title. Unless you’re going to call yourself The Dumbass brigade, then you don’t get a name!!
So after all that, what can we take away? Well Josh Trank SEEMED to have an idea for a body horror film, but not one for a Fantastic Four film. That’s probably why nothing feels like it fits together because it’s trying to be one thing while still restricted to something it just clearly shouldn’t be. The shout outs to Fantastic Four iconography are so poorly used and out of place that it you get the feeling that Trank doesn’t care one bit for any of this. If you want an example of that (if everything else I said wasn’t enough), just look at how they use the famous “It’s Clobbering Time” line. Iit turns out that Ben’s abusive older brother would yell that before smacking him around. That right there should have been enough to show that Josh Trank and the writers behind this were not writ for this movie, and yet they made it. The studio must have been asleep at the wheel until the last minute considering how they completely butchered this movie once they got a look at it. It definitely feels like a salvage job, but it’s their own damn fault for letting him run wild with this thing without any clear vision or understanding of the material. I don’t think I hate this movie as much as Pixels because there’s some integrity in this in very VERY small places. The vision that Trank had, while absolutely wrong for this movie, is at least evocative of a film maker while Chris Columbus’s effort is more in line with a soulless assembly line. I WANT Josh Trank to do better things in the future, but this is his Show Girls or even his Batman Forever. Visionary directors can get caught up in something like this and still continue to do great things afterward so I’m not discounting Trank just yet. Without a doubt though, this was an embarrassment on a scale we’ll likely not see again until… well until Batman v Superman probably. While I wouldn’t recommend paying money to see this, this might just be up there with legendary failures like those mentioned above, so if that’s your bag it might be worth seeking out once it’s on video. Until then though, all I can say is Fox better deliver with X-men: Apocalypse and Deadpool because they have just lost a lot of credibility by somehow releasing the worst Fantastic Four movie and very nearly the worst movie this year.
If you like this review and plan on buying the movie, then use the Amazon link below! I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite! In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed! Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage! You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?