Fantastic Four (2015 film)

Posted: August 27, 2015 in Fantastic Four, Marvel
Tags: ,

Much has been made about the failure and ineptitude of the recent Fantastic Four adaptation. From the public squabbling between the director and studio to the seeming lack of promotion, it sure sounded like the cards were stacked against it from the very beginning. After hearing about its disastrous opening weekend and universally negative reviews, I almost started to believe that there was no way it could be that bad. I mean, even Catwoman was fun to laugh at, right? Then I sat down in the theatre, the movie started and all hope vanished.

Coming soon: FantFourStic

Coming soon: FantFourStic

I typically avoid spoilers because I hope (wishfully, I’m sure) that readers will, in some small way, be inspired to look into the comic media that I care so deeply for. Well, there is no inspiration to be found here just an offensively crappy movie. As such, I’m going to spoil the hell out of it. We’ll start with the opening. One of my complaints from the 2005 attempt at adapting the Fantastic Four was that it starts with a hackneyed exposition scene that all too on-the-nosedly establishes the plot. Well, the new movie wishes it could aspire to that level of storytelling. This film opens with a science class where young Reed Richards explains his theory of teleportation. It’s an aggravatingly long sequence featuring some just awful kid-acting. What’s worse, I felt like you could see the direction on the actors face. It was stilted and flat in that soulless, George Lucas style. Needless to say, all I could think of was “Are you sure this is the scene you wanted to open the movie with?”

They went through puberty when they were 6.

They went through puberty when they were 6.

From there, it only gets worse. We cut forward 7 years and the once 12-year-old actors are now replaced with the stars of the movie, who are all approaching or past 30. In a post-Wet Hot American Summer world, there’s just no way to make this type of thing work. The leads are now mostly assembled (Professor Storm’s hothead son still needs to find a way to get wedged into the narrative) and now the tedious science montages begin. That said, there is one genuinely good scene in this section (and may be the only genuinely good scene in the whole movie) and that’s the introduction of Doom. Despite the awkward and obvious last minute name and profession change, his introductory scene is handled really well. It effectively sets him up as a loner who is only at ease with his technology and is eternally jealous of those with talent greater than his own. Oddly, the film shoehorns an unneeded romantic subplot between him and Sue, which seems to be a requirement from the studio FF films. Sadly, this is the last we’ll see of a well-developed Doctor Doom. Which is really too bad, because there needs to be a conclusive, cinematic version of the character.

“It’s cool guys, I’ll just chill here.”

So, blah blah blah, science stuff. They get a teleporter to open to another world and Johnny, Reed, Ben and Doom decide to break protocol and take a trip through the portal. Notice anything about that? Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman and founding member of the Fantastic Four, doesn’t go with them. She is not a part of the inaugural expedition and only gets her powers as a result of a shockwave, or something, that occurs when the team returns after leaving Doom in the other dimension (which begs the question: Why didn’t everyone in the building get powers?). In my opinion, the fact that they ditched her to go have a boy’s only adventure is completely wrong. Aside from the obvious exclusionism and sexism, it’s basically a form of character assassination to strip Sue of the same “explorer’s spirit” that her teammates have. It’s a very insulting plot development that serves no real purpose other than to remove the character’s agency. She’s no longer a major player in her own origin, as it’s now merely a reaction to the origin of her male comrades.

The Four now have their powers and Doom is stuck on a barren alien world. What’s the first thing they do as a team? Reed frees himself from the Government and ditches the rest of them, fleeing to South America. Ben is conned into working as a stone-cold assassin (who we’re constantly reminded has 43 confirmed kills) while Johnny and Sue seem to be endlessly studied. All this happens over the course of a year where the team is just disparately surviving and wallowing in their misery (except for Johnny, who is creepily happy about Government-sanctioned murder). Eventually the team is forced to get back together (does it really matter how?) and in the process they find Doom and bring him back to our world. He now looks like a Power Rangers villain and somehow found a huge hood while stuck on “Planet Zero”.

How do you eat?

How do you eat?

What follows when Doom re-appears is one of the most out-of-place moments ever to appear in a Marvel movie. Yes, I am counting Peter’s dance number in Spider-Man 3. Doom, now imbued with some vaguely-defined telekinesis, wanders the halls of his former lab, murdering screaming bystanders by exploding their heads. It’s a shockingly dark and gratuitous scene that feels completely out of place in a film that is titled Fantastic Four.

Rocks + Energy = Destroy Earth!

Rocks + Energy = Destroy Earth!

The team follows Doom back to “Planet Zero” (is there something wrong with “Negative Zone”?) where they inanely stop his confusing plan to destroy Earth. Seriously, he made some rocks which apparently opened a portal that could blow up our planet? Sue could make a force-field around the “focusing rock” to prevent things being destroyed? I don’t get it. But that’s just lead-up to the truly atrocious and obviously re-shot ending to the film.

After defeating Doom, the team is debriefed by the military. They’re told that they will be monitored but allowed to continue their research. The heroes, in turn, vaguely threaten that Ben will murder everyone in the room if they are not left to work in peace. Aside from the odd, threatening tone, it brings up one huge question: Wouldn’t a bit of oversight be a good thing? I mean, the last time Reed’s science was unleashed without restraint, he and all of his friends were turned into freaks, one of which murdered dozens and then tried to destroy the planet. How much blood does he need on his hands before he admits that maybe he isn’t the best one to make these decisions? Whatever. The Government agrees and in a scene that feels like it’s trying really hard to be The Avengers or Iron Man, the Four are given a new lab and clumsily name themselves. The ending has so much artificial weight, that I kept waiting for some type of big reveal that never came. They are taken to an undisclosed location and told it’s called Central City. I get that this is a reference to the early comics, but it has no real meaning within the story. Most fans won’t make the connection and everyone else (like the audience I saw it with) will just be confused and feel like they’re missing something. Why not go back to the Baxter Building? That makes more narrative sense and is something close to a full-circle payoff for their journey. Anyway, then we are treated to one of the most aggressively unfunny gags ever when they name themselves and in the process Johnny hurls a deeply insensitive insult at Ben. “Why don’t we call ourselves ‘Two guys, a girl and a Thing nobody wants’?” Ouch.

I secretly kind of hoped to be proven wrong and that this movie would actually be decent, if not so-bad-it’s-sort-of-endearing. Instead, it’s atrocious anti-art. Soulless and completely devoid of redemption. In fact, after viewing it, I re-watched the extended cut of the 2005 film. You know what? That one’s looking a whole lot better now. Sure, some of the casting was off (Jessica Alba? Really?) but at least the tone for the team was spot-on. They felt like a family who love and accept each other while also dealing with the issues and peculiarities that all families have. What also struck me is the guilt that Reed deals with. He spends most of the film trying to fix Ben while that’s barely addressed in the new version. Human Torch also looked decent, in retrospect, instead of the photo-negative cartoon in the new one. Basically, there may be one very good reason for the new film to exist: to make the last iteration look damn near definitive by comparison. So, if you must view the new film, wait for rental and watch them both.

“Not lookin’ so bad now, are we?”

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