Fantastic Four Movie Review
By Jason Edwards
Just as the Fantastic Four go on discoveries into the unknown, I myself decided to journey into the Negative Zone. In this instance, its 20th Century Fox’s production of the Fantastic Four, the latest reboot of Marvel’s quintessential quartet. Originally, like many, many others, I balked at every spoiler and detail revealed online through various sources, automatically deciding it would be a train wreck of fantastic proportions. From the casting to the storyline, we had determined this movie to be unworthy.
What if we were all wrong? Was it really fair for us to pass judgment on a film not even released yet? I didn’t really think so, but for the sake of scientific curiosity, I channeled my inner Reed Richards and decided to see what was on the other side. However, it was difficult to pay my hard earned $10 while keeping an open mind. I had already made up my mind that this film was to be garbage, and I suppose I didn’t want to just HEAR about the dead body on the side of the road, I had to SEE it.
So, in keeping with a hate theme, I’ve decided to rate different aspects of the Fantastic four using a special ratings system. Unlike the movie, I wanted to keep true to FF lore. I am using Psycho Man’s Control Box settings to represent the quality of each category. On the scale of the portable emotion-controlling device, we have DOUBT, FEAR, AND HATE, with DOUBT being the least negative reaction and HATE being the greatest.
Once again I was subjected to Hollywood’s attempt to convince me of five actors who could represent each member of the Fantastic Four as well as their nemesis. That these 5 people plucked out of nowhere would be the FF I’ve known and loved since the 80’s. Once again, Hollywood has failed me, not that I was surprised, but there was a part of me that was hoping that maybe they got something right. Instead, the next hour and forty-six minutes made me totally forgive the awful version of Galactus in Rise if the Silver Surfer.
The Storm family had no bond with each other whatsoever. The conflict between Johnny Storm and papa Storm seemed forced for the single scene it was depicted. The sibling relationship between Sue and Johnny seemed virtually non-existent, and if it weren’t for the shared same last name, I wouldn’t had known they were related at all. I also took issue with the unnecessary race swapping of the characters, but I’m not going to dwell on that, as that aspect really did take a back seat the rest of the horrors that were unleashed on the screen. The strongest bond between characters were between Reed and Ben. Their loyalty to each other withstood both time and circumstance, but even that failed to really compel me.
Miles Teller’s portrayal as an awkward wallflower had me convinced his character was a misplaced misfit living in a world not yet ready for his intellect, although seeing Reed and Ben together kinda reminded me of the 80’s film ‘Explorers’ where a group of kids cobbled together a working space craft. However, I don’t feel he quite captured the essence of Reed Richards’ character. To me, Reed seemed to have a superiority complex where he determined that he alone would be the only one capable of solving the world’s problems, similar to how Dr. Doom usually feels. Plus Reed is much more left brained than right brained, and his analytical mind often misses the forest for the trees, and he needs to come back to Earth, so to speak. Super genius kid? Yes. Reed Richards? Not quite.
Johnny Storm, played by Micheal B. Jordan, was a pale reflection of the fun loving, sometimes hot tempered Human Torch. Was I supposed to believe the Fast and Furious scene nailed Johnny’s reckless behavior? This was not Johnny Storm, personality wise or physically. Chris Evan captured the fun loving aspect of Johnny Storm, especially the rivalry he shares with Ben Grimm. That dynamic was virtually nowhere to be scene, except for a second toward the end.
Kate Mara as the Invisible Woman, or I THINK she was supposed to be the Invisible Woman. I couldn’t tell, considering she ended up being more like Bubble Girl instead. This Susan Storm is now the foster child of papa Storm (I guess? Not really a story explaining the family dynamic there) with a preoccupation with patterns. Great, so not only does she like music as bland as she is, but she has a ‘Beautiful Mind’ as well? Not that I ever thought Sue Storm was the most interesting character ever, but I just couldn’t care about her in this movie.
Jamie Bell’s Thing failed to capture the tragedy of Ben Grimm, but did kinda succeed in showing the good nature Ben has. The writers barely touched on the greatest aspect of this man, this monster and settled for making him a reluctant war machine instead. The misfire of his character portrayal totally distracted me from the fact he wore no pants.
Lastly, we have Toby Kebbell as Victor Von Doom. Doom’s portrayal recycled elements from the previous two FF movies – Victor is crushing on Susan again, is involved in the quartet’s science project, and has transformed into a magical metal man. Why do these movies refuse to accurately represent Dr. Doom? Why? He wears armor, but he’s not the armor! Ugh. They also tend to ditch the entire foreign exchange student/ European nobility aspect in favor of an American pretty boy. This wasn’t Victor, this was some stupid CW network junk here! Also, Doom wasn’t a jerk as he was when Julian McMahon played him. Even so, he may have nailed the vanity and arrogance Victor Von Doom has, but as Dr. Doom the villain, either actor or director failed.
Have the writers and producers ever picked up an issue of Fantastic Four? I’m assuming not, and neither have the actors. I bet you’re appreciating Jessica Alba’s Invisible Woman now, huh? I’ll admit, I scratched my head on that casting idea, but I adore Jessica, so it made it an easier to swallow pill. In retrospect, however, she made a much better Sue Storm. It’s as if the actors are just playing the superheroes, rather than the people who became the super heroes, if that makes any sense.
In all, they all dropped the ball with characterization. Also, what was up with Reed’s scars? I figured since they made sure to include the same make up on both actors playing Reed, there was some sort of backstory behind them. If there was, I had completely missed it. Did too many experiments blow up in his face? Were his parents abusive? Did he run afoul of the Yancy Street gang? Sadly, we will never know Stretch’s secret pain…I’m setting the control Box to HATE for cast and acting, and possibly Hollywood in general.
Plot and writing
I waited a whole hour before anybody turned fantastic, and what a torturous hour it was. Then what happens – they explore dimension X (minus Sue!) or wherever they went, get slimmed, escape back to Earth without Victor, wake up, and spend the next year or so as super soldiers for the government? Then Victor returns with a tattered cloak he found on a barren planet, pops people’s heads like the movie ‘Scanners’ and wants to destroy the planet because he decides his planet of rock and magic slime is better than ours? He wasn’t even mad that he got left, he just became a villain just because.
The film’s finale, where they come up with their new group name – I made no attempt to be discreet about pantomiming me blowing my brains out, along with the sound effect. I didn’t even stay for any possible post or mid credit scenes, I saw words and I got up and got out of there!
Story wise, it was just a set up to have them get super powers, and to have an excuse to use them, nothing more, nothing less. Would I have enjoyed it more if it was a new sci-fi adventure movie instead of a Marvel comic movie? Not really, I’ve stayed up watching the worst Netflix b-movies have to offer and was more interested in them over this. This movie was anything but fantastic, and I’m setting the box to FEAR – enough negative emotion to steer clear of it but not necessarily enough to hatefully obliterate it.
Nothing outstandingly cool, really, but like CGI that annoys Andy Kirby, I was annoyed with two effects that I’ve got to point out. First was the computer generated chimp that was a test subject for the transporter. I can understand why they needed CGI for ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ as Caesar was supposed to be a smart monkey doing smart monkey things and thinking in smart monkey ways. Also, they had to convey emotion for a mostly non-speaking role. Did we really need to see the chimp conveying fear and apprehension on his journey? Pointing out that it’s an ape and not a monkey seems more relevant to me. As soon as I saw that chimp on the monitor onscreen, I exclaimed, “Really?” probably much to the confusion of the movie goer sitting next to me. Truth to be told, I was hoping the chimp would get lost and end up becoming Blastaar.
The second effect may actually have to do more with acting, but it was the way Kate Mara held herself aloft as she floated in her not-invisible bubbles. If you’ve ever watched Mary Martin as Peter Pan, or any other stage role where someone is suspended from cables, you can just tell they’re trying to balance and brace themselves. Her landing annoyed me, her floating annoyed me, and she was only invisible like, once in the entire movie? Nonetheless, I’m choosing FEAR for the effects.
Comparison to the source material
Actually, folks, I was being facetious when I said I loved the Fantastic Four. As a team or a comic, they were outside my X-Men and Spider-Man radar. Still, in my exposure to them, I feel I got the essence of the characters down more so than the movie people have. I probably couldn’t write a great FF movie script to save my life, but at least I know who the people beneath the blue costumes are. Which reminds me, they didn’t even have costumes! Reed spent most the time in some funky Russian cosmonaut suit, and the Human Torch had to fiddle with his gauntlet to flame on properly. It seemed the movie gave more of a nod to the Ultimate version more so than the world’s Greatest Magazine version, and I’ve never understood Hollywood’s love affair with the Ultimate universe.