Ben Grimm, C-3PO, Cinema, Doctor Doom, Fantastic Four, Film, Jamie Bell, Jessica Alba, Johnny Storm, Kate Mara, Marvel, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Movie Review, Mr. Fantastic, Planet Zero, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Superheroes, The Human Torch, The Thing, Toby Kebbell, Victor von Doom, Whiplash
A while back when I heard that a “Fantastic Four” reboot was in the pipeline I was intrigued. In the early 2000’s I was young enough to enjoy the “Fantastic Four” films, and I allowed myself to be excited about this one once I heard about the involvement of Josh Trank (“Chronicle”).
The original film and its sequel weren’t very well received and looking back I can understand why; after all, The Thing is a man who was turned into a rock monster in a freak accident and lost any hope of living a normal life… that’s probably not the right character to use as comic relief! From the trailers that were released it seemed as though the writers of this new iteration were of a similar opinion, with elements of body horror appearing to be utilised to take the franchise to a more gritty and realistic place. This should’ve been a refreshing step in the right direction and on paper it had every chance of being just that, but having seen the film I can say that unfortunately it belongs on the other side of the spectrum to the original two films. There’s no humour to speak of and there’s also a complete lack of fun; and unfortunately it’s as far from fantastic as it could possibly be.
“Fantastic Four” revolves around Reed Richards (Miles Teller), a young inventor intent on exploring the universe. From a young age Reed has been working on a machine which sends matter from one place to another (a teleporter), along with his best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), but he isn’t exactly sure where this matter is going. However, this changes when Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) conveniently bumps into Reed at a science fair and sees his invention, revealing that Reed has been sending objects to another dimension… doesn’t sound promising does it? As a result of this meeting Reed ends up at the Baxter Institute where he is tasked with aiding Storm’s children, Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), and Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), in creating a Quantum Gate which leads to Planet Zero. When their creation is complete Reed, Ben, Johnny and Victor travel to Planet Zero, without authorisation, where a green-lava gives them powers and ruins the mission. Victor is left behind, Ben, Johnny and Reed are forever altered, and Sue inadvertently gets her powers by helping the trio return.
That longwinded paragraph is the basic plot of “Fantastic Four”, but when you disregard the mumbo-jumbo it leads to the same place that the 2005 “Fantastic Four” film did – four people getting superpowers and another becoming a madman (also with superpowers).
This madman is of course Victor, a.k.a. Doctor Doom, one of the most iconic Marvel villains of all time. When “Fantastic Four” introduces its main villain it begins what is a slow decline into mediocrity for the movie – if you thought things couldn’t get worse before that point you were sadly mistaken. Doctor Doom looks like C-3PO sprayed silver, with none of the charm.
The real villain of the piece should’ve been the US military, because when our heroes receive the burden that is their powers the military attempt to milk them for all they’re worth, training them to be the perfect weapons in battle. If more effort had been made to demonise the military and make that the issue, there would’ve been a greater amount of time available for character development, so we might’ve actually gained a connection with the characters. Furthermore, Doctor Doom would still have been set up; possibly appearing in a post-credit sequence so that he would’ve been available for a sequel.
The inclusion of the military is pretty clear in the trailer, when The Thing (Ben) is dropped from the sky into what seems like a military base, but that moment isn’t actually present in the finished article. In fact, barely any of the best moments from the trailer were in the film! This leads me to wonder if there was a better film within the one I watched, and if perhaps my idea of a small scale “Fantastic Four” movie was closer to reality than it may appear.
The way that this film uses Doctor Doom is by far its biggest crime. The filmmakers took one of the most entertaining and powerful villains that Marvel has and turned him into a joke; visually he looked like a gimp and his powers were completely unclear. He was popping people’s heads when he first revealed his villainous streak, yet when he faced the Fantastic Four he never attempted this quick fix. It seemed like there was a lot more to the character before he turned evil, as a possible love triangle was introduced between him, Sue, and Reed, and it was clearly insinuated that he had some sort of past with Sue. This was never built on; it was simply introduced and then disregarded, leading me to believe that there was a full side plot present before the movie was edited.
The whole movie felt off in terms of both tone and performances, which isn’t surprising given the production issues that were public knowledge throughout the movie’s development. There was something really strange about how the end product was stitched together; it felt as though there was a number of ideas on the table and nobody really knew what to do with them, with the filmmakers chucking different things into the pot and hoping that they would work, only to find that no one combination fit. What we ended up with was a confused film with very little substance.
The cast didn’t seem interested a lot of the time and the performances in general were pretty poor given the quality of the actors involved; Toby Kebbell, Kate Mara, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell can all act, each one of them has proved that in the past. Still, Josh Trank wasn’t able to get the best out of them, which isn’t surprising given the shoddy script and complete lack of development for their characters. On top of that, the CGI was awful, particularly during the most pivotal scene of the film when our heroes got their powers, and the story was just plain boring. The only positive I can find from the entire film was the body horror that occurred when Reed, Johnny, and Ben travelled back to Earth and their powers were revealed. Those scenes at least offered a vision of the pain and anguish that such mutations would cause.
Overall, “Fantastic Four” is a terrible movie and a complete waste of your time and money. It isn’t entertaining, it lacks any kind of humour, and the attempt to make things feel more bleak only serves to make the film incredibly dull, because neither the performances nor the story are in any way believable. Everything about it just feels wrong; it’s a film made up of one hundred terrible ideas and it doesn’t even know which one to go with.