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Movie Review: The Not-So-‘Fantastic Four’

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Fantastic Four is my favorite superhero team in the Marvel Universe. When I started reading comics, I loved X-Men and the Avengers, but was captivated by the idea of family that journeyed into the unknown together. They had differences and good times like any family, and they also beat up bad guys. No matter what, they were always there for each other. I come from a close family and connected to the Fantastic Four on that level.

Movie-makers have had difficulty in finding the right formula to bring Marvel’s First Family to live. When the story is good, the special effects and costumes are silly or off, like 2005’s The Fantastic Four and the 2007 sequel The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. When the actors are good, the special effects and the story falls flat. The latter situation is the main issue with 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four, released last Friday. Directed by Josh Trank, the film stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, and Tim Blake Nelson.

The film introduces us to a young Reed Richards as he attempts to explain his dream job to his students in Oyster Bay. Reed (Teller) is the quintessential misunderstood genius. Everyone around him, including his teacher, aren’t smart enough to understand his desire to build a teleporter. Only fellow student  Ben Grimm (Bell) realizes that Reed isn’t joking. Later, Ben catches Reed scavenging for parts in the Grimm family’s junkyard. Reed promises to show Ben his teleporter if Ben lets him take the parts he needs, giving Ben a front-row seat to the young scientist’s first successful teleportation attempt—that blacks out most of the neighborhood.

Seven years later, Reed and Ben are best friends who have been refining the teleporter over the last few years to display at the Oyster Bay Science Fair. Reed and Ben are disqualified when the device blows some fuses in the school gymnasium, but Dr. Franklin Storm and his daughter Sue (Mara) arrive to tell him that he’s succeeded. Reed soon moves to Manhattan to work with Dr. Storm, Sue and Victor Von Doom (Kebbell), a “Latverian” cyberpunk and inventor. Doom joins up because he wants Sue, who barely seems interested in anything except her music, much less Reed or Doom.

Meanwhile, Franklin’s son Johnny (Jordon) is a street racer who crashes his car and requires Franklin to bail him out of jail. Franklin forces Johnny to earn his car back by working on the project. Johnny and Reed become fast friends while Johnny refers to Victor as “Adolf,” which was a bit of low-brow humor in my opinion. The group succeeds in creating and demonstrating the fully-functional teleporter, now called the Quantum Gate, using a chimpanzee as the test subject. The Gate sends people to a world called “Planet Zero” that is untouched by humans. Everyone gets the idea that this can help humanity save the Earth with new resources except for Victor, who feels that humanity doesn’t deserve it.

Once the chimp returns in one piece, Dr. Allen wants to start sending humans to Planet Zero right away. Reed and Victor convince Johnny to don the environmental suits and go there first before the military has steals their thunder. Reed also calls Ben to join them and the four plant a flag on Planet Zero. Unfortunately, the world reacts poorly to them, causing Victor’s apparent death and serious injuries to Johnny, Reed and Ben, leading also to their gaining their famous abilities. Sue, who was manning the computers, is caught in an explosion and gains her own powers shortly after. Reed abandons the team out of guilt for causing their separate issues but they must unite when it’s revealed that not only did Victor survive, but he’s gained immense power and is bent on destroying Earth.

This is the worst movie of 2015.

I love the Fantastic Four, but this movie didn’t earn the title. This movie wasn’t about family or a team. The four leads barely made me believe that they were friends. Individually, they did their best with an awful script and horrible pacing, but viewers can see and feel the discomfort of poor dialog and a story without purpose. I don’t know what Trank’s vision was when he planned this out, but it did not reflect in the finished product.

The relationship with Reed and Ben as kids was well done but the moment they become adults, Reed ditches him to hang out with real scientists. I don’t buy it. Fortunately, these guys at least looked like they were friends throughout the film. Johnny and Sue Storm don’t even look like they were raised in the same country, let alone the same household. Sue was born in Kosovo and adopted by Franklin Storm, yet this was never expanded on except for a silly faked accent. Johnny has a chip on his shoulder that is never explained, yet seems to stem from Franklin preferring Sue to him. Johnny and Sue look like two strangers who were told shortly before the film that they were siblings and their relationship remains that close for the duration.

Reed and Sue have a couple of moments that are meant to be flirtatious or special, but just feel forced and awkward.

And then there is Doom.

Doctor Doom is my favorite villain in the Marvel Universe. He apologizes for nothing and while he is evil, also honors his deals and keeps his word. Doom has reasons for the things he does and while they’re self-serving, they also make a lot of sense. Doom wants to rule the world because he truly believes he is the only person that can do the job. This version of Doom possesses none of the nobility, none of the ego and none of the grace of the comic-book version. Julian McMahon’s version of Doctor Doom was far superior to Kebbell’s, which I can’t even blame on Kebbell. The script was just that terrible.

The writers of this film appeared not to have done any homework on the title characters other than their names and powers. The film takes far too long in setting up the story and fails to pay it off any point. The additional misstep of not having Sue even be part of the “original” Fantastic Four only makes it worse as she gets her powers separately from the rest of the group. It feels like she was added as an afterthought instead of the major team member that she is.

All in all, this movie was painful to watch. Prior to its release, a sequel had already been scheduled for 2017, but I hope they rethink this idea and simply stop while they’re behind.

The Good: Young Ben and Reed’s friendship.
The Bad: Everything else.
The Verdict: Don’t bother with this one. Don’t even wait for the DVD. Let’s hope the rights revert to Marvel within the next few years and that they can create a Netflix series that cancels this out.

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2 Comments on “Movie Review: The Not-So-‘Fantastic Four’”

  1. David K. Jackson August 13, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    when I saw that they’re “rebooting” Fantastic Four, I thought, “this could actually be really good. This has the chance to start things over and be something great.” The trailers showed potential – they featured a new premise with some great new concepts.


  1. Entertainment Roundup: What Happened in August | The Hudsucker - August 31, 2015

    […] The Fantastic Four: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell. How can this not be an amazing movie? But, if you’ve heard anything about the Marvel remake, you know it wasn’t well-received. The comic-based film only earned a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes (if you’re unsure, it’s like a test score. Imagine getting a 9 on that calculus exam…). Critics slammed the reboot, calling it dull and unnecessary. Ouch. […]

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