Neither Fantastic Nor Four


In its first weekend out, the latest 20th Century Fox offering for slaughter racked up $25 million, coming insecond to Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, which was in its second week. That’s with 3995 theaters. Given three days, Friday to Sunday, and 30 sessions all up, that’s at best about 20 people per session on average. If a movie about Marvel superheroes done by Marvel did that much box office it would be headline news. But with the Fantastic Four movies, it was pretty well what people expected.

Of them all, Reed looks the least like how he should

Of them all, Reed looks the least like how he should

Opening night was for diehards, the ones who thought they owed it to the characters to give them one more shot. There wasn’t much of an audience in the second week, and I doubt there will be for Fox’s next movie if there ever is one. I suspect the comics will carry the day, and the comics are still good.

This thing looks like a green screen movie. There is nothing expansive here. We get a lot of internal shots and even the external shots in the Negative Zone lack any sense of depth. They look like they’re on a soundstage which, in fact, they are. The color palette is dull and ashed out as if they think they’re making the movie look serious.

You can see the line between sound stage and green screen

You can see the line between sound stage and green screen

These characters don’t meet the real world, they don’t go out of their secret labs which makes me think secret labs are a lot less cool then we’ve been led to believe. Nobody in the background seems to know what to do so they gesticulate, point, and look at screens.

We know the film had problems in creation, and that seems to have required a lot of reshots. This might explain some of the movie’s continuity problems. Sue’s hair keeps changing styles and shades of blonde, Reed’s face goes from stubbly to clean shaven and back, and the lighting varies between shots in a scene.

Normally webmovies catch it for that.

Like the previous attempt to boot a franchise, in this case Doom is part of the group when they get their powers. But this time, instead of going into space which looked silly in 2005 (because they did it in a silly way) they go into the Negative Zone which looks silly in 2015 (same note). True, they call it Planet Zero, but that sounds like bad fifties science fiction movie schlock and I’m trying not to sound cruel, here.

2015 and virtually the same effect as in the 1994 movie just better done

2015 and virtually the same effect as in the 1994 movie just better done

Ben (Jamie Bell) and Reed (Miles Teller) didn’t meet on their first day of college. They’ve been friends since fifth grade. Ben was regularly beaten up by a brother, Jimmy Grimm, who appears just to say “it’s clobbering time” and then vanish. He will have no more effect on the story. But it is telling that no matter what, Ben must get his catchphrase from an outside source. Johnny can spontaneously yell “flame on,” but Ben can’t string together three words in an original sentence by himself. Do these people know he graduated from university?

Reed, meanwhile, spends his fifth grade as a super genius who is trying to penetrate the barrier into at least one other dimension.

But, to make us feel sorry for him and build empathy with the character, he faces a crushing 7.5 second defeat when his teacher is mean to him. Also, he doesn’t get along that well with his parents, especially his father.

I think these people think they are pushing buttons, but they’re just making them depressed.

Never mind, Reed will get a scholarship to the Baxter Institute under Professor Franklin Storm (played by Reg E Cathey). There he will meet Dr Storm’s son, Johnny (Michael B Jordan), and his adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara), and another member of the team, Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). But Ben has disappeared until Reed decides to bring him back into the plot, later, for no real reason other than they’re kind of obliged to have him in the movie.

The Fantastic Four used to be family. Now they are just workmates. They didn’t seek each other out (bar the siblings) and get brought into the group. Now they rarely talk to each other, they never look comfortable in each others’ presence, and they have zero chemistry together.

To test their machine they do a single experiment on a chimpanzee. It comes back alive and not obviously mutilated, so everyone agrees it’s safe to go that planet in the other dimension and exploit the hell out of its resources. It seems to be an Africa where you can arrange a genocide before you get there if you just make reservations. I mean, seriously, in movies this is what villains do. But, instead of wanting to be the first country into space or exploring just to see if there’s something out there, they want to exploit the place without ever finding out if anyone has a claim to it. After all, they only see one green screen sound stage of the whole planet. Logically, it may not even be a planet.

If that seems cruel, don’t forget the chimp. That poor thing never gets a medical examination, is never in containment because of possible pathogen infection, and never even gets followed up in case of long-term effects. They don’t even comb it to see if it brought back an interdimensional flea.

Seriously, if Reed Richards is such a genius, and if Doom is also a genius, why can’t either of them think of basic stuff like that? Sue and Johnny are both genius whiz-kids now, and they don’t think of it either.

Where are my pants?

Where are my pants?

Obviously, Ben’s the dumb one because he’s not here. I miss him, he keeps Reed from being too rarified. At least he did in the comics.

We’re over halfway through the movie and they haven’t got their powers, yet. But when they learn NASA is going to send their own people through, the geniuses decide to get drunk and, when drunk, decide to go through because it’s safe.

For no explained reason whatsoever, Reed calls Ben. There is no reason because Ben was just kind of gone and now he’s just kind of back. This does not unite old friends, there is no indication they kept up the relationship.

You are making these people look better

You are making these people look better

Naturally it isn’t safe. But don’t worry, falling into green goo or energy or whatever it is gives you superpowers. But you don’t have to be in it if people you vaguely know are in it. Then the keyboard you’re at will explode and give you superpowers, too.

That’s right, in 1961 Sue went along on the trip into space. Now she sits at home. Her powers are an accident.

You are making these people look better, too

You are making these people look better, too

And Doom is accidentally off stage waiting for the big ending, though they think he’s dead, though no one would fall for that. This is playing “I’ve got your nose” with an adult.

And while we’re on the subject, Fox the broadcaster who hates the government treats us to another Government  behaving badly. Remember the last two movies? This time they put Reed, Sue, Johnny, and late inclusion Ben into a lab to study them. But Reed escapes. No explanation of what he does or why while he’s gone, where he gets money from, or how he stays underground from the government.

The Government uses the Fantastic Three they have as weapons. Apparently, Ben kills a lot of people. This is not a positive development.

These people are making you look worse

These people are making you look worse

Why doesn’t Ben have pants? They made him naked. Is this to make up for what they did to Jessica Alba? Are you trying to show us you’re not sexist? If you did, it didn’t work.

Without Reed they can’t go back to that planet. Since we know from the movie Reed did designs and they are available, you’d think they could reverse-engineer some bloody thing or another. But no. They need Reed so they spend a year and then he comes back on his own.

He gets the others out and – this has been ages. That whole prisoners of the Government thing did nothing more than pad time. It’s been an hour and you really wonder who cares and then realize the audience is as bored as you are and the movie suddenly wants to change what it’s doing. Really, it’s about as interesting as gerbil mud wrestling.

Wait, I’ve seen two versions of this movie before, I’ve never seen gerbil mud wrestling so that at least has the advantage of novelty.

What is this, Dr Duct tape?

What is this, Dr Duct tape?

Let’s go back to the Negative Zone and Dr Doom will reappear. He’s not in armor. In fact what Doom’s wearing doesn’t look like armor. It looks like a last-minute decision to do some cosplay that went horribly cheap.

Never mind, Doom is here to save the day by destroying the world to make the movie so good someone will come back for the sequel which is already scheduled for 2017.

I don’t know why he wants to destroy the world. He seems to like the world he went to. If so, it’s different from the barren rocks and green gooey energy we saw, since he must have found something to eat and drink while he was there for a year. Maybe there was a McDonalds just over the horizon.

Don’t look at me like that. It makes as much sense as anything else in this movie.

There is little to no characterization here. For example, we know Ben was beaten up by his big brother but we have no idea how he feels about it. We have almost no idea how anybody feels about anything.

The most characterization is that Johnny Storm likes cars. Reed likes Sue, but Sue doesn’t like him back in any active way. Doom comes off as arrogant, maybe, unless it’s just his foreign accent.

Most of the dialogue in this movie is explanatory or expository. It’s either giving us an explanation or it’s trying to tell us what emotion we should feel.

But Doom does want to destroy the world. And he can do it because once again, they gave Doom powers from the accident. The story used to be that Doom studied like hell to develop his armor and master the magical powers he got from his mother, a Gypsy witch. Not any more, it’s all a lottery.

In a perfunctory fight, Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny put a stop to the danger to the Earth that wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t created it. And they do it with a lot of bad dialogue.

Yeah, just like in the 2005 movie.

Director Josh Trank has already tried to distance himself from the movie, and apparently said he had a vision for it which was ruined. Then he got rid of that tweet when he figured out how politically disastrous that comment was. But he co-wrote the thing with Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg and he directed it. If his vision was that great, why couldn’t he get other people to recognize that? Why doesn’t he release the script so we can see how great it would have been? He had one movie to his credit going into this, and this will not help his reputation or that of anybody else associated with the movie. It is not a movie of the Fantastic Four in any sense.

These fictional characters are ashamed of the bad job you did

These fictional characters are ashamed of the bad job you did

They are not four, because Doom makes them a group of five. When Reed and Doom go, there’s three of them. They are only really four in the final scene, and that’s four individuals, not a team of four.

And they very simply are not fantastic, they are pedestrian at best. The production, characterization, plot, use of the ideas of the comic book original, and dialogue all fall short.

The fact is, this movie franchise has been a half-a-trick pony that got the benefit of a doubt, but no one should be in doubt any more.


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