The Fantastic Four are one of only a few major superhero properties that, outside of their films, I have no opinion on. I’ve just never gotten into them as a concept, and as a result never read any of their comics. I get a lot of what’s going on in the metaphors in their mythology (the family dynamic, the four elements aspect of their powers, their villains all being repurposed B-Movie concepts) but I just never found a reason in any of their comics to care, so my interest could never sustain more than an issue or 2.
But I did see both of their previous movies and…hoo boy. Both of the 2000s movies are completely without merit. While they’re both exceptionally bad, the second in particular is high in the running for Worst Major Superhero film (Catwoman beats it pretty consistently in that category, but that’s about it). So right off the bat, this movie had a pretty low bar to jump to be the best major Fantastic Four movie ever made.
Of course the plot is yet another origin story, but since Fantastic Four are on the less well known side, it’s more excusable. In this case, the plot opens with Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) as children working on a teleportation device, despite their family situations being…shall we say, not great (pointless addition alert: “It’s clobbering time,” is something Ben’s older brother says before abusing him. Fun.)
Anyway the plot to cuts to them as adults, still working on perfecting the teleportation device. They are discovered by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Susan (Kate Mara) who A, tell them their teleportation device actually teleports things to an alternate dimension, B, tell them their working on the same thing and C, invite Reed to join them.
Of course, they immediately begin perfecting the device, initially alongside Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and eventually alongside Dr. Storm’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). But when the promise of them being the first people through to the alternate dimension is revoked, they all get drunk and decide to go on their own and…well I think you know what happens.
Fantastic Four is a movie whose badness hits very suddenly. The first act is mostly functional, albeit quite overlong with some mediocre acting and subpar writing. Still, while the film takes a borderline absurd amount of time to get the characters into the alternate dimension and give them their powers, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting and by the time they got their powers, I was wondering why everyone was so mad.
Imagining the physical manifestations of the FF’s powers as kind of super-powered body horror was an interesting idea, and the visual execution was at least mostly unique looking. Sure it’s a little dark for an idea that is usually intended to be fanciful or pulpy, but it was something distinct, and I was kind of curious as to where it would go from there.
And then nothing happens.
Seriously, you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. Nothing happens. The movie cuts to one year later, and tells us in a thudding piece of exposition what the characters have been up to in the interim 12 months. And then…they sit around, waiting for the plot to kick in. And once again, the movie doesn’t even use the downtime well; There’s barely any real character interaction in this time, and by the time the 3rd act hits, the entire team hasn’t been in the same room at basically any point.
The plot does finally kick in once the third act is well underway in the form of Dr. Doom finally wandering back into the plot (having been absent since act 1). The visual design on Doom is awful, his motivations make no sense and his power set is never defined, but at least he’s somewhat intimidating, which makes him a step up from the 2005 movie’s Doom.
Unfortunately, despite finally kicking the plot back in, it’s far too little, much too late. By the time Doom shows up, the movie is basically over and there’s no time to establish a group dynamic. On top of that the final throwdown is completely lame (especially compared to director Josh Trank’s previous film’s climax) and it’s basically the film’s only action beat. From there the movie rushes through the denouncement in what seems like barely a minute and just sort of ends.
That lack of any real event or action would be enough to sink most movies, but that’s not all that’s wrong with it. As I said, the writing is pretty bad across the board, and the acting ranges from ‘Bad’ to ‘Well at least they’re trying.’ The cinematography and editing are both fine, if unexceptional and the CGI is pretty good, so it looks handsome enough, but there’s just never anything happening, and when something finally is happening, there’s no reason to care.
Releasing a movie in August is usually a sign of surrender by a studio, a sign that they have a summer blockbuster but they don’t think it can compete in June or July. That goes double when the movie in question is a weapon wielded by a studio as part of an ongoing fight with Disney over the X-Men film rights. So while this movie is never obnoxious, irritating or insulting, making it better than the previous 2 Fantastic Four movies, there’s basically no reason to go see it. It’s just boring to think or write about. So I think I’ll stop writing about it. Now.
Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he probably should have saved his pledge to stop writing about it until his signoff was done.
– good cgi and cinematography
– visually interesting, if colorless
– uh…I really like Michael B. Jordan? Seriously, if you haven’t seen Fruitvale Station, you need to.
– really, really, really, really boring
– bad script
– the acting is really bad
– seriously, I don’t think you get how boring this movie is