Movie Review: The Fantastic Four (2015)

MV5BMTk0OTMyMDA0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzY5NTkzNTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_So, I know I'm particularly late to get to this rant, but Wednesday I had the...um...unfortunate experience?...of seeing the Fantastic Four reboot. (Look, in my defense, I've been under a lot of stress, it was cheap and I just needed to get the hell away from Kickstarter for a couple of hours. Don't judge me.) When I left the theater, I was pissed. Many are the reasons for my ire. Alright. Where to start?

Let's start with the simple problems. This movie is FULL of shitty writing.

(I would warn you about spoilers, but I don't think anything is spoiled here.)

 

 

Relationships

First off, the relationships are all half-baked. Sue and Johnny Storm don't come across as siblings at all. When they're on screen together there is no chemistry, let alone any sort of familial bond. Reed Richards and Sue? Eh. Weak sauce. It comes across that Reed thinks she's pretty, but there's nothing there in terms of romance. Reed and Ben Grimm? No depth. Ben's devotion to Reed has nothing behind it. Ben and Johnny? They don't start quipping with each other until the last 3 minutes of the film. And then there's Victor Von Doom. His relationships with--well, everyone--are flaccid. We get that he is a creeper for Sue the way he stares longingly at her, but that's all performance. That's the actor. Doom and Reed partner up well, but don't develop any sort of bond. Doom and Ben? They meet five minutes before Doom falls into a pit of green lava. And Johnny? Well, Johnny and Doom do seem to have a decent playfully antagonistic relationship. This is only shown in a single line exchange that happens to be the solitary line in the movie that is a true Johnny Storm character moment.

 

Johnny: This is Borat. Borat is a Dick.

borat_great_success

And that was it.

Basically, these 5 characters are supposed to be the crux of the film, but instead, they are pawns just being moved around by plot rather than their own motivations. Their relationships never get the opportunity to form, and their own personalities never get to develop. They are all, at best, two-dimensional characters.

When your characters have no arc or depth, when their relationships have no meaning, there is no human element to latch onto. The story becomes little more than a vehicle for CGI effects and mass destruction sequences.

Events

And let's talk for a moment about the plot, such as it is. The plot is that Reed (with Ben's pocket knife and .... I guess his silent presence and free reign of his family's salvage yard?) has created interdimensional travel without realizing just what he was doing. When his school science fair (a scene totally ripped out of Disney's "Meet the Robinsons", I might add) DQs him for being smart, Dr. Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter Sue show up (random!)

Jordan > Sue Storm

From there, in a move from 80s classic "Real Genius", we see a group of college students working on a major project that the military wants for itself. Doom, a brooding emo drop-out, is pulled in with the promise of seeing Sue. Johnny is coerced by his father to join the team so that he can get his car back and return to a life of illegal street racing. They build the thing. They succeed. They fail. They get powers. Doom is left for dead. The military gets their fingers in, weaponizing the people involved as well as the technology. They rebuild the teleporter. They find Doom. Doom goes apeshit. Four people--one of whom has been absent for a year--suddenly know how to power stunt with one another to defeat Doom.

Weak. Fucking. Sauce.

The pacing of events is also strange. We spend too long getting to "Planet Zero", the alternate dimension where the plucky smart kids will get their powers. And in all that time, we're not building relationships. We're not DOING anything but watching construction montages and Franklin having arguments with Doom and Johnny about how much potential they have. (Basically, Franklin spends the whole movie thinking he knows what's right for other people.) Again, there's nothing human to latch onto during this time. You want them to succeed because you're told you want them to succeed. The audience has no skin in the game. By the time we get to the second act--all events that happen AFTER the ill-fated trip to Planet Zero--we're snoozing. (Literally. My friend that saw it with me fell asleep. Multiple times.)

Human-Torch-in-Fantastic-Four-Trailer-2Act 2 is a lot of showing how the military are responding (poorly) to the development of four kids coming from Planet Zero and having pyrokinetic powers or fluctuations outside the visible spectrum. We see Sue being left to fluctuate on a table. They're just watching Johnny burn. Reed is being stretched to his limits and seemingly tortured while Ben is left alone to be a rock. And Franklin can only watch as his children--biological and adopted--are in dire straits. We see more training montage action, but again, there's nothing to grasp.

There's a lot of wasted potential in Act 2. We should be seeing Ben trying to cope with body dysmorphia and how the government is using him to kill. We should see his depression, his loneliness. But we don't. It's all flat. It moves quickly, but jerkily, into the third act which, like many films these days is riddled with problems. Most of those problems though are because of the poor set up with characters.

Characterization Issues

In my review of "Star Trek: Into Darkness", I told you about the Hollywood Formula of characters. Protagonist, Antagonist and Relationship Character. A satisfying story comes when we like our protagonist and can root for her, when someone clearly presents obstacles (antagonist), and there is a person who has been around the block who can help bridge gaps between protagonist/antagonist and protagonist/audience. For a story that "works", all three of these roles need to be clearly related in the film or text.

635640150236937897-56-FANTASTIC-FOUR-MOV-jy-5566-We get that Reed is our main protagonist. We follow him. He leads the audience into the story. His goal is also pretty clear: make a teleporter. However, for most of "Fantastic Four", we don't have a clear antagonist.

You would think it would be Doom, right? I mean, we've read the comics...or we've seen the first attempts at bringing the Fantastic Four to screen. Even if you haven't, the name DOOM kinda outs him as the baddie, right? But that's the thing...he's not the antagonist. He's not the one getting in Reed's way of his goal.

In fact, for most of the movie.... no one is. No one is trying to make things more difficult for Reed. Only once the team has succeeded in making their device does an antagonist show up.

I am Government Man. Come from the government. The government has sent me. *chews gum*

Government Man. (Does he even have a name?) Anyway, this is the military liaison who wants the project. He shows up and is the face of evil, not just because he's trying to keep the kids from finishing their work (going to Planet Zero), but he represents everything DOOM hates. Everything Franklin is working against. The Government Man is the antagonist. Which, to me, says that Doom or Franklin would be the best choice for relationship character. They share the role.

However, it seems that "Fantastic Four" writers didn't learn from my rant about "Star Trek: Into Darkness" because what happens in the third act? Doom, our relationship character, takes a leaf out of Khan's book, squishes the head of the antagonist and then assumes the role.

doomfantasticfour-146710The writing is bad. The story is not satisfying. STOP DOING THIS STORYTELLING BAIT AND SWITCH!!!

Beyond that, the characters? They're all wrong. Again, this could be due to poor pacing and just lazy writing, but the characters are little more than namesakes of the original Fantastic Four.

Ben Grimm looks like Peeta from the Hunger Games. He's silent and just kinda plods along with Reed. He doesn't have his own strength, even though he's supposed to be Reed's rock (Watson to Richards' Holmes.)

Doom is emo, and while he does have a bit of a vibe of "I'm smarter than you, and I don't need you", he's not egomaniacal enough to be DOCTOR DOOM.

Johnny? Oh my god, I jerked at one line because the wrongness of it slapped me in the face. Johnny Storm--our adrenaline junkie--is afraid to go repelling on the surface of Planet Zero. BULLSHIT. Johnny would've been basejumping. Doom says, "We need an anchor." That anchor SHOULD have been Ben Grimm. It always was. Ben had no place to go into the fissure and no motivation to do so. Poor choice, writers.

And then there's Sue.

Sexism

Pretty. Script says I come from Eastern Europe now. Could be an assassin. Look, I'm just like Black Widow!

The original comics are rife with sexism. Sue Storm is the Invisible Woman for a reason. She's a commentary on what men at the time thought a woman should be: pretty, silent, come when I need you. Unfortunately, while this movie seemed to ignore the source material for, well, almost every other character's motivations...they kept this tidbit in tact.

In the film, Sue Storm is portrayed as smart, but cold and distant. She is pretty, an object of both Reed and Doom's affections, however that seed--like most planted in this film--doesn't grow to anything resembling fruition. And her role in the team is to MAKE THE CLOTHES they'll wear when they go to Planet Zero. Yes, environment suits are important, but they've literally got the woman MAKING THE CLOTHES.

When the experimental teleporter works, Government Man walks into the room with Sue, Reed, Johnny and Doom and this is his line:

"Gentlemen! Everyone! Good work."

*jaw drop* SHE's standing right there! I get that you're trying to punctuate "Invisible Woman" but there are better ways to do it, assholes!

And, when the guys decide to go to Planet Zero, does Reed call Sue? The person who's been working on this project just as long as he has? Nope. He calls Ben, his buddy from back home. None of them even bother to let her in on things, thinking that maybe she's just as upset as they are. Sue is left out of this midnight recon entirely UNTIL SHIT HITS THE FAN AND THEY NEED SOMEONE TO BRING THEM HOME!

She doesn't get much better treatment in the next acts. She bails everyone out with force fields as long as she's not falling to the ground and flailing prettily.

Sue's treatment in this movie is sickening. And she's the only woman with more than one line. It's abominable.


There was very little that this movie did well. I liked the visual effects of the Human Torch. I loved how they presented Doctor Doom after his year on Planet Zero. That was nicely done. Beyond that? Nope. This movie fails on every level. The writing is worse than poor, it's lazy. And the sexism is disgusting.

I'd rather watch the one with Chris Evans and Michael Chikliss. The guy might be wearing a foam rubber suit, but at least he's actually Ben Grimm.