Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

The Fantastic Four remake is a menagerie of explosions and beautiful colors that you just cannot look away from… But then again, most train wrecks are. 

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The first Fantastic Four movie came out in 2005. This year, we received a reboot of the movie’s franchise 10 years later. Unfortunately, the makers of 2015’s Fantastic Four movie did not use these 10 years to reflect on what the 2005 Fantastic Four movie did wrong and how a Fantastic Four movie should be. (Also, couldn’t we have two different titles for the two movies? So, we don’t have to differentiate the two using the years they were made. Even putting a “The” at the beginning would have worked.)

I try to see the good in all things and there were good things in this movie. Don’t get me wrong, but I have to list the bad of this movie before we can discuss the very small and rare diamonds in the cinematic rough.

THE BAD

Doom
Poor Doom. Hollywood just can’t seem to get him right. They failed to portray the character right in the 2005 film and they still didn’t get it right this time.

If you are not familiar with Doctor Doom, let me give you a quick crash course: Victor Von Doom is the egomaniacal ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, he is smart, dabbles in the occult and strange, and hates Reed Richards for an accident that disfigured his handsome face. There you go. That’s Doom, but for whatever reason Hollywood cannot seem to grasp this character. He’s either a mustache-twirling business tycoon (2005) or some smarmy, underground techie (2015). Why is it so hard to bring Doom to the big screen?

Toby-Kebbell-Doctor-Doom-Fantastic-Four-2015In this movie, specifically, we are introduced to Doom as the founder of this project that oddly enough Reed Richards has been working on since he was a child. How these two very different people came up with the exact same machine, we may never know and the moviemakers certainly aren’t going to explain it. So, we just have to accept it. Anyways, so Doom is this tech guy that started work on this machine and then left for… reasons (again, unexplained). Once Reed shows up, he returns to complete his work which couldn’t be completed before because… reasons (you seeing a trend here?).

From there, we see that Doom has really no redemptive qualities. He’s just a dick (as Johnny points out in so many words). Something goes wrong and Doom disappears. When next we meet him, he’s this all-powerful god dude that suddenly just hates the world and wants it to end. Wait. What? That escalated quickly. What happened when we weren’t looking? How did Doom go from being this sarcastic techie to a genocidal maniac?

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Let’s take a second to talk about Doom’s powers… WHAT ARE THEY?! The only piece of exposition given to us regarding Doom’s altered state is when Tim Blake Nelson’s character says “It seems your environment suit fused to your body.” And the audience is like, “Yeah. Duh. We could immediately see that. That is the one thing about Doom that no one has any doubts about!” Then, Doom starts microwaving people’s heads with… telepathy? glowing green eyes? soundwaves? So, Doom can kill anyone. It’s game over. He’s going to destroy the world.

Transition to the climax (as it were). It would seem that the audience is not the only ones who know nothing of Doom’s powers. Because Doom, who was just destroying people with a mean look, suddenly forgets about this godlike power and literally starts throwing rocks like a 10-year old boy defending his tree house from icky girls. Seriously? Did the writers suddenly realize while writing that they had made Doom way too powerful?

“What do we do? He could just vaporize the Fantastic Four!”

“Wait. Wait. Wait. I got it… Rocks.”

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Hollywood has always had a problem with masks. You always have to see the actor’s face and you just can’t do that when they are wearing a mask. Except for Tony Stark, who always wears his Iron Mask, but we can still see into the vacuous alternate dimension of space that he keeps in his helmet. (Seriously, the inside of that helmet looks super roomy.) That’s why we see Spider-Man unmasking in nearly every scene of Amazing Spider-Man… When he really wouldn’t… Because he’s paranoid that someone might find out his identity and target Aunt May or Mary Jane… But no! We must see Andrew Garfield’s flawless face!

c39d3463592d62aa446c140f20846f77Anyways, masks. In the comics, Dr Doom wears a mask to cover up his horribly scarred face. In the movies, we are given truly roundabout explanations to why Doom’s iconic mask is not really a mask. In this movie, it was his environment suit fused to his skin. In the 2005 version, it was because his powers made him shed like a molting snake.

I would hope that one day, Hollywood will be able to produce Doom as he should be: masked, maniacal, deadly, and just a really bad dude. (You think Loki was bad? Pfft.)

This Is Not A Good Movie
Notice I crossed out good, because no, it’s not a good movie, this is known, but Fantastic Four is barely a movie. And I assume you could say, “What does that even mean? How could a movie not be a movie? Every movie I’ve ever seen has been a movie.”

Fantastic Four is a movie in so much as it is a form  of media meant to entertain through the use of moving pictures. Most movies are stories and stories feature things like plot, character development, conflict, and overarching themes. Fantastic Four had none of these.

27-fantastic-four-1.w529.h352.2xI was watching the movie and suddenly we were in the climax. I literally turned to the person I was seeing the movie with and said, “So, is this the climax?” There is no rising action, there is no building tension. Doom just suddenly appears and the characters get pulled into the climax against their will.

What was the theme of this movie? Was it the bonds of family? Was it overcoming one’s insecurities? Or was it how many times can we rebuild this one machine in a movie before it gets old? (The answer is three if you were wondering.) That stupid teleportation machine was the only reoccurring theme in the entire movie. I suppose you might also count Dr. Storm’s favoritism of the adopted Susan over Johnny, but since that was never resolved or discussed, it may as well not be considered a theme.

Also, where was the Thing and Human Torch banter? That is one of the most memorable traits of any Fantastic Four story.  The hothead Johnny antagonizing the lovable Thing is as iconic as Thing’s catchphrase or the number four in the team’s name. We got a tiny glimpse of it at the end before the credits roll, but that was it.

Where’s the Action? 
This is supposed to be a super hero movie. Yes, the Fantastic Four have always been heroes more inclined to exploration rather than brawling, but c’mon, man, this has less action than Ant-Man (which I really loved, by the way)!

People have expectations for super hero movies, especially those involving Marvel characters and properties. We want fights, we want humor, and we want super heroes! Fantastic Four was not a super hero movie. We got snippets and glimpses at the Four’s incredible powers and even got to see them work in tandem during the climax, but really and truly… that was it. Most of the movie was spent with character huddled over computers or discussing truly banal things that came to no fruition later on in the plot.

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All of the Four are super heroes with incredible powers, let them use their powers for more than pushing shipping containers around a dark room. Also, it should be said that Mr. Fantastic’s power is lame, but thankfully that is not his greatest strength. Mr. Fantastic’s greatest power is his brain and he should never be able to slingshot Dr. Doom or even go toe-to-toe with Dr. Doom. That’s why Reed keeps Ben around.

No Character Development
The characters of Fantastic Four are one-dimensional, at best. There is no character development. We don’t see the characters gain any insight or new understanding from their conflicts and struggles. In fact, there is a part of the movie that literally goes to a black screen and says “One Year Later”. I couldn’t help but laugh. Are you serious? That is lazy storytelling. We are introduced to the characters, we see them change physically, and then a year passes. Sam Raimi did a similar thing in his Spider-Man film, but let me tell you how he did it right. He flashed forward and showed us quick images of people and of Spider-Man himself as he learned his powers and grew in confidence and prowess. We see that montage and we understand, “Ah, Spider-Man is getting into the swing of things.” (See what I did there?)

In Fantastic Four, one year passes and we still see no growth. I mean, Susan is miraculously blonde now even after I could have sworn that she was a brunette in the last scene. Johnny is still a hot-head, and Ben is mildly upset that his best friend since childhood made him into a monster and then bailed (which made NO sense to me by the way.)

This “one year later” cop-out really bugs me. It’s lazy. It shows us, the audience, that you care less about this plot than we do. You may as well have put up a sign that said “Stuff happened”.

As I said, Thing was a little peeved at Reed. So were Johnny and Susan. When they finally find Reed, all is well and everything resumes as normal. Johnny even gives him a little hug. My question is: then why did Reed need to run away? It adds nothing to the story and the writers seemed to not have enough energy to capitalize on the emotions and character development that could have been brought about by his return.

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The climax… happens and suddenly the team is working like a well-oiled machine. It would appear that this team hasn’t been apart for a year, but has rather had a year to hone their skills and teamwork… Which they didn’t, because from what we can tell, Susan and Johnny were the only two to have any contact with each other for the past year and they barely seem to like each other.

Which I should also talk about. These two are brother and sister, right? Then, why do we never seen any type of typical sibling interaction between them akin to Jessica Alba and Chris Evan’s banter in the first Fantastic Four movie? The two could not have been more distant from one another.

Characters should always have some growth, at least a very little. Even Liam Neeson’s character in Taken grew in so far as understanding his daughter and estranged wife. There was no growth in the characters of the Fantastic Four. They are the same at the end of the movie as they are at the beginning.

THE GOOD
Alright. Time for the good!

The Thing
Ben Grimm has never looked cooler. He was rocky, he was tough. From the few times I saw him in action, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, man. I’d love to see this Thing go toe-to-toe with Hulk. (And now that this movie is officially as bad as everyone feared it would be, maybe now Marvel Studios will be able to buy back the filming rights and we will get to see such a fight!)

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Back to the point, The Thing looked awesome! We really didn’t get to see much of him in action, unfortunately, but our minds can imagine the damage he could dish out. I was hesitant of Ben Grimm when he was smaller in height and size when standing next to Miles Teller as Reed Richards, but I was very impressed as soon as he transformed. Seeing him break out of the rocks and then loom over every other person on set was exciting.

Truly, the Thing was probably the best part of this movie. Everything from his design to Jamie Bell’s performance, was executed superbly. I only wish this had spilled over to the other elements of the film. Michael Chiklis will always be Thing in my heart, but Jaime Bell’s portrayal was endearing.

hqdefaultAlso, why could we not put pants on the Thing?! I know he’s a monster and they don’t really make pants that size, but the Avengers had stretchy pants for Hulk, why can’t we do the same for Thing? We don’t need him Doctor Manhattaning around the movie. Thankfully, there were no rock penises and accompanying boulders to be seen, but I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Thing turned around and we got to see his little rocky butt. It’s hilarious. I really couldn’t contain myself.

Epic Cinematography
Cinematography and movie magic have come a long way since 2005. The Fantastic Four’s powers were hard to replicate at the time of the first two and looked cheesy and clearly CGI’d. Fortunately, every one of the Fantastic Four’s powers this time around looked awesome. Human Torch flamed-on was rad. Susan’s invisibility projection and force bubbles were cool. We already known Thing wowed. And Reed…. Well, God bless him. He must have a great personality.

Besides some cheesy scenes with Reed struggling with his laffy-taffy arms like a teenage boy going through a sudden spout of puberty, the movie looked really good. The explosions were fancy, the powers were flashy, and the alien planet/dimension that the Fantastic Four traveled to looked spooky, eerie, and alien – just as it should have been.

THE MUSIC
I wasn’t too impressed with Fantastic Four’s soundtrack. It sounded… typical, like a generic super hero video game soundtrack or something. Each of Marvel’s heroes have had a unique theme. Captain America’s theme comes to mind as I type this, but Fantastic Four sounded like every other super hero movie. It actually reminded me of Danny Elfman’s score from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, which I love, but shouldn’t Fantastic Four and Spider-Man have different feels in subject matter and in music?

THE ACTING
I came into this movie with a lot of doubt as to how the characters would be acted. I did not like the casting choices. After seeing it, I can say that the four main actors did a great job with what they were given (which was regrettably just bad writing). As I said before, Jaime Bell killed it as Thing. I wish we had gotten to see more of his portrayal and his character, but we had better things to focus on apparently. Kate Mara played a strong, female character. It wasn’t Susan Storm, but she did a great job portraying the character that was written for her. Miles Teller’s portrayal of Reed may actually have been the weakest of the four, but it was still enjoyable.

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Now for the elephant in the room. What did I think of Michael B. Jordan’s performance of Johnny Storm?

I liked it.

Ever since it was announced that Michael B. Jordan (a black man) would be playing Human Torch (a white character), fanboys flipped out. Personally, I didn’t care too much. My only thought on the whole matter was if Johnny is black, Sue should be black too, because they are brother and sister (not adopted siblings, because that’s stupid and supplies no sort of character development or lends anything to the plot). I really enjoyed Michael’s portrayal of Johnny very much. He was cocky, he was arrogant, and there were brief glimpses into the humor of the character that the writers just refused to harness. Towards the climax, I do think he overacted a little in response to something that was admittedly really devastating, but other than that, I think Michael B. Jordan makes a fine Johnny Storm.

THE KIDS
Is this movie appropriate for kids? Eh. It’s an iffy one. As much as super heroes are marketed as a kid’s thing, all super hero movies have a lot of cussing and violence. There was a surprising amount of curse words laid down in Fantastic Four. One such moment led to an awkward exchange between a daughter and a father sitting behind me when Johnny called Doom a dick… The words that every parent wants to hear their prepubescent daughter say “Daddy, what’s a dick?”

Doom’s powers manifested in a very violent way. We see blood bust out of the back of his victim’s skulls and see a few characters burn alive. The Four’s transformations may also be scary for little children.

The choice to take your children to see this movie is up to you, but I would advise against taking kids younger than 13.

THE GRADE
Fantastic Four is the super hero franchise that would no doubt do exceedingly well in the box office if only filmmakers in Hollywood knew how to make a good Fantastic Four movie. Fantastic Four is a franchise that has so much potential for humor, family themes, action, and sci-fi exploration. There is no reason this movie should not be of the same caliber as The Guardians of the Galaxy, another space-faring super hero film. Unfortunately, we the fans must suffer through another Fantastic Flop.

I give Fantastic Four a… 

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What do you think? Have you seen Fantastic Four yet? Do you want to? Am I being too harsh on the Greatest Super Hero Families’ latest cinematic adventure? Let me know in the comments below!

PS- There is no before or after credits scenes in this movie.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

  1. That’s a great and very entertaining review, David. (Probably more entertaining than the movie itself from what I gather.) It sounds like, as far as movie portrayals of Doom are concerned, the one that did it best was the aborted Fantastic Four movie in 1994 (although my favorite version of Doom still remains the one in Super Hero Squad). I guess it still remains that the very best Fantastic Four movie is “The Incredibles”.

    Like

    • Thanks, Tony! I aim to educate and entertain when I can. And I agree. The Incredibles are what a Fantastic Four movie should be. I forgot to post it in my review, but the thing that makes Fantastic Four different from the Avengers, X-Men, and the Justice League is that they are a family. It’s not their powers or even how they got their powers that makes them unique, but that they are a family of super heroes. Their family bonds and relationsships should always be the forefront theme of any Fantastic Four movie or story.

      Liked by 1 person

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