Review: Fantastic Four (2015) Part 1

This is my two cents on 'Fantastic Four' (or'Fant4stic'), directed by Josh Trank (well, at least mostly directed by him -from the rumours spreading around).

Please be warned that this review contains SPOILERS (I try to avoid giving away important plot details in my reviews but I am not holding back this time 'round. There is much to be said for this dirty, little, stain of a movie).

The "Fantastic Four" team of superheroes first premiered on paper in November 1961 (nine months before the first appearance of"Spider-Man") and was a big part of bringing Marvel Comics into the public eye as a serious comic book publisher and, eventually, as a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate. For years they've been known as "Marvel's first family", due to the fact that they were the first superhero team to come from Marvel (and was arguably the first huge success for the company, period).The team has now been the focus of four full-length live-action superhero films(the first of which was never even released to the public) in 1994, 2005, 2007,and 2015, of course. The film that this review is covering is, in case you're reading this review straight out of a long period of total ignorance on the subject, a reboot and stands completely apart from the previous films (a fact that should have ended up being a good thing - but isn't).

Before I get to the synopsis and my review, allow me to throw in a few more tidbits of information that you may not already know about the film (unless you're like me and know way too much about these things).

- This film is only the second directorial effort by Josh Trank (who previously directed the 2012 film, 'Chronicle') who is only 31 years old (as of 2015).
- It was made with a budget of $120 Million ($108 Million more than 'Chronicle' cost - that's a big jump for a second-time movie director - but, at the same time, is a considerably smaller budget than what most big-time superhero movies typically get).
- The production of the film was plagued with problems (I'll get back to this later) and required a considerable amount of re-shooting (I'll elaborate further on this, also).
- The film (which, as of August 14th, 2015, has only been in theatres for a week) has already become one of the biggest box office and critical failures of the year (and will likely go down as one of the biggest superhero movie failures of all-time - mark my words).

To be more specific about the critical reviews, Rotten Tomatoes has reported an approval rating of 8% (out of 100%) based on 182 reviews (15 people gave it a positive review). The average rating the site gave the film was 3.4 out of 10.Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 27 (out of 100 - that's with ONE positive review, eighteen mixed reviews, and twenty positive ones. IMDb (The Internet Movie Database) gives the film a rating of 3.9 (out of 10)based on 225 critics and 321 user reviews (the film getting almost a 4 out of10 is too forgiving, I think). So, if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know...

...THIS MOVIE STUNK! Seriously. If it had an odor it would be relative to a two-week-old dead fish covered in mouldy garlic and rotten eggs. It was that bad.

What made it such a catastrophe of a movie, you ask? Well, let's start with the synopsis.

SPOILER ALERT!!! (Not that it matters - the movie is SO not worth seeing, anyway)

The movie begins with a pre-pubescent Reed Richards presenting, in front of his class, the details on a project he’s been working on over the past few months(a teleporter – only with a needlessly more complicated name that is… well…needless – just call it a teleporter, people!)The whole class, including his teacher (played by Dan Castellaneta – yes, Homer Simpson) ridicule him for thinking a ten-year-old could possibly invent such a device (and we’re supposed to feel ill will towards them for thinking that –because we’d totally believe him, right?). Anyways, tough kid, Ben Grimm, seems to be the only one to show any interest in Reed’s ideas. And, after he catches Reed riffling for parts in his family’s junkyard, goes back to the young genius’ garage to witness the device’s first successful test run. He goes on to call Reed “insane” (or something relative to that – I can’t remember) after the device causes a power outage across much of New York State. We then take a seven year jump and see that Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell – yes, from Billy Elliot – the ideal candidate for a tough guy) are best of friends and presenting the device at their high school science fair. The very same teacher from before (I guess he moved up to a high school position) ends up disqualifying them over them presenting what he sees as “magic tricks”. But, Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathy) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara),after observing the demonstration from afar, offer Reed the chance to continue his work at a government-funded research institute for young prodigies in New York City. There, he works alongside Johnny (the biological son of Dr. Storm –who, after a scene where he totals his car during a clichéd street race-type introduction, comes back to the lab after a supposed absence to earn back the money he needs to repair his car – again, clichéd), and Victor von Doom (who has come back to the lab after a supposed absence – this time because he had feelings for Sue that she did not share – again, CLICHÉD!). Together, they are building a life-size version of Reed’s device, now called the “Quantum Gate”(why?), which was apparently also invented by Victor (albeit a few years before Reed - ooh, competition). Well, they build it (surprise surprise) and begin testing its ability to teleport by using really bad CGI chimps. The tests succeed and the chimps are unharmed.

THAT IS HALF THE MOVIE. And I am not exaggerating. You are half way through the story by this point and not one remarkable thing has happened. 2003’s ‘Hulk’ had better pacing than this (and it only gets worse).

Anyways, The facility’s supervisor, Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson), announces, after the trial’s success, that, despite everyone’s expectations, he has chosen to use NASA astronauts to journey through space instead of the people who created (and are more familiar with)the device (Reed, Victor, Sue, and Johnny).Sue then runs off to beg Dr. Allen to reconsider and, in keeping with his predictable personality, Victor proposes that they all stick it to the man and take an unsanctioned venture through the Quantum Gate for the glory of it (but not before he gets everyone drunk and monologues about he resents humanity(primarily hierarchy and greed) – a little conflicted, isn’t he?) They sneak off, but not before Reed can convince Ben Grimm to come along (simply because they’re buddies). They take the jump, arrive on “Planet Zero” (the name they give to the distant land form they reach), and, after literally thirty seconds, Victor sticks his hand into a glowing green puddle and causes everything to go apes**t (there’s no better way to put it –sorry). Victor gets consumed by the green stuff (and supposedly dies), while the remaining three get mutated on a molecular level (Johnny gains the ability to encase himself in fire and fly, Ben develops a rock-like exterior that gives him enhanced durability and enhanced strength, and Reed discovers his ability to stretch his body to amazing lengths). Sue is also mutated after coming into contact with the sonic blast that resulted from the machine’s troubled return to Earth (and becomes able to make herself invisible and form force fields of energy). Reed, after waking up in isolation and strapped to a table (while all stretched out), escapes through a vent (never heard of that idea before), witnesses a rocky-looking Ben in a state of desperation (also in isolation – as are the two others) and runs off over feeling responsible for everything that went wrong (for no actual reason).

ONE YEAR LATER – Yes. They did that to us. The most important part of the story is completely skipped over shamelessly. So say “bye, bye” to the second act of the movie since it does not exist.

A year later we see that Ben, Sue, and Johnny have remained under the government’s control and, with the aid of specialized (un-matching, un-superhero-y) suits, have learned to control their powers (I say again, what a jip). Ben (who actually doesn’t wear a suit and just runs around naked like a giant, orange piece of rock candy), who has abandonment issues (no thanks to Reed ditching him), has taken to being a tool for the government to use whenever they want a heavy-duty job done (this idea could have been interesting but it’s essentially unrealized). The latest task he’s given is to find Reed(who is hiding in Central America) and to bring him back to be contained and studied. So, of course, he finds him, and punches his lights out. Reed is still guilt-ridden by the aforementioned event and has developed a suit of his own to keep his body from stretching out of control (he is shown to not have control over his powers – I guess because he didn’t get daily therapy like the others probably got – either way it’s a plot element that is underdeveloped like everything else). Then we get a scene where Ben and Reed have an emotional talk about blah…blah…blah… none of this matters, really. It’s all a waste of running time. We’ve still barely seen any action and the movie is almost over. Ben and Reed have their talk during the plane ride back and upon arrival Reed is actually asked by guys trying to hunt him down for a year (like a fugitive) to helm the controls during the first manned voyage of the ‘Quantum Gate 2.0”.So…we’re supposed to act like they’d actually do that. It would be like asking the guys who escaped from Alcatraz to be prison guards upon being recaptured –this is defying entry-level screenwriting, here. Anyways, some new guys go back to Planet Zero, find a heat signature (OH, REALLY?), and discover von Doom is alive (and looks like what a radioactive robot would crap out if it had bowels–apparently his space suit merged with his body, or whatever, and a bunch of little, green, glowing slivers cover his body – and his eyes are solid green–you know, Dr. Doom -_-). Short story short (see what I did there?), Doom comes back, sits in a medical examination room, gets angry, starts destroying everything and everyone around him with his mind (took a page from the crappy old movies and not the superior comics again, did ya?) and kills Dr. Storm, leaving just enough time for him to tell his kids to “Take…care…of…each…other.”(if we were playing a cliché drinking game, you’d probably be dead by now). So, now the team has a motive for stopping Doom who, after stating how he feels Planet Zero is his home now (ok?), vows to destroy the earth FOR NO REASON!Seriously, we’re supposed to use his previous, half-serious speech on humanity’s downfall from before to justify his desire to destroy the Earth and kill 7 billion people (WHAT?). So, he uses the new Quantum Gate device to create some sort of a Bifröst rip-off that will suck up the Earth like a black hole and destroy it within a matter of minutes. The (still-unnamed) Fantastic Four zoom their way through the portal, land on Planet Zero, listen to a sappy motivational speech from Reed, and form a predictable plan to knock Doom into the portal-thing and disintegrate him. Oh, and the final blow that Doom is given before his demise comes from the Thing who forcedly shouts “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!” The End.

Ok, so there’s another scene afterwards that finally gets to using names like “Human Torch” and “The Thing”, and even teases the name “Fantastic Four”, but does what ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron” did and cuts-off right before the words are spoken. Cute, right? Not really.

My additional thoughts on the movie follow in "Part 2" of my review.