I originally wrote this review earlier this year, but have been inspired to post it by our latest Movie Night.
Loosely based on the Marvel characters of the same name, 2015’s Fantastic Four is a bizarrely dark version of their origin story. The film marks Fox’s third attempt at the franchise, and the 2015 reboot manages to fail even more than the first two. Fantastic Four is 100 minutes of boredom and poor creative decisions.
The film begins with Reed Richards, played as a child by Owen Judge, being mocked for his scientific aspirations. This is the film’s best part, as there are no obvious plot-holes or cringe-worthy creative decisions. Additionally, Richards’ flying car plans are a nice reference to the original comics.
However, it is all downhill from here. The moment where the film makes the transition from mediocre to terrible is very clear. As Ben Grimm (Evan Hannemann) is physically abused by his older brother, his brother exclaims “It’s clobberin’ time!” This one line exemplifies everything that is wrong with this movie: its overly dark tone, its extensive liberties with the source material and its general unpleasantness to the audience. After Grimm gets away, he meets and befriends Richards. They work together on Richards’ teleporter. Their friendship never seems believable, as they never demonstrate similar interests or even spend significant screen-time together.
The film jumps to 2015, where Richards and Grimm (now played by Miles Teller and Jamie Bell, respectively) are displaying their completed teleporter at a school science fair. They are inexplicably completing against a student who seems to be in middle school at most. The teleporter succeeds and impresses Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who coincidentally happens to be visiting the science fair with his daughter, Susan (Kate Mara).
Richards is whisked away to help work on a much larger-scale teleporter, while Grimm is promptly forgotten about until the plot calls on him again. At this point, we meet to our final major characters, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) whose entire background is completely glossed over, and Susan’s brother Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), who is introduced through an incredibly uninspired car race.
Richards, Johnny Storm and Von Doom work on the teleporter, while Susan Storm, perhaps sexistly, is relegated to making the suits. For unknown reasons, this is all done in the same room, even though they are working in a gigantic building that would surely have additional rooms for people to work in. The film can’t seem to decide if the teleporter travels to another dimension or another planet, as it’s confusingly referred to as both at different points. The film’s only successful attempt at humor occurs here, in a funny scene where Richards takes an awkward selfie to send to Grimm. Richards and Susan Storm also have a scene that implies romantic feelings, but the subplot is dropped and their relationship never comes up again. Johnny Storm jokingly refers to Von Doom as “Adolf”, presumably because he is from Eastern Europe. This unintentionally ends up making Storm look more like a jerk than a harmless jokester. This also implies a lack of research by the creators, as Von Doom is Latverian, meaning he has Romani heritage. The Romani were the second most killed group during the Holocaust, after the Jews, making Storm’s joke about Von Doom being a Nazi quite offensive.
The teleporter is completed, and very promptly tested. The testing consists of a single drone and a single chimpanzee. The chimpanzee is incredibly obvious CGI, and it raises the question of why they couldn’t just used a real, trained chimpanzee. The scene also presents how poorly thought-out the film often is, as a scientist only looks briefly at the ape before proclaiming the machine fit for human use, without examining it in any other way.
Richards, Johnny Storm and Von Doom get drunk and rant about how they should be the first visitors to the new dimension/planet, and not trained astronauts. They decide to go themselves that night. Richards calls Grimm, who sees nothing wrong with the plan, and he agrees to drive over. The group (again, rather sexistly sans Susan) get in the teleporter, which can somehow be operated by three drunks, despite requiring a room full of scientists earlier. They are transported to a generic, poorly animated sci-fi landscape. They start exploring and find some mysterious green energy, which they idiotically decide to touch. This, of course, doesn’t end well and the group runs back to the teleporter. Von Doom falls and is left behind. Meanwhile, Susan is, for some reason, the only one to notice that they’re gone. She raises the alarm, which no one in the facility reacts to. The teleporter returns to the earth and causes an explosion. The four are all mutated, including Susan, inexplicably. It takes over half the movie for the title characters of this superhero movie to get their super powers, which is just unacceptable.
Richards wakes up in a military base and finds that he has the power to stretch himself. The surprisingly unsupervised patient escapes through an air vent and we see Grimm, who has been turned into living stone, Susan Storm, who can become invisible and Johnny Storm, who can produce fire with his body. The entire scene is filled with body horror, and the jarring tonal shift is pretty awkward. Richards abandons his friends, escapes the military base and hides out in South America. This raises several questions:
- Later on, we learn that containment suits are needed to control their powers. However, despite this, Richards is able to escape the base, travel from North America to South America and create his own containment suit while he should be unable to control his powers. How?
- How would Richards manage to get to South America in the first place?
- Why would Richards completely abandon his friends? Especially after he promised to help Grimm?
We spend some brief time in South America, only to abruptly time-skip one year to find Richards building a home-made teleporter. However, this sub-plot is completely dropped, and Richards is captured and brought back to the military base, making the last several scenes somewhat pointless. We find that the military has been manipulating the group, forcing a despondent Grimm to go on missions and training the Storms to do the same. We don’t actually see these missions, just a brief video on a TV screen. This is especially disappointing, as trailers implied that Grimm’s missions would receive a larger focus than they ended up getting.
The military uses Richards to rebuild the teleporter and promptly sends in a team of explorers. The explorers find Von Doom in the alternate dimension/planet, who has somehow survived a year without food or water. Von Doom now has a truly ridiculous appearance. It consists of a hood and cape and a space suit that has turned metallic. It fails for two reasons: firstly, it makes no logical sense, as there would be no fabric for Von Doom to make the hood and cape and secondly, it looks incredibly stupid. Von Doom’s design could perhaps best be described as “an old hobo wearing dirty tin foil.” It is honestly the worst character design I have ever seen in a superhero movie.
The explorers take Von Doom back to the military base. He proceeds to give the incredibly cliched line of “There is no Victor, there is only DOOM!” and go on a killing spree. He does this by violently exploding people’s heads and the entire scene is unnecessarily graphic. It’s also unforgivable that the movie’s actual antagonist doesn’t appear until the final 15 minutes of the film.
For poorly explained reasons, Doom has declared war on humanity and plans to destroy the Earth. He kills Dr. Storm, who was perhaps the film’s best acted main character, and travels back to the other dimension/planet. The four follow him in an attempt to avert his plan, and the climax begins. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it’s full of bad CGI, terrible fight choreography and rushed character development.
Fantastic Four is a failure on all fronts. The characters are bland and have no chemistry. The CGI and special effects have no place in a $120 million movie. There is far too little action, and the action that is there is laughable. The tonal shifts are jarring and the pacing is terrible. It is plagued by plot-holes and inconsistencies. It’s also incredibly boring.
But worst of all, Fantastic Four is embarrassed, both of being a superhero movie and of being a Fantastic Four movie. A character states that they don’t have superpowers, they have “aggressively abnormal physical conditions” They do almost no superheroics. None of the characters go by their superhero titles, and the term “Fantastic Four” is never uttered in the entire film. The dark and gritty tone is about as far away as you could possibly be from the source material’s general light-heartedness. If Fox ever wants to make a good Fantastic Four film, they must learn from their mistakes and realize what makes the characters work.
Also, someone tried to deface one of my questions to promote this movie, which is not cool.