Why Does Everyone Hate ‘Fantastic Four’?
Oh boy, here we go again. We had a similarly themed article concerning Pixels a few weeks ago, a movie aimed squarely at the geek market that failed abysmally. Now we have Fantastic Four, another big budget geek film that is getting murdered by critics and audiences. And like Pixels all the cool kids are coming up with the most insulting and retweetable review quotes they can. But is it really all that bad, or is this a hateful bandwagon?
It’s pretty bad. Let’s look at why. Get through this article and we’ll tell you the one really, genuinely good thing in this movie.
The Story Flows Like a Sack of Rocks Up an Incline
Director Josh Trank infamously tweeted his dissatisfaction with the final product, claiming that the studio had recut the film to the point it didn’t resemble his intended vision. This could well be true, because the story feels like it’s been patched together from discarded left overs. We lurch from scene to scene with the tone and pacing shifting every couple of minutes. The film goes from one act to another like it was edited on Microsoft Powerpoint…which makes some sense because it also reads like a list of poorly worded dot points.
It does start promisingly. Reed Richards is a kid genius with the dream of dimensional travel. He meets Ben Grimm, whose family are jerks and own a scrapyard from which Richards salvages parts. They bond and work together on Reed’s experiments until they go public at (of all places) a high school science fair where their work is dismissed as trickery. There’s some good stuff here, like good performances from the youngsters and a dismissive teacher (Dan Castellaneta for some reason) who lends a relatable element to the story.
But there are warning signs. Like why they still have the same teacher after about a decade, why the Storm family are talent scouting at some regional science fair, why this tech is being debuted at a science fair and not, say, the internet and why these two characters are friends to begin with.
From there Reed goes to work with the Storms and Victor von Doom building a teleporter while Grimm goes…home, I suppose? That’s not explained. After a bunch of scenes of this they remember Johnny Storm was a character in this movie and we go to him racing cars, then being blackmailed into helping build the teleporter. They finish building it, the military tries to seize it, the team gets drunk and decide to use it before the military, go to another dimension and invite Grimm (but not Sue) to go with them, things go awry, they go back and they all have powers (including Sue) but Doom is left behind. Reed runs away, Grimm works for the military, Sue and Johnny…use their powers once. Reed comes back, they fix the teleporter, Doom comes back looking like tin foil, kills people, goes away again, the team fight him, the end.
If that story sounds rushed and pointless, like things happen without consequence like Reed running away and then returning a scene or two later, you’d be right. It feels like it’s hurrying through everything but nothing actually seems to happen. Grimm is forced to work for the military but we never see it and it doesn’t contribute to anything. This applies to really big aspects of the story, like them having superpowers. Sue and Johnny get their powers and are shown using them a total of once before the big confrontation, and it’s largely used against shipping crates.
You can feel the huge swathes of material that’s been gouged out of this movie (either that or it was extremely poorly made from the get-go). The four members of the ‘Fantastic Four’ don’t actually share the screen together until partway through the climactic showdown. They pass off Reed and Sue as having a romance after they share a few lines, and this is pretty much every relationship in the movie. The arch-villain, one of the most famous bad guys in comic history, barely shows his face.
The Characters Develop Not Even a Little
A formulaic story, or even a weak one, can be carried by good characters. 12 Angry Men is literally a bunch of dudes (12 to be exact) talking in a room for about 2 hours and it’s one of the best movies ever made, the characters being the driving force. The characters in this movie about dimensional travel, super powers and attempts to suck the Earth through a black hole are non-existent. They have no distinguishing characteristics beyond their superpowers, which we barely see.
The flat, boring heroes share the screen with an equally boring villain. There’s a reason Doctor Doom is so popular with comic readers – he’s freak’n amazing. He’s bombastic, egotistical, fabulous and downright entertaining. This Doctor Doom looks like he was designed on Paint and doesn’t do…anything, really. His powers aren’t even clear, he just walks around making peoples heads explode and wanting to destroy the Earth for reasons.
At Least the Action is…I Don’t Know, I Tuned Out
There aren’t any action scenes in this superhero movie until the final punch up with Doom. How did this get cleared for release without any action scenes in it? Perhaps they were going for more a sci-fi or body horror feel, but that never comes across either. Grimm gets recruited into the military for covert missions…wait, did they say covert? He’s a pile of rocks! Anyway, he’s in the military and we get some blurry, distant footage of him running around. Sue pushes around some crates and Johnny zips around the sky a bit. Reed punches some guys in a forest (I’m coming back to this later).
At the end of it all Doom sets up some black hole machine and the four heroes go and try to stop him. This might be the point where I say that at least this was fun to watch, but I can’t say that. The movie was so boring I’d started playing Rocket League while the movie played in the background. Have you played Rocket League? It’s SO MUCH FUN! It’s essentially a three-a-side soccer match but played with rocket powered cars! You can drive your car on the walls and use rocket boosts and ram into each other and all that. Most people just drive for the ball and try to bump it into the goals, but some try clever tactics like hanging around the goals or jumping off the walls.
Most of the game is a clusterfuck of chasing around the ball and it’s plenty of fun going at it that way. But on the occasions when it starts to feel a bit repetitive and you start trying to get technical the game you feel pretty cool for pulling off a cool move like saving a goal by driving along the wall and across the front of the net. We’re getting to the point where we’re not all noobs and some people have gotten good enough at it that they’re taking the fun out of it.
Oh shit, I’ve gotten distracted by Rocket League again. This movie is so boring I can’t even make fun of it without my mind wandering. Look, the movie is a total mess. Everything is handled wrong. Pack it up and forget it. Don’t even try another reboot, we have more than enough superhero movies right now. Let it go.
Oh double shit, I forgot to tell you the one really good thing. I really liked the special effects of Reed’s stretchy power. It is massively under-used throughout but when he’s punching those dudes in the forest it really seems like his arms are elasticised and powerful rather than the putty-like quality he had in the previous films. That is all.