A Marvel film in a long line of anticipated Marvel films. What could go wrong? I suppose everything. Should I start with the 15% Rotten Tomatoes score before I walked into the press screening of Fantastic Four (aka “Fant4stic”)? Perhaps the fact that calling this film Fant4stic is just a ruse to confuse the audience members before they can judge this heap of steaming TaunTaun dung?
The film is meant to be an origin story, but the screenplay writers (trying to sift through the various writers attached tells me that no one wants to be credited really, but Josh Trank continues to rise to the top of the heap) fail to even consider developing the characters’ back stories. Fantastic Four (2015) begins with Reed Richards meeting Ben Grimm as children when they begin to work on a “matter shuttle” to move biological matter through space. Jump to their high school science fair years later and enter Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey), aka “The Poor Man’s Morgan Freeman” and his adopted daughter, Sue (“Susan” if you’re Victor Von Doom) played by Kate Mara’s eye liner. They recruit Reed Richards (played by Miles Teller and his unexplained facial scars) to join their “university” but leave his BFF Ben (Jamie Bell) to go back to the junkyard where supposedly he’s shaped by his older brother physically abusing him and shouting “it’s clobbering time” at him (which is a super cool origin story for his catch phrase).
Morgan Freeman, errr I mean, Dr. Storm recruits Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, but he could totally be a Franco) with whom he has some really confusing and never explained back story that includes Doom’s obviously forced loved obsession with Sue Storm. To round out the quintet is Dr. Storm’s biological son, Johnny, played by Michael B. Jordan, in an attempt to cast some talent. (The fans threw a fit that Trank wrote in a black Johnny Storm, but Jordan did his best with the swiss cheese plot.) This tag team builds a working model of the shuttle and after getting drunk one night decides to hop into the pods (drinking is bad and makes you do dumb things, obviously). They end up on a planet aptly named Zero (did Trank foresee his Rotten Tomatoes final percentage, perhaps?) which in actuality was cutting room floor footage from Riddick. The CGI was so bad that it was a laughing-stock at our screening.
The foursome dragged along Ben for this mission since he and Reed are BFFs, and then bad things start to happen. Von Doom falls into some weird green Mountain Dew energy slime, Ben gets attacked by rocks, Johnny is blown up by fire, and Sue is knocked unconscious by the blast and proceeds to disappear. All of their powers were pretty much explained except Reed’s. After the explosion he tries to crawl to Ben under the rock pile (or was the rock pile, I think) but his legs are pinned. How Reed gets his power is really a stretch of the imagination, as much as this film is.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were some shining moments in the film. For example, Kate Mara plays Sue Storm better than Jessica Alba did in 2005, which is saying a lot. I loved her sister Rooney Mara in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Kate’s turn as the spurned lover in American Horror Story: Murder House was good, but I could not get over her appearance. Her hair changed shades of dyed blond with and without roots and her eyeliner bugged the hell out of me. (It is almost as bad as Russel Crowe’s mole. Like so bad, it needs it’s own billing line.) In a very brief exchange we learn that yes, she was adopted, and she’s the child daddy scientist likes more. Once she gets her powers we also learn that somewhere in her childhood she watched way too much Wizard of Oz because she flits around half the movie in a giant bubble reminiscent of Glynda the Good Witch. Her relationship with her brother, Johnny, is explained away in very few words and her former fling with Victor is absolutely never, ever explained by anyone.
I loved Miles Teller as Willard in the Footloose reboot and definitely found him less oafish here, but let’s talk about those scars. He has them on his face and neck, and of course, they’re never explained. He’s the nerdy kid who is too smart for his own good. He has friends, the hot chick flirts with him, and he’s the epitome of white privilege, but then what? Nothing. Dude leaves his friends in the most jarring “1 Year Later” BS I’ve ever seen in a film. He disappears and there’s absolutely no explanation of where he goes or why. The film, when he reconvenes with the group, then drops the entire side story Reed was building for himself.
As I mentioned briefly above, in this mythos, Ben’s “clobbering time” comes from his elder brother who physically abuses him for no reason. Ben morphs into The Thing and there’s no existential dilemma like the 2005 film where Michael Chiklis’ superhero at least had a soul. This Ben becomes a lackey for the US military that seems to be run by the uber creepy Dr. Allen (played by Tim Blake Nelson who also appeared in Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk) who couldn’t stop shucking chewing gum through the entire film.
Rounding out the Fantastic Four is Michael B. Jordan who could’ve brought talent to the film, but seriously became the token black guy. His flat, prodigal son added nothing to the film whatsoever (go watch Fruitvale Station if you want to see him be awesome).
Trank rushes this Fantastic Four film, and the audience is always waiting for a payoff that never comes. I felt like we sat through a 2 hour plus film, but, in actuality, we were out the door in just over 90 minutes. This film could’ve had so much potential but fell flat on its face. The pacing of the film was way off and felt like it began to be a movie just before the credits rolled.
Speaking of credits. There was no secret, cool extra scene. They did include a disclaimer that said this film generated 15,000 jobs, though. At this point my plus one mumbled “15,000 people and not one bothered to read the screenplay?” Save your money and skip this Fantastic Flop. You know a Marvel film is bad when Stan Lee doesn’t even cameo in it.