The quickest, most non-spoiler way to review the new Fantastic Four, or Fant4stic if you prefer (nobody does), is to simply say that it is exactly what the trailers have presented, but more of it. So if you genuinely like what you’ve seen so far, there’s a chance you may have a decent time with it. If, however, you were hoping there’d be some sort of pleasant surprise that would completely turn around your opinion, you might be as misguided as the sources who swore the classic costumes would appear in the film at some point (they don’t).
For a more thorough description of why this film is a fail in my eyes, we’ll need to go into greater detail. In fact, once you read on there will be TOTAL SPOILAGE. This is designed to save you some time, but who knows – it might persuade you there is something worthwhile in it that I just didn’t see.
Anyway, here are the various ways it turned out to be pretty much as expected…
9. The Director of Chronicle Is Ripping off His Ripoffs.
I liked Josh Trank’s found-footage superhero movie Chronicle, as it did something new with the format and introduced many of us to Dane DeHaan and Michael B. Jordan, who’ve been great discoveries even when not all the movies they’re in are good. I didn’t like Dean Israelite’s Project Almanac so much, which tried to riff on Chronicle with time travel in place of super powers.
But what worked in Project Almanac were the scenes of the young friends using blueprints to build a prototype time machine in their basement, ultimately transporting a toy car and blowing out all the power in their neighborhood. So guess what happens in Fantastic Four?
If you said, “scenes of the young friends using blueprints to build a prototype time machine in their basement, ultimately transporting a toy car and blowing out all the power in their neighborhood,” you’re wrong. It’s a teleporting machine. Totally different.
8. Holding Back the Years
When Reed Richards and Ben Grimm first meet, they’re kids in elementary school (the child-actor for Reed has gloriously fake facial scars to match Miles Teller’s). Seven years pass, and suddenly they’re 28 year-old Teller and 29 year-old Jamie Bell, playing high school students at a science fair, where they’re showing off an actual working version of the teleportation machine. They are promptly recruited there by Franklin Storm, who brings along his presumably hooky-playing daughter Sue (Kate Mara), and immediately recognizes the project as similar to his own top-secret thing.
The machine then smashes a basketball hoop across the room for no apparent reason.
7. Franklin Storm Is Super-Smart, but Kinda Dumb.
“Hey, Franklin. Are you serious about bringing a kid named Victor Von Doom onboard this top-secret project, even though he has a criminal record, and burned down your lab, and creepily crushes on your virginal daughter?”
“I think everyone deserves a second chance.”
“But you just offered him one, and he told you to go away and locked the door behind you.”
“I’m really big on third chances as well.”
6. Regardless of Her Body, Sue Storm Has a Beautiful Mind.
I’m talking literally – she has the schizophrenic mind of John Nash, as played by Russell Crowe in the Ron Howard movie. When Reed tries to flirt with her, she just stares intently like a stalker and tells him she likes music because she’s good at recognizing patterns. Everything is patterns. Definitely, definitely patterns.
She never loses that stare, either. It’s a little unnerving. Maybe it’s because in this telling, she’s originally from Kosovo, a bizarre factoid that never pays off.
5. And That’s Why There Are No Girls in Space.
It’s pretty key to the Fantastic Four’s origin that all four of them travel to either space or another dimension, and gain their powers from cosmic rays. Yet in this one, Sue doesn’t even get to go. She just somehow gets powers anyway, even though she never touches the neon green lava in the other dimension that seems to be the source of the mutation in everyone else.
Now, can we talk about the fact that a high-priority top-secret project is so poorly guarded that the night before NASA are set to become involved, Johnny, Ben, Reed and Victor can just chug some beers, put on spacesuits, and just walk right into the capsule and launch it? I realize that this is somewhat true to their classic origin, but since so much else isn’t, why leave that in there?
Oh, and when they come back without Victor, whom they presumed to be dead in the Negative Zone (or whatever they never call the other planet), how are they even allowed to stay on the project? In what other job do you get to drive the boss’ new vehicle drunk and accidentally kill your coworker without being fired?
4. Are You Serious? Oh, Definitely
Fantastic Four is so serious about itself, and its characters and the dangers of science, that it actually has long montages of characters doing science. And I don’t mean test tubes, explosions and cool stuff – I’m talking sitting at desks and making calculations. Plus everything is dark and bluish-black and has a somber score, just so you know serious science is serious.
This is the movie’s idea of humor: Victor at one point talks about how we’ve messed up the planet so badly we maybe deserve to die, and Sue goes, “Dr. Doom here!” Later, when Victor’s all powered up and ready to make good on his earlier speculation, he says, and I swear to Gozer this is true:
“There is no Victor; only Doom!”
The movie’s idea of a comic-book in-joke, for what it’s worth, is to have “Central City” be the name of the giant lab the team are given at the end to work in.
3. Wring My Bell, B. My Jordan
As expected, Jamie Bell is nothing like any Ben Grimm I grew up reading, and the fact that his abusive brother says “It’s clobberin’ time!” while beating him up puts an unnecessarily dark spin on a fun catchphrase. Once he’s the Thing, however, he starts trying to do that whispery-raspy thing that Michael Chiklis did so effortlessly in the prior films, and it’s passable, if weirdly detached-sounding.
Meanwhile, simply by virtue of being able to act laid-back at times, Michael B. Jordan is the only member of the team to resemble a normal human being. Seriously, if it weren’t for the scene where he borrows the family car for a race and trashes it, these would be the most humorless, un-fun rebellious teens in the history of fiction.
2. Forest Dump
Image from every X-Men movie so far
I have to credit LexG on Twitter for coming up with the concept of the “Fox Forest,” but it’s so true – action movies made by Fox invariably seem to always shoot fight scenes in the same Canadian forest that they presumably get a great tax break on.
They also often feature the Golden Gate bridge. Presumably that’s on deck if there’s ever a sequel to this.
1. Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Doom
It won’t surprise you to know that they get Dr. Doom totally wrong again. It may surprise you just how terribly wrong. The concept is that his spacesuit has literally fused with his body, and the execution is that of a melted and mummified crash test dummy with no mouth and a billion tiny green LEDs. His powers include the ability to create force fields, levitate anything of any size, and the ability to explode people’s heads telepathically, although he only does that once – with Franklin Storm, he’s nice enough to burn him so badly he has time to say some last words to the FF, and when fighting the FF he seems to completely forget that he could go all Scanners on their asses if he wanted to.
His master plan is to create a black hole that will suck up everything on earth and turn it into energy that will power the Negative Zone planet, on which he will then live, all alone. This seems extremely pointless, unless you buy the Alex Jones conspiracies and somehow assume that that’s what all environmentalists secretly want.
He’s also beaten after only like 15 minutes of being Dr. Doom onscreen. Your hopes for the movie will be bludgeoned much sooner.
Luke Y. Thompson has been writing professionally about movies and pop-culture since 1999, and has also been an actor in some extremely cheap culty and horror movies you will probably never hear much about (he is nonetheless mostly proud of them, as he met his wife on one). As editor of The Robot's Voice since 2012, he can take the blame for the majority of the site's content, all of which he creates because he loves you very, very much. (Although he loves nachos more. Sorry.)
Prior to TRV, Luke wrote for publications that include the New Times LA, Los Angeles CityBeat, E! Online, OC Weekly, Geekweek, GeekChicDaily, The L.A. Times, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Nerdist