As you may have seen the past few weeks, I’ve been having….doubts about Fox’s reboot of the Fantastic Four Franchise. Having watched it, I have….rather mixed feelings about it.
This much-maligned reboot has had quite the uphill battle since the get-go, amidst claims that this movie won’t be ‘like the comics’, set photos of Doom looking….less than convincing surfacing on the ‘net, and even a little (good-natured) rib at the cast in a Punisher comic. This, coupled with the movie being savaged by the critics on release (9% on Rottentomatoes as of this writing), made me lower my expectations quite a bit.
For better or worse, it’s change. Most likely the latter.
Directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), this movie tells the story of Reed Richards (Whiplash’s Miles Teller), Ben Grimm (Snowpiercer’s Jamie Bell), Susan Storm (House of Card’s Kate Mara), and Johnny Storm (Chronicle’s Michael B. Jordan), the titular Fantastic Four, in a revamped origin story of how Marvel’s First Family gained their powers, and their confrontation against Victor von Doom (Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Toby Kebbell). Unlike Tim Story’s 2005 outing with the team, Trank opts for a more hard sci-fi approach, involving almost body-horror transformations and interdimensional travel.
For the most part, this concept works well, and the scene where they first discover their powers was rather impressive. The depiction of the powers in proper fight situations was also well-executed. Not exactly on par with most superhero movies these days, but it did what it set out to do. One thing I do have to give them is that despite complaints of him looking bad in the promotional pics, Ben Grimm’s rocky form looks great in motion.
As seen in th–Wait, we don’t see this in the movie. More on that later.
From an acting standpoint, most of the cast’s performance was good. Michael B. Jordan’s Johnny Storm is the brash, hotheaded (pun intended, probably), and childish at times Johnny Storm we’ve all grown to know and love. Kate Mara’s Sue Storm is smart and a little bit snarky, save the obvious inconsistent wig issues. Jamie Bell’s Ben Grimm is the loyal friend he is in the comics, though he lacks the boisterous quality of the Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing from the comics and his signature Brooklyn accent. Miles Teller’s Reed Richards is awkward, though he has some moments of suspiciously confident comebacks.
Victor von Doom (not Domashev, thank god), as portrayed by Toby Kebbell, initially has the ever-present jealousy of Richards that’s been a core of Doom’s character and the ego to back it up. Seeing all that thrown out into the Negative Zone and trampled by the Annihilation Wave is saddening, really. These major contentions with Doom became my biggest turn-off from the movie.
Doom basically became a cackling madman covered in a suit that makes him look like a metallic version of that failed Jesus restoration painting. The Scanners-style loosely-defined telekinetic powers may be cool, but that doesn’t really help with what his character’s become. If I know Doom, he’d want to use Planet Zero (aka Not!Negative Zone) to somehow rule the world and usher in a new world order under Doom, not destroy it and leave only him as the only person alive. I’ve spoken at length in the past how I can tolerate changes as long as the core of character stays intact. But this time? Both the look and the personality of Doom has been mangled almost beyond recognition. Never have I thought a villain only showing up in the last 20-ish minutes of the movie could be a blessing. If any of you has seen that Doom clip making its way around the Internet, that’s almost half of his scenes.
Toldja, he looks like Monkey Jesus.
The doomed Doom portrayal aside, for a movie that’s about /the/ superhero family, it’s sorely lacking in family. For those who came in expecting to see the always-entertaining joshing and prank wars between Johnny and Ben, prepare to be disappointed (although they do have a little moment in the end that I hope can escalate, if they do decide to make a sequel). The interactions between Reed, Ben, and Johnny are well-written and acted great, but what’s sorely lacking is any interaction between Ben and Sue. They barely even share screens until the very last scene of the film. For a team that prides itself in being a family, it’s something I can’t quite let slide.
While I understand the direction this film is going and how it almost avoids the comic lore like it’s the plague, there are some points that I felt needed to be changed. The fan-favorite battlecries of “It’s clobberin’ time!” and “FLAME ON!” are basically treated like an afterthought here. “It’s clobberin’ time!” was implied to be something Ben’s brother shouts before physically assaulting Ben (only a slap to the head on-screen, but their mother’s reaction drove the point home that it happened often, and maybe even worse than what was seen). Seeing him use the same phrase before, well….clobberin’ Doom is a bit uncomfortable knowing the fact. Thankfully, “FLAME ON!” didn’t have any bad overtones attached to it, but it does feel underwhelming, having Johnny not scream it at the top of his lungs as would befit him. Not a big gripe from me, though.
Being well aware of Trank’s complaints against Fox tampering with the final product, I’m not going to point any fingers, but I will say that there are some important scenes left out that might be better off making it into the movie. Remember that scene in the trailer where Ben drops off a plane and supposedly goes to fight terrorists? (Seen in this trailer, at around 1:21)
Yeah, it’s nowhere to be found in the movie. Instead, we get to see him rip up tanks….from a recorded footage on a TV! With only one big action set piece in the movie and it being the climax, this scene showing what the Thing can do up-close would’ve been a great set piece somewhere in the middle of the movie.
That flying car crack made by the teacher at the start?
It’s no four cars welded into one, but we have to start somewhere.
Yes, there was probably supposed to be a Fantasticar in the movie. It might be a little bit silly, but if the Avengers have a Quinjet and the X-Men has their Blackbird, why not give them a Fantasticar? We do get Sue’s force field powers instead, that supposedly only holds when she holds her breath….a plot point quickly forgotten in the final scene where she yells and yet the force field still keeps up.
There are several more missing scenes from the trailer like Ben playing baseball and an actual, proper conversation between Reed and Doomified Doom, which certainly leaves us wondering how would the movie would be better with those scenes left in. With Trank blasting Fox for tampering with his movie, a director’s cut might be too much to ask. Which leaves us wondering what could have been.
Yes, these guys actually /talked/ at length. At least before it ended up on the cutting room floor.
If you dig deep under the weak villain, severe lack of action scenes for a superhero movie, and the lack of a ‘family’ vibe despite the movie’s insistence, you can somewhat find good acting, portrayal of superpowers that, while nothing too flashy, does the job, and a concept that in better hands may turn out to be a good movie. But as it stands, this isn’t quite that movie. Is it as bad as the critics say? Not quite, though I can’t say it’s good. Can this be improved? Very much so.
This movie has potential, but unlike Reed, it just can’t stretch and get its full potential to shine in fans’ eyes like Johnny on Supernova. Instead, it dropped like Ben out of a plane and will probably be as invisible as Sue in the discussion of good superhero movies.
Bottom line, if you’re expecting a Fantastic Four movie, try not to have too many expectations. If you’re not a hardcore comics fan or a casual coming into this movie blind, you might have more things to enjoy than I did.
A little palate cleanser for all you brave souls who made it all the way through this writing. The /proper/ Fantastic Four.