Fantastic Four is a movie that has been plagued with problems since even before its inception, as it was following in the footsteps of its unconnected predecessors—both of which, mind you, are bad movies. This reboot, however, didn't just have to deal with that, as it ran into controversy when it was announced that the cast were instructed not to read the comics for inspiration, as it wouldn't be taking from the source material. Of course, there was controversy when it comes to the cast itself, too, when Michael B. Jordan was announced as Johnny Storm. Then, the problems just kept piling up to the point where we now have a film that sits below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes and is a box office flop made by a director (Josh Trank) that has lost out on a Star Wars project and a production studio that has just as bad of a tarnished image as he does, if not worse.
When I sat down to watch this film, I already knew it was going to be bad, as I'm not particularly fond of The Fantastic 4 from the comics to begin with, but I also knew that the movie itself wouldn't change my mind about that. Keep in mind that I've gone into films before where I was proven wrong, such as Heath Ledger's Joker or the first Transformers (I thought it would be terrible, but I enjoyed it a lot...and subsequently hated everything about the sequels). Hell, I thought Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be atrocious and I also figured Ant-Man would fail.
I was not wrong about my trepidation for this movie, and as much as I would like to do a Making the Grade edition, I honestly cannot think of a better way to present my review than to simply break down all of the flaws in the film, because there's almost literally nothing supportive for me to say. As such, I went about writing notes down throughout the movie about all of the problems that I had with it.
Thus, I present to you, in relative order of appearance rather than importance (because let's face it, with a list this big, there's no one most important reason why this movie sucks)...
America's Favorite Pastime in 2015's Worst Movie
This movie starts off with audio about a kid wanting to play baseball. Within the next couple of minutes, we see Ben Grimm holding a baseball bat. Do you remember the scene from the trailer of Ben playing baseball? First off, that scene isn't in this film, which is a recurring element where shots from the TV spots and commercials are not in the movie itself. Second, what's up with all the goddamn baseball?
Little Richards—No, Not the Singer
The child actor who plays Reed Richards is pretty bad. He delivers his lines like he memorized them and recited them from memory rather than tried to convince the audience that he's an actual human being feeling the emotions that predicate saying those lines.
My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad, and Me
Why does every character in this film have a problem with their parents? Reed's father is neglectful and cares more about watching football (surprised he's not watching baseball) than he does the safety of his kid who is creating a black hole which could destroy the universe. His mother? Well, she's just hanging out in the kitchen, oblivious to everything happening. Ugh.
Then there's Ben's parents, who are physically abusive. Did we really need to give "it's clobbering time" a backstory where it's his deadbeat asshole father's catchphrase that he uses before he smacks Ben? That's fucking terrible!!
Later on, Johnny Storm is pissed at his dad, Franklin Storm, because....why? He sees potential in him? He doesn't want him to ruin his car and get into an accident and fucking hurt himself? Oh, maybe he's just pissed off because Franklin was a nice enough guy to adopt Sue, because Johnny just has to be jealous of her in some fashion, too, right? You know who else has a strained relationship with Franklin? Victor, who is like a surrogate son. Then, Reed becomes a surrogate son to Franklin as well.
You know who could have used a surrogate father figure? I don't know, maybe Ben Grimm—the one who is probably still being smacked around by his dad at home while everyone else is goofing around for 40 minutes.
I don't buy that these actors are supposed to be the ages represented in this film whatsoever. At the scene with the science fair, Reed looks like he should be a goddamn professor more than a high school student. Wait, is he supposed to be in college? No, that can't be, because there's a little kid representing at the fair. Oh fuck you, his elementary school teacher is here, too? Is Reed Richards a 20-something year old student of nowhere who is hanging out at a 5th grade contest?
The World's Smartest Man is Dumb
In Iron Man, it's quickly said that Tony Stark graduated from MIT at the top of his class at the age of seventeen. That's because he's a genius. Reed Richards—arguably the smartest person in the entire Marvel Universe to such ridiculous levels that it isn't even remotely believable—can't even get into college on his own, let alone what should have happened with him skipping grades and being a college graduate when he was still Nickelodeon's target demographic? Also, why is he fucking up his invention so much? Ben Grimm may be the one made of rocks, but Reed's thick as a brick.
Portishead Proves that Sue Storm is Totes Cool, Guys
If you were to say to me that there's a scene where Sue Storm explains to Reed that she likes to look out for patterns in things, I would tell you "okay, but why?" The main reason is because Sue's character isn't exactly someone where patterns defines her. Her powers have nothing to do with patterns, nor does her emotional spectrum or personality work around this idea. She's not The Riddler, where you would introduce that Edward Nygma is into puzzles.
However, I'd buy it more if it wasn't presented to the viewer in such a douchey way. Sue is listening to Portishead. Name drop! Why Portishead? Because music helps her think, because it's repetitious and patterns exist in it, and blah blah blah, see ya later, Reed, because I've said my part of the dialogue and now the scene is over so I'm going to exit the library.
This reminds me of the memo that was leaked from Sony about where to take the direction of Spider-Man, where they said, and I quote:
"EDM (electronic dance music) is the defining music for Millennials. Wondering if there's an EDM angle somewhere with Spidey? His movements are beautiful, would be awesome with a killer DJ behind it."Both that plan for Peter Parker and this scene with Sue Storm come off to me as representative of those horrendous public service announcements where people try to rap because they think that will appeal to the kids they're targeting their messages toward.
Not cool, man. Not cool. Why did you have to go make Sue Storm into a hipster douchette in a poorly veiled and mishandled attempt to give her some fashionable nerd cred with the type of assholes that would think that her listening to Portishead would be interesting?
Before anyone says it, this is not an attack on Portishead. I don't know much about their music outside of the song "Glory Box" which I happen to like. This is an attack on how this element of the movie was utterly unnecessary and its intentions are as transparent as product placement.
Sue Storm has No Soul
Okay, not literally, but can you tell me something about her other than this Portishead nonsense? Sue has the emotional range of a door stopper in this movie. I don't think she smiles a single time, cracks a single joke, or does anything but stare off into nothingness with a scornful look. She seems pissed off 24/7 and I have no idea why anyone would want to be around her, much less tolerate her enough to love her. The first scene we see her in (the stupid science fair for toddlers) presents her as more of the buzzkill assistant to Franklin Storm than it does a central character we're supposed to love.
Victor says he trusts Sue. Why? She doesn't seem to be so trustworthy. Does he have a crush on her? If so, he sure as hell doesn't flirt with her, nor does she flirt with him. Toward the end of the film, Franklin says Reed will listen to Sue in particular. Why? Because she has a vagina? All this character does is pout rather than show why she's supposed to be the connective glue that people can relate to.
Kate Mara is beautiful and I've seen her have so much vivacity to other parts, but she brought no life into this character whatsoever and I have to imagine that part of the reason for that was the script and part of it was the terrible work atmosphere of making this movie.
Sue Storm is Smarter Than Reed Richards
I mentioned above that Reed must be dumb, and at one point in the film, it seems as though the writers felt it necessary to hammer that point down in order to try to build Sue up as smart. She's the one telling him that he could have messed everything up with his experiments. He basically responds with "oh, really? Oops!" before she scoffs.
I can't help but think this is a byproduct of a common problem in writing, where there's a self-fulfilling misogynist perspective. Some people out there are sexist enough to not value women in the same way as men, unfortunately, so some writers think that the audience will be unable to buy into a woman being smart, capable, strong, etc without shoehorning in a scene where she trumps the protagonist male to prove her value. In action movies, it's usually the damsel in distress dispatching a villain that the hero can't take out, followed up with a surprised look on the guy's face and the woman retorting with some kind of line about girl power. This movie doesn't really have any action in it (snore), so instead, it's just a scene where Sue upstages Reed's intelligence.
Again, I reiterate that Reed is always portrayed as the smartest of the bunch by far. Sue is no slouch herself when it comes to intelligence, but the way they handled this scene was all wrong. It could have been played for laughs, but as we've established, Sue has no levity and just acts smug as shit. There could have been a heroic scene where Sue saves the day with her intelligence, but nope, she just gloats.
I don't once question the intelligence and aptitude of the female physician who is examining our "heroes" after their accident, so why would do you think you need to work hard in getting that point across to the audience with Sue? Her attitude in pointing out Reed's failure just makes me dislike her even more. Then again, are any of these characters likable in any way whatsoever? No wonder she fits right in with the group!
Victor Von Doom the Neckbeard
Dr. Doom is one of the best villains in comic book history. He is not someone who would waste his time trash-talking 13-year-old kids in Call of Duty.
How did that concept make it past a joke that was in the writer's room, let alone pitched as a serious idea for the movie and then make it in there? I don't need to elaborate on why this was a problem, do I?
When are We Gonna Get to the Fireworks Factory???
Yes, I'm in the mood for old quotes from The Simpsons, as evidenced above with the Frank Grimes video. That's not just because Dan Castellaneta is in this movie, but also because rewatching old episodes of the first 10 seasons of that show for the 100th or so time is infinitely a better use of my time than having sat through an hour of this garbage. Seriously, go watch "Homer's Enemy" from season 8.
Anyway, back to what this quote is referencing (by which I mean Fantastic 4, not "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" also from season 8 of The Simpsons).
What I mean here is that this film reached a point where I actively noticed how much time was being spent setting up the big experiment as opposed to anything that the audience would really care about. The best superhero films aren't just action sequences, but have legitimate stories to tell. Look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier for a perfect example of what these movies should be. However, the general movie-going audience does not want to see this long of a setup for a science experiment in a movie advertised as having five superpowered people who can do amazing things.
The Fantastic Four have never been the most interesting characters to justify giving a backstory to, so the part of the movie that deals with Reed and Ben becoming friends is kind of unnecessary. Then, way too much time is spent setting up the teleporter to the point where this movie feels more like The Imitation Game rather than a superhero film. In that movie, it's all leading up to the machine being a success, but in this film, the machine is the origin of their powers, so you're basically just dragging the audience along for the boring "behind the scenes" stuff leading up to the point where the viewer can be interested.
Along the way to this point, too, we should have gotten to know the characters and become attached to them, but this film seems to care more about the deus ex machina they're working on rather than who is working on it.
One Year Later
Then, after shit finally starts going down, the film skips past all the interesting stuff with a time jump! Why!? Two-thirds of this movie are spent leading up to them getting their powers and then we just breeze past them learning how to control them and The Thing kicking ass around the globe in background footage and a montage?
Batman Begins had a montage and it was when Bruce Wayne was obtaining the gadgets to become The Batman, because a couple seconds of him spray painting the suit was enough to illustrate that it was in production. This movie basically shows you them buying the paint, going through different colors, buffing out the uneven edges, and then skips past the whole "I'm Batman" reveal.
Adoption from Kosovo
Let's address one of the elephants in the room: the casting of Michael B. Jordan. Unfortunately, a lot of people have an issue with Johnny Storm not being Caucasian for the wrong reasons. If your opinion on the subject of casting for any movie is based on a dislike of a particular ethnicity, I can't support your point of view.
However, I can see why it's an issue in this film. Michael B. Jordan is a great actor who could have done the character of Johnny Storm justice had the script and everything else about the film been better. Anybody cast in this role would have found themselves running into the same problems he did. On top of this, though, some extra problems arise from this casting decision.
This comic was created in a different era where more complex versions of the nuclear family went unspoken. Interracial couples were taboo, adoption could be held as more of a secret to keep, so on and so forth. Now that we're in 2015, we can shake things up to be more realistic, more modern, more inclusive and less discriminatory, but we have to do it in intelligent ways. No problems seem to come up with Samuel L. Jackson's version of Nick Fury, a Polynesian Aquaman, the 5'10" white Bolivar Trask being portrayed by both the black actor Bill Duke and the 4'5" Peter Dinklage, or Candice Patton as Iris West in The Flash, but this movie is so bad that it found a way to fuck itself in this regard, too.
Instead of Sue and Johnny being related by blood, Sue is adopted in this incarnation. Adoption's perfectly okay, but it's a plot point that serves no function other than to try to explain why they look different. Why do they look different? Because they wanted to cast different looking people, not because it's an element of the story.
As if Sue being adopted wasn't a pointless plot element, she was born in Kosovo rather than America, which serves even less of a purpose for the movie. It actually means more to this film that she listens to Portishead than that she's from another country! I'm surprised they didn't also say she was born on February 29th, but even that would have been more useful because you could joke about leap years being every four years.
These two pointless character traits were entirely unnecessary. Why couldn't the Storm family just be an interracial one with a white actress cast as Mary Storm looking more like Kate Mara and Reg E. Cathey's Franklin Storm keeping his resemblance to Michael B. Jordan? Whether you'd play that was biological brother and sister or step-siblings, it's still less work than trying to talk about adopting Sue from Kosovo. Even if that idea seems like too much work, couldn't Sue Storm have just been portrayed by a black woman?
So many headaches spawned from casting Michael B. Jordan, and for what? He didn't bring anything to the table as an actor that justified all the trouble. Clearly, his casting wasn't the magical ingredient that made this film a success, because it's bombing. To be fair to him, that's not his fault, either. Not a single actor in this movie couldn't be replaced by someone else and that's because the script is so bland that they don't get a chance to properly act like the characters. If you replaced Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara with Anton Yelchin, Josh Gad, Kevin Pennington Allison Williams (four names rumored back in the day), this film would have still sucked just as much.
What this problem boils down to is not that Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm outright, but that the filmmakers created more problems for themselves in making that decision and following it up with poor writing with this "adopted from Kosovo" nonsense. Even the first Fantastic 4 movie was able to pull off Chris Evans and Jessica Alba being related—just saying. You can blame bigots for not accepting Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm before seeing the finished product, but you can't blame them for your poor writing capabilities in the script itself.
No Girls Allowed
Sue doesn't get to go with them to the other dimension in the inaugural expedition. What a bunch of dicks. She's an equal part of this team and you just made this a boy's club.
Johnny Storm is a Wuss
Why is the hotshot risk-taking daredevil character who lives life with a flippant attitude, negligent to danger and laughing in the face of action the one complaining that they should go back and not explore the new dimension?
Thankfully, this is a problem that was fixed with reshoots. Originally, Tim Blake Nelson was supposed to be Harvey Elder, who is The Mole Man in the comics. Nelson not only looks nothing like the character, he also has nothing in common with him, so his name was changed to Dr. Allen. I always say that I love cameos from source material characters in these types of films, but that doesn't mean you just slap their name on some random mook and say it's the same thing.
For the record, Mole Man sucks anyway.
The Reveal 2.0
Why is there a scene where The Thing hides in the shadows and then steps out to let the audience see what he looks like after we've already seen what he looks like in an earlier scene? If you swapped these scenes around, it would make more sense to have this be the reveal. Come on, guys, this is basic filmmaking 101 here.
Fantastic 43 Confirmed Kills
It's unsettling to me that in this incarnation, The Thing is a weapon for the government that has killed at least 43 people. Did he need to be a killer? Couldn't he have been used as a weapon without having confirmation on screen that he's murdered people? This means Ben Grimm can be viewed as more of a killer than The Hulk, who has eaten people in the comics.
Finally when an action scene starts to happen, it ends super abruptly and in such a lame way. Just do yourself a favor and check out The Thing headbutting Reed when someone eventually posts the clip on YouTube or makes a GIF of it. It's so awkward, clumsy and underwhelming.
"There is no Victor. There is only Doom."
Woooooow, this is the type of ridiculous dialogue that I thought comic book films were done with.
Also, don't you mean there is no Doom, only Domashev?
Also, don't you mean there is no Dana, only Zuul? Hold the phone, I think I just figured something out. These writers must have watched Ghostbusters, ripped that line off for this terrible reboot movie, and then decided to write the horrible upcoming reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise as well!
Just the same as the video gamer aspect, why did these writers ever think that the comic book audience would accept Victor von Doom being named Victor Domashev? I'll admit that I'm fully aware that "Victor von Doom" is incredibly cheesy, but changing it upsets fans and we're living in a world where Groot and Rocket Raccoon are widely accepted.
Am I Watching Man of Steel?
Look at that big energy beam. It's causing a lot of damage. Someone should stop that soon or there's going to be a ton of casualties. Oh well, maybe Batman will get pissed about it and kill these idiots.
I've Got the Power by Snap
That is one of my favorite songs of all time. I love it. What I don't love is how Dr. Doom has the power to blow people up at the snap of his fingers (actually, he doesn't even need to do that) but he can only do that to the nameless and faceless extras as well as the sacrificial lamb, Dr. Allen. Somehow, Franklin Storm lasts long enough to get out some dying words and our four "heroes" (lol they're so not heroic) can fight Doom without him just turning them into a puddle. That fight should not have been a struggle in the slightest regard.
That Fight is a Struggle...to Watch
The way this origin story was handled as well as the dialogue are clearly more suited for the early 2000s era of comic book movies rather than 2015 and apparently the action comes from that time period, too.
This big, climactic battle is basically just everyone standing around waiting to do a couple mediocre (at best) things that aren't in the slightest bit memorable or even coherent at times. Choreography aside, even the way Doom is defeated is poorly done. The first F4 film had the team work together to contain a supernova blast and cool Doom down after he was heated up. This movie has them toss him into a portal and the rest is basically "shit happens because science, but don't ask us to explain it."
What's in a Name?
When writing this film, I can just imagine people getting giddy over the end sequence where the team names themselves, thinking that the audience would love it. Nope.
The dialogue is terrible in more ways than one, with part of it literally being:
"I think that the four of us should have a name." - Reed
"Why would we need a name?" - Sue
"Because we're a team now, and there's four of us, so we should...come up with a name for it." - Reed
And there's four of us. Well, if there's ever a reason why you would need a name, it's that.
Cutting off before saying the actual name "The Fantastic Four" is totally not the epic ending they were expecting, either. Instead, it's pretty much the perfect way to finish a film that spits in the face of what it's trying to accomplish. Maybe, since they didn't actually get called that team name in the film, we can all just chalk this up to them not actually being The Fantastic Four! That sounds like head canon to me!
Other Miscellaneous Problems
- When Ben and Reed first do their teleportation experiment, they lose the toy car. Wouldn't it have been neat if they stumbled across it on Earth Zero after going there? Sure, it would be wildly coincidental, but with how this film plays with logic, it wouldn't be inexcusable, and it would serve an emotional purpose by hearkening back to what started it all, proving to them that all their trials and tribulations can amount to something great.
- Johnny acted jealous of Sue for one scene and one scene only. After that, they almost don't even interact with one another all that much. Let's just drop that plot point off into an abyss, shall we?
- Why is Ben Grimm shorter than Reed Richards?
- Why did you show me the best part of the whole film, the fist bump scene, in the trailers and ruin it?
- I wasn't a fan of them being drunk when deciding to go to the other dimension, but that's not a huge sin for this movie (especially compared to everything else)
- What did Victor eat or drink for that year he was gone?
- For that matter, how does The Thing urinate? At least when he had pants on, we didn't have a definitive answer to the question "does he still have a dick?"
- "He's stronger than any of us." / "But he's not stronger than all of us." - amateur hour in the dialogue department