Twentieth Century Fox
1 hours, 46 minutes
At this point, you’ve probably already heard that Twentieth-Century Fox’s latest incarnation of “The Fantastic Four” is a terrible movie. It has been so lambasted by critics and now rejected by its own director that the failure of the film is destined to become legendary. I wish that I could tell you that it’s just another case of snobby big-city film critics piling on what they feel is one comic-book movie too many. I wish that I could tell you that because I really wanted to like this movie. I overlooked the brooding, grim tone of the trailer, I pish-poshed all the negative early buzz, I even ignored the naysayers who (rightly as it turns out) claimed that Fox could never make a good “Four” movie, having already botched it twice in the last ten years. Unfortunately, the naysayers were right, the buzz was accurate, and the tone was the least of the movie’s problems. “Fantastic Four” is simply a bad movie.
The story begins with a young Reed Richards, destined to be a brilliant scientist, and his good pal Ben Grimm, destined to be a pile of rocks, as they navigate the complicated waters of elementary school. Years later, Richards goes to work for Dr. Storm, an ambitious scientist convinced that inter-dimensional travel can be achieved. Working alongside are Susan and Johnny Storm, as well as the brilliant but troubled Victor Von Doom. The first thirty or forty minutes of the movie aren’t too bad. The dialogue isn’t great, but I was interested enough in the characters. The movie never really gets us deeper than surface level, however, because abruptly the science project is solved and we move into the next phase of the story. When I say solved, I mean the idea of inter-dimensional travel, which, to be honest, is never really explained. Whatever they’ve done, the scientists are able to zap a pod, which looks like a bunch of interconnected vertical tanning booths, into another dimension and physically to another planet. Naturally, this success leads the powers that be to discuss recruiting astronauts to actually visit said planet. This, however, doesn’t sit well with Victor or his fellow engineers. They make impassioned speeches about how no one remembers the engineers who worked on the Apollo missions, but everyone knows about Neal Armstrong. That speech only served to highlight how ridiculous the “science” in this movie is. Apollo employed hundreds of people and took a decade to get to the moon. The interstellar, inter-dimensional, earth-shattering scientific feat being attempted in this movie seems to take a few months and appears to be run entirely by a small group of grumpy twenty-somethings. Anyway, logic and sensible story-telling having all but disintegrated by this point, the scientists decide to get drunk and take dad’s transporter out for a spin. Reed, for some reason, calls his buddy Ben, despite the fact that he’s in no way qualified to do anything scientific at all, and the two pals, along with Johnny and Victor pull on space suits and away they go. Susan, the naggy girl who follows the rules, only finds out later that they’ve gone and shows up just in time to get caught up in their catastrophic and explosive return. The unstable planet has swallowed up Victor and bathed the rest in a bizarre energy. When Reed wakes up in the hospital he’s horrified to discover that his arms and legs can stretch to amazing lengths. Johnny Storm is a walking fireball, Susan is appearing and disappearing at random, and Ben is the aforementioned pile of rocks. And just when you think the movie is going to be about the line between super-ability and disability, and perhaps a little character development as these, admittedly, fine actors learn to deal with their new-found powers, everything jumps forward. Reed sneaks out a window and runs off into the woods and the next screen states “One Year Later.” The movie was already off the rails, but its at this point that there’s no coming back.
The worst part about “Fantastic Four,” and I know how strange this sounds considering what a trainwreck it is, is how short the movie is. IMDB lists it at 100 minutes, but at least 12 of those must be credits because by my calculations it didn’t even clock in at 90. This feels like a movie that was butchered in the editing bay. All the interesting stuff must have happened in that “One Year” because by the time we get back the film is rocketing toward a completely unsatisfying and abrupt conclusion. I was frankly floored when the credits came up because I thought we had at least twenty minutes left. As heroes, these characters show potential, though the story they are asked to populate is hogwash. As a villain, Dr. Doom is a total fail. He looks cheap, his motivations make no sense, and he’s probably only in the film a total of ten minutes. Director Josh Trank, who gave us the interesting and moving “Chronicle” has officially distanced himself from the project, saying the film that’s been released is not the film he delivered. I can believe it. The parts of the movie that, while not great, almost work are the early character stuff. The action at the end is unbelievably bad and feels completely different, tonally, from the rest of the film.
“The Fantastic Four” was Marvel comic’s first super-group. Much as I hate to say it as a fan of comic book movies, maybe this one just needs to stay on the page and off the screen. Three big-budget tries have produced nothing but epic misfires. Unless the rights revert to Marvel Comics, who seem to have the Midas touch when it comes to these kinds of films, I think the most fantastic thing about this property would be to leave it alone.
“Fantastic Four” is rated PG-13 for violence and language.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.