In honor of this past weekend’s award ceremonies, I thought it would be proper to review one or two of this year’s biggest winners to congratulate them for their monumental achievements in movie making. First up, let’s congratulate Fantastic Four (2015) for taking home three Razzies for Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst Remake/Pre-Quel/Sequel/Rip-Off. Please enjoy as I take my medicine…
Fantastic Four (2015) is a Marvel movie based on the comic book series of the same name. Our young scientists Reed Richards (played by Miles Teller), Susan “Sue” Storm (Kate Mara), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) explore the possibility of shuttling organic matter across dimensions. If you don’t know what that means, it’s a fancy and over-used term for a people teleporter. Upon their first, and unauthorized, drunken expedition to the other dimension (dubbed Planet Zero) one member’s curiosity causes the planet to say “back up bro” and starts to attack them. They rush back to the pods and lose one member in the process (spoiler, they lose Doom). The pods malfunction and grant them the powers they are known for. Time passes and we find Ben becoming a tool for the government and tests being run on Johnny and Sue with Reed surprisingly absent. At the end, they find themselves back on Planet Zero to foil a plan by Dr. Doom (yes, he actually calls himself that) to destroy Earth via Black Hole.
Let me begin by saying that this is not the worst iteration of the Fantastic Four done in live-action. Out of the four that I know of, this is probably the second most fantastic. That’s not to say that the most fantastic (Rise of the Silver Surfer) is a magnum opus either. This definitely has its share of issues – a huge one being it was made by Fox, no Stan Lee cameo, and no Stan Lee input – but let me be fair and start with its good points.
Something that a lot of movies, especially comic book movies, struggle with is the cause and effect of a character’s new abilities. Think of Spiderman; he gets bitten by a spider and gets increased strength and agility, spinnerets on his wrists (depending on the series) that allows him to shoot webs, some limited clairvoyance i.e. “Spidey Sense”, and wall crawling via tiny hairs on his feet and hands. We got a DNA graphic that was probably a Windows XP screensaver at one point, but no one explains why he doesn’t grow eyes or extra legs or why he doesn’t have to shoot webs out his ass like a real spider. I do like first two Spiderman and while we are on this, does New York have a cleaning crew to pick-up all of the webs? I mean somebody has to deal with it because the just leaves it everywhere, but I digress.
Fantastic Four instead tries to ground as much of this in “science” as they can. Writer and director Josh Trank accomplishes this by effectively ripping off David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) and asks, “What if they had other organic or even foreign matter in the teleporter when they return to Earth?” Just like in The Fly, they fuse with whatever else was in the pods that they didn’t come in. How the pod makes the determination as to what can and cannot bind with their DNA is beyond me, but maybe we’ll see it in the sequel or not. Keep reaching Reed…keep reaching.
Grimm’s pod gets clobbered by rocks, Johnny’s gets engulfed in flames, Sue’s pod gets filled with…invisible rocks. How did she get hers again?
Mal: Hey Stan (PremCast fact checker)
Stan: Yes, young hero?
M: You gotta stop calling me that. Anyway, how did Sue Storm get her powers again?
M: Dammit! Focus Stan.
S: She was irradiated by the same cosmic rays that the other three were caught in.
M: Right, but I mean in the 2015 movie, not the books. Apparently she didn’t go to Planet Zero
S: Wait. What do you mean she didn’t go?
M: I fell asleep a few times, so I missing a few spots, but I don’t think she goes with them.
S: So they took a junkyard kid and a guy literally named Doom and not Sue? STAN SMASH!!!
M: OH GOD NO!!!
Since Stan was…less than helpful, the special features on the blu-ray say that she was caught in the explosion upon their return…so invisibility and force fields. Reed’s pod…one sec…
Mal: Hey uh…Stan?
Reed had a Stretch Armstrong in his pocket for good luck or something. Trank obviously couldn’t find a way to justify Reed getting all stretchy. Instead they went, “OH LOOK…he’s on fire!” and cut to black. Doom’s are even harder to explain, but we can get to those later. They didn’t figure out the powers perfectly, but I will give Trank points for effort.
Explanations of the powers aside, I thought that how they depicted the abilities were different but still fantastic. Unlike the other three iterations of this team all four members are somewhat cursed by their powers instead of only Grimm. All of their suits, except for the Thing (who ironically doesn’t have one nor a suit), are built for function and containment. More on the suits in a bit, but not a single one of them appears to have perfect control over these abilities without the suits. When we first see them in the facility on the lab tables, Sue is going in and out of invisibility and Johnny is constantly on fire. This isn’t a fun, family romp that the last two iterations were. There is no a fan-base, no parade, no one cheering their names. Their powers are more in control of them than the other way around and a sense of normalcy like they once had is nothing more than a memory…until the sequel.
While we are on the suits, I think that the costume design was surprisingly well thought out. Grimm, Torch, and Sue are under the supervision during most of the time where they had powers. Johnny’s suit is similar to a racer’s fire suit with odd tubes that suggest some sort of cooling system to prevent him from constantly being on fire. It also has some controls that allow him to change his state. Sue’s costume has a lot of internal wiring that keeps her on the visible spectrum….yeah. Anyway Grimm is naked through the rest of the film. He does not have clothes, but what I like is that the rocks and boulders that make up his body grind and scrape as he moves. It’s subtle, but you can see the dust and sand made from just his moving. Their suits are very militaristic in look and design, but Reed’s is very different. He escaped the facility shortly after waking up and remains on the run from the government. He was constantly hopping countries so it would be safe to assume that he doesn’t have a steady job and cannot use any credit cards or I.Ds. Reed being fantastic at improvising makes his suit out whatever he can find at a junkyard or on the side of the street. It’s covered in random springs and rusted coils that look like he pulled them from washing machines and trampolines. The differences in the suits are big reflections as to what they had done and how life was for the past year.
Now that the good points are out of the way, let’s address the other 85% of 2015’s award-winning Fantastic Four. This is/was envisioned as a franchise and expected the audiences to become invested with the story and the brand new characters. What I mean to say is that this is yet another origin story. You should expect a ton of exposition with any origin story and Trank does a fantastic job at keeping that tradition alive. The pacing and action beats are terrible. The movie opens in 2007 with a twelve year old Reed Richards explaining his concept of his teleporter to his classmates and fifth grade teacher for career day. I get that you have to show his past, but not only do they go so far back, they stay there for around 15 minutes. Every second counts in a 100 minute film and this pre-cursor felt like it was used to pad out time to make it qualify as a feature length film. There is not an egregious amount of moments like this, but why start a movie with this? Who waits FORTY FIVE MINUTES to show any kind of action in a comic book movie? How can you wait seventy damn minutes for the Fantastic Four to actually get…well fantastic?
You know what; let’s skip to them actually completing the teleporter. That is a big chunk missing because nothing…NOTHING happens for a full thirty minutes before this point except for us realizing that Doom wants a piece of Sue. I will say this as best as I can; Sue Storm was unnecessary character as a whole. This sounds misogynist, but I put it to you dear listeners, other than the fact that she is canonically a part of the team, why is she there and what does she accomplish? Can you describe her personality? She was written in as a wedge between Doom and Richards and not much else. She had potential to be a strong character or at least a voice of reason. Instead she was used as the “honey pot.” There are a lot of inconsistencies amongst our protagonists and I could spend days going through them. Instead, I’ll finish this bottle, run through the horseshit, and call it quits. To sum this up; bad characters, terrible writing, terrible lighting, okay effects, and okay acting given the source material. Do yourselves a favor and avoid this flick and most things Marvel done by Fox or Sony. Just watch Daredevil on Netflix to restore your faith in Marvel. #not sponsored.
Life Lessons from Mal:
1. Never work with a guy named Doom
2. NEVER work with a guy named Doom
3. If you are working in a group, have either zero or more than one qualified woman. Otherwise one guy is going to get oddly jealous and try to strand you and your friends in another dimension or suck the planet into a black hole.
Total times I used the word Fantastic: 11