Monday, January 4, 2016
Then Fox dropped this movie on us, and I began wondering what went wrong between this movie, and last year's incredible Days of Future Past.
So, how about that title? Fant4stic. Wikipedia lists the films name as Fantastic Four, Impawards (The place where I get most of the posters I use during my movie reviews) lists it as The Fantastic Four, the title-card within the movie says that it's titled Fantastic 4, and the box-art, the disc, the slipcover, and the voucher card for the digital copy inside the case all call the movie Fant4stic. Let's just get this out of the way right off the bat, that's an incredibly stupid title. I know it's supposed to be pronounced as "Fantastic Four" but that four looks nothing like an A. Even if it did, the title would just be "Fantastic." Did the people at Fox not realize that we stopped replacing letters with numbers around the time of F3AR? Or did they just not notice that everyone hates that as a concept and will mispronounce the name on purpose just to make fun of it? You know, just like I've been doing in my head whenever I write the name of this movie.
This movie supposedly starts off in 2004, but it seems to have borrowed most of its ideas from the sixties, back when the Fantastic Four were created. Reed Richards (Played by Miles Teller) is a smart kid who's criticized by his teacher for wanting to make a teleporting machine.
The people at Fox realize that Star Trek is a thing, right? An incredibly popular and influential thing at that! The TV series' were popular, they were making hundreds of millions on the movies, which were coming out every two to three years! I think it's probably safe to say that Star Trek was mainstream by the '90s, if not by the '80s. Not only is it entirely unbelievable that anyone would be making fun of him for wanting to build a teleporter, the teacher says that it's not "real science" I'm sorry, what? We've got actual scientists working on this stuff right now in the real world! Watch an episode of Nova, my god!
Reed Richards makes friends with his classmate, Ben Grimm (Played by Jamie Bell) when he's scavenging materials from Ben's family's junkyard. They go back to Reed's house to build the teleporter, and they wind up blacking out all of Manhattan after teleporting a toy car... Somewhere. They get a pile of sand back in place of the car.
Let's deconstruct this scene bit for bit. For some reason, Reed is using a bunch of Nintendo 64's wired into each other as processing power for his teleporter machine. A ton of multicolored N64's with a few controllers.
Question: Why are controllers necessary if you're just using the consoles for their processing power? And then we get to a statement. Even back in 2004, you could find computers as powerful as at least two or three N64's that people were throwing away. Then we come to the realization that most of the N64's are the rare colored variations which are incredibly difficult to find, and are usually expensive if you do find them. Even back then, it would still be cheaper and more efficient to buy or scavenge old computers than to use a bunch of N64's wired up in parallel. I also happen to know that the Nintendo 64 wasn't the easiest thing to code for, so there's another reason why a hobby programmer, even back in 2004, wouldn't be using them in anything as complex as this. Speaking as a hobby programmer, I can only assume that Nintendo must have paid Fox for product-placement. And if that was the case, why didn't they use GameCube's instead? They're easier to program for, and significantly more powerful. Then again, that would raise a whole 'nother problem. Honestly, it should have just been a bunch of old PC's wired together if they wanted it to be believable to actual nerds like myself.
Flash forward ten years, and despite having a literal working teleportation machine, Reed and Ben's teacher still doesn't think that it's actual science, which is even more ludicrous now than it was back in 2004. How does a science-teacher not stay up-to-date on... Science?
Ben and Reed are disqualified from the competition for absolutely no reason, but Sue Storm (Played by Kate Mara) and her (adoptive) father, Doctor Franklin Storm (Played by Reg E. Cathey), drop by their booth and explain that they've been working on the same kind of machine, but haven't been able to figure out how to get things to return. Reed and Ben have (off screen because developing characters and technology over the course of a decade is hard) so they give Reed a scholarship to The Baxter foundation. Apparently it's a government-funded institute for gifted youths, but Dr. Storm is having a hard time securing funding.
Question #1: Why are Dr. Storm and his daughter hanging out at a high-school science-fair? There are more efficient ways to find genius kids than by running around random science-fairs looking for kids with good ideas. These days, genius kids become internet stars.
Question #2: Why didn't they also give Ben a scholarship as well? Ben was the engineer on the project, and as far as the audience knows, he was crucial to them not blacking out the whole city more than once. As it is, after the first ten minutes of the movie Ben doesn't show up again until around the halfway point.
Question #3: Why the HELL didn't anyone notice that Reed and Ben blacked out Manhattan a decade ago? That alone should have put them on the map. It's not like New York City is some teeny town in the middle of nowhere, it's one of the biggest cities in the country! People would notice if the power went out in the whole city!
Dr. Storm goes to talk his old apprentice, Victor Von Doom (Played by Tody Kebbell) into rejoining the "Quantum Gate" development team. Victor is apparently infatuated with Sue, so he decides to get back in the game. I kinda feel like Ben was written out of the story just so they could shoehorn Doctor Doom into the main cast. Just like they did back in the last Fantastic Four movie, and it didn't make much sense back then either.
If you know anything about Doctor Doom, you know he's the ruler of Latveria and that he's the arch-nemesis of the Four. Notice how there's nothing in there about him being a whiny teenage genius from New York. I know his resume says he's from Latveria, but he doesn't have an accent, he doesn't seem to have any family, and they never actually mention Latveria in any of the dialogue. For all we know that shot could have just been added in at the last second with CGI.
Sue, Reed, and Victor work together for a while on the Quantum Gate (Which can take them to an alien planet they call "Planet Zero") before the movie realizes that we need a Human Torch, and decides to cut to Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) streetracing in a scene lifted straight from The Fast and The Furious. Johnny gets arrested and Franklin bails him out, confiscates his car, and forces him to work on the Quantum Gate project if he wants to get his car back. Johnny is apparently this movies equivalent of Mycroft Holmes, he's incredibly smart and doesn't want to do anything intellectual. But unlike Mycroft, instead of being a part-time drug addict and part-time spy, he races modified cars.
The four of them manage to get a much larger Quantum Gate working, but the Baxter Foundations wants to contact NASA so they can use actual astronauts on the expedition as opposed to a group of noodley nerds without the proper training. Reed, Victor, and Johnny get drunk and decide to hop across dimensions in the Quantum Gate pod. Because they need a designated sober-person and because he's been left out of all the other important parts of the movie, they decide to call up Ben Grimm so he can travel to the alien planet with them. It apparently not occurring to them that they should probably wait until they're no longer drunk to do this. It's not like NASA is gonna be sending people to the planet tomorrow, it's gonna be at least six months before they really send anyone. And who knows, you guys might be able to go anyways! Maybe if you'd built a capsule with room for more than four people you guys could tag along with the real astronauts!
They show up on the planet, plant an American Flag, and somehow manage to rappel down a cliff despite being incredibly drunk. They investigate some pulsing green goo down the cliff, and Victor (Like a complete idiot) puts his hand into the goo and causes an earthquake.
This is why you send over trained astronauts and not a bunch of drunken idiots who aren't trained properly!
They attempt to climb back up the cliff and get back to the capsule, but Victor's anchor-rope snaps, and the remaining three book it back. Sue has noticed this by now and has started the return sequence on the pod. Unfortunately the pod has started to malfunction, and they bring a bunch of stuff back with them. Sue gets zapped by the Quantum Gate, Johnny catches fire, Ben gets covered in rocks and Reed is stretched out somehow. They all wake up in a government facility, Reed escapes because he's now made of rubber, and then the movie skips a whole year.
One of the biggest issues with this is the design of the capsule. The reason why Ben turns into a gigantic rock-man is because the hatch on his pod came loose. There's a reason why they use the smallest possible entrance into a larger capsule for the moon-lander, so they wouldn't have that kind of issue! Coincidentally, when Franklin brings in NASA, they design the capsule properly so that kind of thing doesn't happen, and Reed bags on it because it's not "pretty"
From this point on, the movie starts to fall apart even more than it did in the opening ten minutes. IE, when the Fox-mandated reshoots started. Kate Mara is quite obviously wearing a wig in a few of her scenes, and there are plenty of times where The Thing's mouth looks incredibly derpy, although this is a problem with the CGI mouths in this movie overall. There are other issues I'll bring up later.
The government has made the team new suits which react to their powers. Johnny has something that doesn't burn, Sue's suit turns invisible with her, and Ben doesn't get a suit at all. Or pants. Or any clothing at all. Meanwhile, Reed has built a makeshift suit for himself out of a ton of fabric and a bunch of elastic cord.
Reed is in South America trying to rebuild the Quantum Gate, and he's apparently figured out how to shape-shift into other people, which wasn't something I was aware he could do. Thanks to him using an email account that Sue knew about, the government is able to track Reed down. Apparently everyone except for Johnny is mad at Reed for leaving, but there's not really any explanation as to why. This is why you don't skip a year like this, it just raises too many questions. And if you think it's difficult to explain now, trust me, it gets worse!
After they bring Reed back, they finish the second Quantum Gate so they can go back and see if they can control the powers they gained, maybe figure out how to use the stuff on the planet as a power-source or whatever, but they wind up finding a horribly scarred Victor on the planet. Him somehow managing to survive for a year there without any obvious form of sustenance, water, breathable air, medical supplies to repair all the broken bones he must have sustained in that massive fall a year ago. His survival is utterly impossible, and I don't care if he's gotten superpowers, they don't bother explaining what his powers are or how they work. Also, do you remember what I said about the CGI mouths in this movie looking incredibly derpy? Well Doom takes this to a whole new level. At least Ben's face only looked stupid for like one scene, Doom's face is frozen in one expression for the rest of the freaking film. They're trying to paint Doom as a slasher-movie villain, and his incredibly stupid face undermines it all. Imagine how scary Jason Voorhees, or Michael Meyers, or the Alien, or the Predator would have been if they'd been wearing a smiley-face mask and squeaked like a rubber-duck whenever they killed someone. That's not scary. That's a comedy film. Don't do that if you're trying to sell us one of the greatest villains in comic history as an unstoppable killer. And if you've got one of the greatest villains in comic history at your disposal, maybe don't vaporize him at the end of the film! Why the hell would you do that?
Oh, yeah. Spoiler warning. Sorry, I wasn't aware anyone still cared about this movie at this point. This is the same issue that the original Fantastic Four movie had, they introduced Doom too soon, tried to give him some kind of history with the Four, and then killed him off at the end of the movie in an anticlimactic fight which doesn't really make any sense when you think of it. The original Fantastic Four had Reed misusing the term "Supernova" and the Four turning Doom into a metal statue. This movie has the studio abusing physics until they vaporize Doom and barely manage to not get killed themselves. But we're getting way ahead of ourselves here. Let's continue with the summary, shall we?
Doom finds out that they want to try and use Planet Zero as a source of clean energy, and he gets mad and decides to destroy the Earth, even though he made this big speech earlier about saving the planet. This is something I didn't mention earlier, but Doom has this weird environmental shtick that's never really explained. He keeps talking about how they need to save the planet, stop exploiting its resources and polluting it. That's a nice sentiment and all, and if you want to get that across, that's fine. The problem is that they act like the world is going to end in our lifetimes. News flash, we've got a timetable about what's happening and how long it's gonna take, and Doom's whole spiel about saving the planet doesn't make a whole lot of sense in relation to that. Then there's the fact that Doom wants to protect the life on Planet Zero, a world which appears to be utterly inhospitable! Does it support life? Is it completely barren except for all of the mutagenic energy liquid? We don't know! Because the movie never actually explains this to us! Which means we're left to our own imaginations, and since all we saw was energy and a barren wasteland with no life in it, the obvious conclusion is that Doom is being incredibly stupid right now.
Besides, Doom is supposed to rule Latveria, which is a country full of people, not a barren planet! His attachment is to Latveria, not to some planet he's been stranded on for a year!
Anyways, Doom flees to Planet Zero to try and destroy Earth, but The Four follow him through the portal and try to kill him. This is where the movie starts to come together a bit, but it starts to fall apart a bit towards the end of the scene. Doom is practically invincible until The Four manage to work together as a team without actually doing much differently. I feel like I'd be more kind to it if the rest of the movie was better, but as it is it just feels pretentious.
They defeat Doom in a way that he wouldn't be able to come back from, but you know he'd have been back in the sequel. They then travel through the portal back to Earth before it closes, and The Four are given their own base, which is called Central City, which DC fans might recognize as the hometown of Barry Allen in The Flash. This initially threw me, but then I looked it up and realized that Marvel had a Central City before DC did. Even though I know a lot about comics, TV and movies, occasionally I learn something new while researching these reviews.
So, while the ending wasn't 100% terrible, the rest of the movie was just a poorly made Chronicle knockoff. Funny, since Josh Trank directed both movies, and brought one of the stars of Chronicle along for the ride, Michael B. Jordan. Also funny is the fact that both Chronicle and Fant4stic share a lot of the same issues. The difference is that Fant4stic has a much looser focus, and far too many characters. Andrew Detmer's character traits have been split between Reed, Johnny, Ben, and Doom, Matt Garetty's are divided between Reed and Sue, and most of Steve Montgomery's character traits have been dumped onto Johnny, with a handful of them tossed Ben's way. Fitting, since they're played by the same guy. Doom has the same weird transition between hero to villain that Andrew had, except that he's not as interesting or sympathetic as Andrew was. Reed appears to share Andrew's intelligence and possibly his abusive parents as well. I don't know, we don't know anything about him. He definitely shares Andrew's dopey, mopey, innocence. Ben definitely shares Andrew's abusive family, except that it's his brother who abuses him. Then he's got the brute-strength bruiser traits from Steve, except that they've been intensified. Then we've got Sue, who doesn't seem to do a whole lot until the end of the movie. She, like Matthew, is the sweet one who grounds everyone else. She also serves to bring the plot back together after that unnecessary time-skip.
Now we come to the cast. Let's start off with Toby Kebbel as Doom. You might remember him as one of the minor villains in 2010's The Sorcerer's Apprentice. If he'd had a better movie to work with and wasn't playing Doctor Doom and maybe had a better villain costume, I think he'd be able to pull this off. The problem is that Doom in this is essentially a Captain Planet villain from the mirror universe. Kebbel isn't an issue, I think he'd be able to pull this off if he'd had better material. Fant4stic is a good counterpoint to Star Wars Episode VII specifically, and Star Wars in general in that they couldn't make the villain threatening with his mask on, much less without one.
Now we come to Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm. Right off the bat, I didn't get why he was cast as Ben, because he's not tall enough or muscular enough to be believable as The Thing. He pulls off the voice, but I just didn't expect him to be The Thing. Personally, I liked Michael Chilkis's Ben Grimm. He was pretty cool, and best of all, he actually has the look down! It's not much of a stretch looking at him. Bell on the other hand is muscular, but he doesn't really look like The Thing as he's portrayed in the comics.
Now we come to Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. Jordan's casting caused no small amount of controversy, namely due to the fact that Sue Storm was still white and everyone was wondering how that was going to work. We later found out that Sue was adopted, and in the end it didn't really matter since it was never explored to any ramifications. Johnny and Sue appear to have a bit of a rivalry, but otherwise get along. Is he good in the role? Yes. Does that make the movie better? No. Would I like it if he stuck around for yet another reboot? I don't know. Who cares? At this point I'm unconvinced that The Fantastic Four can even be done correctly in film form, and it might be a good idea to just let it sit for a while.
Finally, we get to Kate Mara as Sue Storm. Sue doesn't really do a whole lot in the film until towards the end except interact a bit with Reed. Then again, nobody does much in this movie.
Something I realized towards the end of the film was that it started ripping off The Incredibles. Which is funny, since The Incredibles was obviously heavily influenced by The Fantastic Four. You know that scene in The Incredibles when Mr. Incredible was enveloped by those expanding balloon-things? Well during the final battle, Doom tossed a bunch of rocks at Ben, and they covered him in much the same manner as the balloons did in The Incredibles. Then there's the time when one of Reed's limbs was pinned in place by something and he had to stretch himself across a distance to get to his goal, like Elastigirl did in The Incredibles. Not to mention the fact that the stylization and presentation of Sue's powers is almost identical to that of Violet's in The Incredibles. Sue in the comics had barely visible force-fields she formed around her hands, Sue in this movie has violet force-fields that she forms as a bubble around her. She also sorta wears her hair the way Violet did. Johnny is pretty much the only one who doesn't have a scene ripped-off from The Incredibles. Fortunately Doom doesn't use rocket-boots or gadget-gloves like Syndrome did.
I've heard that there was a sequel that's now been canceled, which I think is kind of a shame. The way the movie ended, I thought that a sequel might be able to fix things.
All in all, Fant4stic was pretty confused, takes way too long to get to its point, and by the time it does get to the point, you'd be lucky if the audience still cared. I didn't think the ending was bad, per se, but it certainly wasn't a good way to end a movie. Then there's literally everything else piled upon it. If it weren't for the incredible amount of hype we saw leading up to the release of the film. I don't even watch trailers, I have refused to be a party to the hype-train ever since the release of Abduction, and the massive let-down that movie was. The movie we got was less than half of the movie that was promised, and that's one of the biggest issues with the film.
In the end, Fant4stic was an incredibly mediocre film. It's got good moments, and bad moments, and that's why I'm giving this film a 4.3*. Personally, I'd like to see a directors cut of this movie, with all of the Fox-mandated reshoots replaced with Trank's original takes.
Image from Impawards.com