Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: "You tricked me! With a ruse so hackneyed, it would make Stan Lee blush!"

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One Mole Man out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis:
 Mopey millennials grudgingly agree to save the world, whatever,

Tagline: "Change is coming."

Better Tagline: " Let's reboot again/Like we did last...decade."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: High school senior Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has been working with childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) all his life on a teleportation device, so when he succeeds, he's visited by Franklin Storm (Reg. E. Cathey), who — along with adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) are working on their own device. Reed joins the effort, along with estranged project leader Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and Storm's son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). A successful test, unfortunately, leads to the youngsters getting suuuuper powers, much to the delight of Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson), who sees the useful military applications for an invisible woman, a human torch, and a ... guy made out of rocks.

"Critical" Analysis: Outside of its eponymous Cinematic Universe, every Marvel property but one[1] can't get its shit together. We'll be seeing our third Spider-Man from Sony in slightly over a decade, and this is the latest rebootination of the F4 crew since 20th Century Fox tried launching a new series in 2005 (followed by an even more dismal sequel two years later). You can argue the relative merits of the Spidey movies (Raimi's second one is great), but after sitting through Fantastic Four, it's clear nobody at Fox has the slightest idea what to do with these guys.

[1] The X-Men movies, and only if directed by Bryan Singer.

That, or nobody particularly *wants* to make a movie about these guys? We hear over and over how the Fab Four (or whatever) are the cornerstone of the original Marvel Universe, and yet three directors to date haven't been able to make them compelling. Are the Fantastic Four doomed (heh) to be lost in the cracks between other, more biff/pow franchises? That might explain the uninspired approach here.

Or maybe Josh Trank, who directed the nifty but understated Chronicle, was the wrong choice for a effects-heavy blockbuster. The parts of Fantastic Four that do work occur in the beginning, when the cast is interacting as regular humans (well, except for Doom, who we'll get to in a second). The four play off each other well, and Reed's lasting friendship with Ben is mostly believable. Even then, everyone is so dour (so much pensive staring into microscopes and typing on laptops), that Fantastic Four is the first Marvel release that actually feels like a DC movie.

I'm a huge fan of Dr. Doom, one of the greatest comic book villains of all time. So of course Kebbell portrays him not as a merciless dictator with supreme technical and sorcerous powers, but as a video game playing beardo with daddy issues (to be fair, the whole team has daddy issues). I also wouldn't be surprised if he ran the Latverian mens' rights community on Reddit. His final incarnation magnifies this 'half Dr. Robert Gallo from And the Band Played On/half Kent from Real Genius' personality and gives him the ability to blow peoples' heads up, a la Scanners. He also wants to destroy the Earth, because you never leave a man behind, or something.

It's his own fault (and that of Richards), considering the events leading to the disaster in Dimension X (fine, "Planet Zero") are a direct result of both Victor and Reed perpetuating the grand Prometheus tradition of depicting genius men of science acting like complete morons. "Look at this green lava-like substance of a chemical composition never seen before oozing from the ground of a previously undiscovered world...I'm gonna stick my finger in it." Then again, in a movie where dialogue like "His biochemistry is off the charts!" is said with a straight face, maybe I'm expecting too much.

The final battle — which takes place on what looks like a castoff set from Thor: The Dark World and not the city depicted in the above poster — is so incomprehensible I almost assumed everyone was improvising, Bill Murray style, except they apparently had to add computer effects and fill in the green screen at some point. Combine that with lackluster overall effects, weak characters, and desultory performances, and it might be time to deep six the Four for good.

Or at least, until Fox decides to crap out another half-assed movie to keep the rights from going back to Marvel.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar