Film Review: Fantastic Four – It Made My Geek Soul Sad…

f4-characters-poster-usOkay before I start this, there are a few things I want to put on the table. I am a 30 year+ fan of the Fantastic Four – many overflowing long boxes speak to my love I have for these characters. Second, I am open to and usually enjoy re-imagined or re-invented classic characters either in the comics (I loved Ultimate FF and enjoy it when Marvel does alternate versions of the FF) or when modern TV / Movies change details when these characters are brought into the 21st century – so in other words I am not a comic book purest. I am fan of superhero movies in any and all forms – I love these escapist films, even when there are horrible special effects and huge plot holes – hell, I even liked both Ghost Rider movies. Also, I wanted this movie to rock – I was looking forward to it – I came in saying “nothing will make me dislike this movie”… was I wrong.

The best I can say about this movie is that it just fell flat. So many bad choices, so many lost opportunities, so many WTF moments…

Here is the official blurb “Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy”. This is another example of writers reading a paragraph about the original material (possibility even just the blurb above) and then going so far a field of the material it’s hard to recognize. If they had changed the characters / powers, what we would have is a very successful and possibly enjoyable Chronicle 2… what we got was a half-baked, partially-developed story idea that ended up being filmed. The Fantastic Four is Marvel’s first family – sure, they save the universe, fight monsters and travel to other dimensions – but at the heart, the story is about family. That is where the magic of the FF is – in the idea of family. This movie is about a study group.

I think the failure of this movie fell square on the shoulders of the writers. The actors are all good and on their way up, I believe they played the characters out exactly as they were written – one dimensional and lame. The writing team of Steve Kinberg (X-Men DOFP), Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank (Chronicle) either collectively lost writing ability when working with each other or worked separately and jigsawed / piecemealed the story together without talking to one another.

I will give a break down to the bewildering choices for the character development / storyline below and I will try to keep it within the spoiler parameters of what is seen within the trailers.

Reed Richards: Reed is where the FF starts and is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe. Here, he is portrayed as a really bright kid who stumbled upon something really cool. The opening scenes showing Reed talking about flying cars and teleportation in elementary school are very promising, but then the vibe is debunked when he can’t dazzle folks at the HS science fair (which for some reason his elementary school teacher is judging). He might grow into being the brain that will counter beings of cosmic intelligence but for right now he is simply one of the brightest kids in a young adult think tank who is approximately intellectual equals with Sue and Johnny. His chemistry with the rest of team feels forced, this can be forgiven because the FF is not the FF yet… but Reed comes across as “forgettable nerd”.

Sue Storm: In the film, Sue is a Kosovo orphan that is adopted by the Storms, this is kind of interesting but never developed. Sue is the heart of the Fantastic Four, she is the one that pulls Reed back from the precipice of pure intellectualism and lets him know that life is not an equation. None of that happens here, once again it is forgivable given that this is an origin story and that Reed and Sue have just met… but there is no chemistry between the characters at all. The film portrays Sue as an expert at pattern recognition, which as a math geek I think is a pretty cool thing, but then the writers misplace and misinterpret that ability to have her find an e-mail address. Lame.

Johnny Storm: Johnny’s character is perfectly stereotypical and unremarkable here… race cars… impulse issues… authority issues… love / hate relationship with dad… mechanical genius… blah blah blah. And out of nowhere at the end of the movie for some reason starts picking on Ben and gives him the moniker The Thing. Hardly any thought when into the development of this character.

Ben Grimm: Okay, big breath… If Sue is the heart of the Fantastic Four, then Ben Grimm is the heart of the Marvel Universe. He has been the sounding board for Wolverine, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, The Watcher and more. In big Marvel events, Ben has been the everyman at the center of the conscious of the event (Civil War, the first Secret Wars, Secret Invasion, etc.). The film demotes Ben into being a mumbling sidekick. I was expected the audience to be privy to some scene of Ben protecting Reed during childhood solidifying their friendship and showing how really pure of heart Ben is. No such luck, outside of Ben having no friends and him thinking Reed has a shiny invention, there is no real reason he and Reed are friends. Oh, I guess he does carry Reed’s suitcases… This misinterpretation of Ben Grimm is just wrong and ridiculous.

Victor Von Doom: I don’t even know where to begin. Outside of his name and a visual gag involving a vague furry hood (which he got from a planet of all rocks and energy?), there is no connection between this Dr. Doom and what we see in the comics. There is no real rivalry between Reed and Victor. Instead of being an iconic villain of mass intellect trying to take over the world (while thinking he is the world’s savior and wanting help people – read Emperor Doom for one of the best Dr. Doom stories ever), what we get is a robotic monotone predictable baddie whose powers are never really defined and all he wants to disintegrate the world and live alone. He reminded me of the computerized humans at the end of Superman III. Ugggg… just a another lost opportunity

I know the writers were to trying to go for an unconventional, contemporary superhero tale to show there is something else to taste beside the current Marvel cinematic archetypes… what we got was an uneventful dish of vanilla ice cream.

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