If you haven’t heard or seen already, FOX ‘s recent reboot of Fantastic Four has more than bombed financially, as well as reception from critics and movie goers alike. Originally, I had no desire to view this film for a multitude of reasons, many of which seemed to also be reflected from the general response of the movie. However, with a 9% currently tracking on Rotten Tomatoes, a film that bad warrants my attention as a comic fan and someone who covers the industry. That level of awful easily raised my curiosity to why and how could it possibly be that bad.

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Well, to begin, I would like to apologize in advance if this seems more like a rant at certain times and there is a little bit of digression throughout.  But, I found the entire movie to be quite dissatisfying, even as I tried my best to view it objectively. To put it simply, this movie is Fantastic Four in name only and displays almost zero resemblance to its comic counterpart. As a “Fantastic Four” movie, it’s almost unbearable. As a comic genre movie, it lands in the pile of X-Men: Last Stand, Wolverine: Origins, Green Lantern and any of the Ghost Rider films. And as a movie movie, Fantastic Four is still pretty below average, with almost no redeeming qualities.

2015 Fox's FANTASTIC FOUR film movie still with Miles Teller as Mister Fantastic.

Each third of the movie feels different than the other and the movie doesn’t seem to understand the direction in which it would like to go in the overall scripting and pacing. Fantastic Four doesn’t seem to know if it should follow Marvel’s light hearted and snarky tone. At other points, it attempts to follow the dark and serious tones of DC, looking to add realism and grit to the story’s approach. Then at other times, Fantastic Four wants be an indie film, trying to be different, unique and escaping the “cookie cutter” pitfalls, the superhero genre can tend to fall into. In general, the movie lacks a sense of heart, cohesion, passion, and most of all, it lacks purpose of direction and what it wants to accomplish.

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Just like Fantastic Four doesn’t seem to know where it fits in sense of the Marvel or DC “style”, it also doesn’t seem to know what it wants to convey in terms of premise and ideology. At various points, the dynamic of the Storm family is addressed, in an attempt to capture the family elements that are so key to the Fantastic Four franchise. At others, Trank as the director and a writer, as well as the other two credited as the screenplay writers, Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater, seem to want to display the ideologies of “government control bad, free science good”. This is displayed in the characteristics from Victor Von Doom’s anti-establishment mentality (more on this later on), as well as Franklin Storms’ general disdain for outside powers, which affect the team’s scientific research. But none of this ever hits home.

film still from Fox's 2015 comic book film adaptation FANTASTIC FOUR

This general lack of purpose in the script and writing leads me into one of my biggest qualms with Fantastic Four as a whole. It’s that this is an adaptation and not an original story, with the general lack of attention to the source material, mind boggling. I understand Trank wanted to do something different or even bring a fresh take these characters as a whole. However, this film is directly related to a set story or “stories”, with pretty extensive source material for the film, which he apparently told the cast to basically ignore. This is not solely his or even FOX’s property outside of “ownership” rights. This is not a classic tale, in which the original audience has long been deceased and the current content has been dissected, adapted or influenced others over centuries.

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A great example to use is Romeo and Juliet. Here, you can take source material from over 400 years prior and create a modern twist on the story ala Romeo + Juliet (1996), while still being “creative” but, generally adhering to your source in general. Fantastic Four is using material that is only 54 years old, with the original writer in Stan Lee, still very much alive, as well as the original audience of Fantastic Four, who have followed these stories decades now and are specifically seeking a particular “story” or set of “stories” to be followed.

This is the same issue that Dragon Ball Evolution or The Last Airbender both suffered. The Dragon Ball series was written by Akira Toriyama, it is his story. It is not James Wong’s (the director of Dragon Ball Evolution) or Ben Ramsey’s (writer of the screenplay for Dragon Ball Evolution). It is not their job to recreate essential elements of Toriyama’s work, but to adapt it for the big screen. This is the same for The Last Airbender. The Avatar series was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, not M. Night Shyamalan. M. Night’s job was to adapt, not to artistically change what made the original story what it was and key elements of that tale. Nor is it what the audience who is paying for these adaptions, was seeking either. They are seeking stories they put time and money into prior, adapted into a different medium. There is no huge time gap in audience and these stories, for artistic or creative changes on a certain scale to work, without it seeming like an injustice is being done to these properties.

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This is something quite different than, they say Tranks’ other superhero film Chronicle, which was not an adaption but rather, followed a story with “superhero” elements as an original property or story, written by Trank and Max Landis. Is this to say that someone, somewhere down the line couldn’t re-imagine the Fantastic Four, Batman or any other comic property? Absolutely not. Batman is essentially a different take on Zorro. The Fantastic Four are a sci-fi Swiss Family Robinson. And really, essentially all modern Western literature is in some way influence by the Bible, the Iliad or Shakespeare, besides countless others. It simply means, if you are going to be creative and original, do it with your own story, not someone else’s. Especially one that is fairly young with a specific audience and established elements. Rather, adapt it to fit the medium in which the target audience is seeking, because they are not only the one to view your work, but also the consumer of your art.

Getting past that huge digression from a review of the film itself, I simply found too many issues with this movie, especially holding the title of Fantastic Four.

Cast of Fox's 2015 comic book adaptation film FANTASTIC FOUR
The cast of Fantastic Four.

The first twenty to thirty minutes of the movie actually gave me hope that it could be good and the reviews were just a little overblown, but then things began to go downhill. Sticking with the first third, the dynamic between a young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm was pretty good. From their interactions as children to high school, I felt like the growth between these characters once they received their powers, would be a great plot piece later on and would build upon the dynamic that makes these two iconic. Yet, it never quite reached the same level of gravitas it should have, especially with Ben’s transformation to the Thing and Reed viewing it as his fault. The movie begins with this sense of hope and fun exploration, in the pursuit of discovery and curiosity, It then begins moving into this almost machine-like, grey, seriousness for the remainder of the movie, with zero heart whatsoever. The cast had an energy about them at first, before moving into what seemed like just going through the motions for the rest of the film.

As far as the cast itself, I have very mixed reviews about their performance scale. Miles Teller’s Reed Richard’s was probably one of the better performances, giving off a believable highly intelligent human being, who just lacks some basic social skills or exudes a “genius awkwardness”. This is, of course, until he reaches that second third, and then even Teller goes from having an enjoyable quirkiness to him to just reading lines with nothing behind them.

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Then there is the obvious “color controversy” prior to Fantastic Four, but to be honest, I didn’t notice it in the slightest at all. It’s irrelevant. It ends up being, Michael B. Jordan, an actor I like and one I’m excited to see in Creed, just not being a good Johnny Storm in this case. He clearly has the acting chops to portray Johnny, but he seems to be in the same rut everyone else had this film, reading lines with no heart behind it. Johnny is supposed to exude this rebellious swagger, none of which I felt from Jordan.

The same for Kate Mara, who I loved on House of Cards but for Fantastic Four, I almost hated every second she was on screen. I honestly felt like she hated being there. Her comments of never reading a comic or even being a fan, genuinely showed as Susan Storm and unfortunately, I’m not sure who was worse, Mara as Sue or Jamie Bell as Benn Grimm.

This Benn Grimm had the personality of an actual pet rock. I mean bland, boring, and with zero of the bravado of the Yancy Street New Yorker which everyone loves about The Thing. It was genuinely an awful disservice to a great character. There’s also only one of his catch phrases or general Grimm ‘slang’ used, which was a half assed “clobberin time” in the only action sequence at the end of the film.

Last but not least was Victor Von Doom, easily the worst incarnation of Doom or possibly a movie villain I have ever watched. To start, this Doom is anti-establishment and government in this Fantastic Four film, which instantly confused me, because the very nature of the character has always been tyrannical and pragmatic control to levels of delusional arrogance. Doom has always seen himself as “godlike” and everyone else as beneath him in intelligence and purpose, the exact opposite of this weirdly anti-social, anti-control villain who has zero motivation really established throughout the film ever. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Doom’s motivation as a villain was. He is simply trapped on Planet Zero for a year and returns not to evolve the human race, not to rule over it, but to eliminate it, with rhetoric parallel to that of a middle schooler who was first taught anarchistic philosophies, as he tweets about it on his iPhone. There is zero, zero context to what motivates this change and the surface level of tension or build up of his feelings of jealously towards Reed. This isn’t even going into the CG nightmare that is the look of Doom, which is a topic in it of itself. Basically, not only is an amazing villain in Doom nerfed and his source material completely ignored, but as a pure movie villain he is given no motivation towards his actions or desires, nor build up to why we as an audience should dislike him.

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To conclude, I’d being lying if I said I was disappointed but, expectations were none existent going in and I knew it was going to be a train wreck. The cast seem unenthusiastic and like they had no desire to be there.  The plot seemed “cookie cutter” for a movie that was supposed to be this new take on an old story. The villain was awful. Fantastic Four didn’t know what kind of movie it wanted to be in the ever-growing genre of superhero films. The first third creates hopes, then it falls into this bland, lifeless grey monster you just want to end. It’s bad not only as a comic film, but simply as a movie as a whole. Nothing about this film was “Fantastic” except the first word in the title.

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