Movies

Peter Suderman Reviews Fantastic Four

It's bad. So very, very bad.

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Marvel Entertainment / 20th Century Fox

It's bad. So bad. So very, very bad.

Here's a clip from my review:

At the heart of "Fantastic Four," the latest big-screen reboot of Marvel Comics' foundational superhero team, there is an important lesson: Don't drink and teleport.

Seriously, kids, it leads to bad things — like this movie, which is perhaps the most ill-conceived and poorly executed superhero film of the modern era. (And I've seen the Ben Affleck "Daredevil" as well as both of Nicolas Cage's "Ghost Rider" films.)

"Fantastic Four" — which, based on the odd marketing, you might think was actually titled "Fant4stic" — is a superhero film with very little superhero action, a $120 million blockbuster with spectacularly shoddy special effects, an ensemble piece starring promising young actors that wastes their talent on a cringeworthy script.

It is a failure in practically every way.

It all starts when some gifted young scientists make the mistake of drinking too much and deciding to venture to another realm in their newly created teleporter.

Granted, the machine they refer to as a teleporter is really more of an interdimensional gateway, but this just reinforces the main point: If you're about to transmit your person through a tear in the fabric of reality, you should probably do it while sober.

This movie, on the other hand, may require a drink or three to numb the pain.

The film follows Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), Susan Storm (Kate Mara) and Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), all of whom were recruited by Sue and Johnny's father, Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to work at a secret facility for young geniuses. Their project is to build a machine that will transport them to a mysterious alternate dimension, which the elder Storm keeps insisting, for no apparent reason, will lead to an energy revolution.

When they succeed, a sneering suit announces that they will be sending trained astronauts on the first manned mission. Out comes the flask, and soon the members of the group, along with Reed's friend from school, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), are on their way to the world's first interdimensional TUI — teleporting under the influence.

When they return, they've lost Victor, at least for the moment, and they've all developed strange powers: Reed can stretch his body to extreme lengths, Johnny is a human fireball, Susan can turn herself and other objects invisible, and Ben is grotesquely covered in orange rock, or at least a computer-generated simulation of the stuff.

The characters have the same names and essentially the same powers as in the comic books, which helped launch Marvel Comics in 1961, but otherwise the movie barely resembles the comics that inspired it.

At its best, the comic was a family-driven soap opera with the pulpy aesthetics of golden-age sci-fi. The visuals, as drawn by Jack Kirby, who helped define the Marvel style for decades, were feasts of spaced-out imagination. It was a story about the bonds of family, about crazy adventures in far-out space and science, about human struggle and cosmic wonder.

(Read the whole thing in The Washington Times.)

The filmmakers have suggested that Fantastic Four is a hard property to adapt. I don't think that's wrong; certainly the fact that this is reboot number three suggests that it's not an easy project. 

But the mistake, as I argue in the review, is to try to make FF into something it's not. The most successful movie adaptations, particularly when it comes to comic books, tend to capture the spirit, if not every detail, of the source material. The new FF reboot totally rejects that spirit in favor of a grim-and-gritty put-on. A dark, brooding tone works for a character like Batman, but not here. 

Why reject the source material? It's great! Sure, getting the right balance of soap opera and pulpy science fiction might be a little tricky, but there's so much to work with. Jack Kirby's spectacular art on the series alone provides a great foundation. One of the things I admired most about Joss Whedon's Avengers sequel earlier this year was the way it slowed down the action at key moments to stage Kirby-esque superhero tableaus—the cinematic equivalent of splash pages. The Kirby sensibility is not impossible to put on the screen. You just won't find any hint of it in the new film.

If you're looking for a Fantastic Four kick this weekend, your better bet is to stay home and watch the the ultra-cheap 1994 adaptation by low-budget auteuer Roger Corman.Corman's movie was never released, and Marvel execs were so embarassed by the film's low production values that they not only blocked its release entirely, they also attempted, unsuccessfully, to track down and destroy every existing copy

Still, there's something charming about the 1994 film. Yes, it's bad, but it's hilariously, delightfully, honestly bad, and it at least makes an attempt, perhaps too much of one, to respect its source material. Watch the trailer below, or catch the whole thing online here

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  1. A black man has a black son and a white, blonde daughter. How can it not be bad?

    1. Oh, cause no one adopts. WHY DO YOU HATE ADOPTED CHILDREN!

      #ADOPTEDLIVESMATTER

    2. It’s not really a stretch for a black man to have children that came from different mothers.

      Relax. It’s a joke.

    3. Are you saying people can’t be different colors?!

    4. So, racially, he’s pretty cool?

      1. He treats objects like women!

        1. Dr. Storm draws a lot of water in this town. You don’t draw shit.

    5. Look, the mom banged a white guy and a black guy the same day. OK?

      Life’s tough for German hookers, so cut her some slack.

    6. Hey, Sue *identifies* as white, even though she has a black father. Why is that so hard to understand.

  2. I remember reading about a Corman version but never saw any footage. That trailer doesn’t nudge me toward seeking it out.

    So it’s not just ill-conceived casting that doomed the current incarnation?

  3. It’s bad. So bad. So very, very bad….It is a failure in practically every way.

    So you’re on the fence about this one….

  4. Thanks for the warning, not that I had any plans to see it.

  5. The filmmakers have suggested that Fantastic Four is a hard property to adapt.

    Tobias F?nke agrees.

  6. Jack Kirby has been dead for 20 years and there have been a few dozen other artists to tackle series since he left, just in case you’re not into one-dimensional ’60s camp.

  7. It’s YA. YA is crap. dumb + angst = YA = crap. QED.

    1. Thank you for stating this.

  8. They get drunk and teleport. Really? What idiot came up with that? It flies in the face of every characterization of Reed Richards since the beginning and breaks the basis for character relationships among the four of them.

    I bet Sue didn’t even consent to being teleported.

    1. She doesn’t get teleported, but transformed by the backwash, like the last drink from a shared can of beer.

      1. 4 guys get their inter-dimensional frat party on and Sue is an innocent freshman caught up in the shenanigans.

        1. Grab it’s fucking leg!

          1. “Its” Shit!

            1. Grab its shit? WTF indeed…

              1. +1 Toxic Avenger

                1. +1 Dookie Avenger

  9. Eventually a blonde will be cast as Sue Storm and a redhead as Mary Jane Watson and the world will implode.

    1. +1 Freaky Looking Jessica Alba

    2. Look dude, Sue Storm is the Invisible Woman. Half of her screen time will be done with fishing line and CGI, so it doesn’t really matter what color her hair is.

      1. #haircolormatters

      2. I remain grumpy, dammit.

        1. Write another letter to Marvel asking them to clarify whether the Thing’s dork is made of orange rock like the rest of him.

          1. He doesn’t have one.

    3. Naomi Brockwell for the Spiderman re-reboot?

      1. “It’s Dock Och, by crikey!”

  10. They should let the Wachowski siblings re-boot the franchise.

  11. The two funniest things I’ve learned from these reviews:

    1. Sue Storm doesn’t go on the expedition at all. Why? Why make that change? That gives some legit ammo to the cries of sexism in Hollywood.

    2. They apparently cut entire action scenes from the film, including the scene of the Thing attacking some military base that was shown in the trailer. This was the climactic event of the trailer, the final tease to get you excited about the movie. And the scene is cut entirely. How does that happen on such a huge movie?

    Trank also seems determined to never work in Hollywood again, given his tweet that the movie would have gotten great reviews if it weren’t for the studio’s interference.

  12. It’s bad. So bad. So very, very bad.

    No kidding.

    I’m looking at the picture up top and Reed Richards looks like he’s 16. An accomplished *multi-PhD* being played by a 28 year old actor made up to look like a teenager.

    Four young outsiders . . .

    Yep. This is just a shitty movie targeting the Twilight/Hunger Games age-set. Richards is played by a guy who was in ‘Divergent’ (another shitty tween movie). Only one of them (the woman) is over 30.

    1. certainly the fact that this is reboot number three suggests that it’s not an easy project.

      This is reboot #2.

      Corman’s original

      2005 F4 (and its 2007 sequel) – reboot #1

      2015 F4 (and, for some godawful reason, there’s a sequel greenlit for 2017 release). – reboot #2.

      And, to be fair, the original was not *intended* as a ‘real’ movie. It was made to fulfill a contractual obligation and allow the studio to keep film rights (which they would have lost shortly if they continued to sit on the IP) – which were later used to film the 2005 POS.

      Really though, its not like these are genuine reboots – they could all just be considered sequels to the original’s desperate attempt to grab some cash.

  13. If Marvel was going to fuck something up horribly sooner or later (and they were), better they do it with the Fan 4 rather than some better titles/properties.

    I was leery of the idea from the first word of it. The characters didn’t really fit in very well in the slightly more up-to-date marvel universe of the 1980s, much less today.

    Ben Grimm was obviously the main character that should drive the thing (*as wolverine to X-men, and Iron Man to avengers – the bitter, conflicted, snarky one that has perpetual girl-problems),

    The main goal of any film with The Thing should also have been to culminate in a drunken brawl/Bromance with the Hulk. Failing this, don’t do it at all.

    Marvel should have learned from Guardians of the Galaxy that they don’t need to try and “update” and refresh old properties so much as re-introduce some lesser known ones which don’t have as much historical baggage and leave lots of room for character development.

    1. There will be no forgiveness if they screw up Dr. Strange

      1. Fucking A right.

      2. I’m more interested in seeing how they try and evolve the X-men franchise

        Not the next actual X-men thing – which from what i understand is another ‘alternate history/flashback’ plot (a la ‘First Class’), and (booooo) has neither wolverine or colossus
        ….
        but this – a New Mutants film

        I don’t know if they intend to go with the original 1980s story, or the 1990s x-force evolution (w/ Cable and that whole bizarro time-traveling Cyclops bastard-child story)…but either way, there are a number of great characters (e.g. Cannonball, Boom Boom, Domino…) and some very interesting plot threads in that title

        1. If Deadpool does well, there are talks that Cable will be in the sequel.

    2. some lesser known ones which don’t have as much historical baggage and leave lots of room for character development.

      Yeah, at best they’ll still only get one good movie out of it. Compare ‘Blade’ to both its sequels.

      1. The first Blade was awesome. Haven’t seen it in awhile, but I have the DVD and think I’ll watch it tonight as I indulge in my favorite intoxicants.

        1. Yes, Blade *is* awesome.

          And every time I watch it I have to wonder – what the hell happened to Snipes’ acting ability?

          1. I never thought Snipes was that good of an actor, but he was perfect for Blade (just as the talentless Keanu Reeves was perfect for The Matrix). I’ve heard rumors they may bring Wesley Snipes back to reprise Blade on an upcoming Marvel movie. Would love to see that…

          2. And every time I watch it I have to wonder – what the hell happened to Snipes’ acting ability?

            Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill.

    3. This isn’t Marvel. They licensed the rights to FOX and as long as FOX keeps making crappy FF movies they get to keep the rights.

      1. ahhhhhh.

        Explains much.

        I thought the whole Marvel Studios model now was that they do almost everything themselves and just get the studios to distribute and market them? I tried making sense of all their character licensing deals at their wiki page and it produced a headache in about 5 seconds.

        1. That goes back to *why* the Corman version was created in the first place – it was never intended to be screened (and never was), it was simply so Fox could hold onto the movie rights until they were ‘ready’ to do the movie.

          And if 2005 showed us anything, its that Fox has no idea what the word ‘ready’ means.

        2. That’s the Marvel Studios model now, yes, and they’ve been steadily reacquiring the various rights they sold before adopting the model. But they haven’t gotten them all back yet. 20th Century Fox still holds, for example, the Fantastic Four and X-Men rights.

          1. I picked up some of what you’re explaining from the New Mutants link above. People pointed out that the entire X-Men universe remains in Fox hands. Which is appalling.

            Even worse = chris claremont is basically banned from writing X-men stories because they’d immediately belong to Fox

            “Before Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, the struggling comic book company sold the film rights to its most marketable franchises — the X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Captain America, and others — to various studios.

            In 2013, Disney bought back the rights to Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America from Viacom’s (NASDAQ: VIA ) Paramount Pictures. Comcast’s (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) Universal returned the film rights for the Hulk to Marvel in 2003, but retained distribution rights for solo films. That’s why Marvel still hasn’t released a solo Hulk film yet. Meanwhile, other characters — including Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Blade, and the Punisher — reverted to Marvel after their respective studios gave up on making new films or TV shows.”

    4. some lesser known ones which don’t have as much historical baggage and leave lots of room for character development.

      I’d like to see more ‘comic book movies’ of properties that aren’t really about superheroes. Why the hell has no one done anything with Fables?

      Then again, I don’t trust Hollywood not to fuck up something like Transmetropolitan or The Boys.

    5. Sooner or later? I think you’ve forgotten Marvel’s big screen versions of The Punisher and Ghostrider. (Not that I blame you at all.)

      1. This was a comment in response to Gilmore’s way above. Damn squirrels.

      2. Firstly – i think Ghost Rider was doomed the second Nicholas Cage was Nicholas Cage.

        I never read the comics either so i feel no pain watching it turned into a joke.

        The Punisher, however… I did read. And I still think the 1989 Dolph Lundgren film actually *wasn’t half bad* considering…. the 1989 and Dolph Lundgren-parts. It had louis gosset jr! That guy classes up any film. I mean *Iron Eagle*, bro. Enemy Mine. Officer and a Gentlemen. Winner.

        No, i have not seen the subsequent reboots. Also, I see that one of them had John Travolta. Ahh. That’s like Nicholas Cage, but much less funny.

        *(except for Broken Arrow and Face/Off, which are laugh-a-minute, timeless comedies)

      3. The first movie actually made by Marvel Studios was Iron Man.

    6. Is this Marvel’s fuckup, or is it another Spiderman situation where Hollywood morons keep shitting over a franchise for as long as they have the license? I assumed that was the reason that Spiderman, Xmen, and Fantastic Four are not part of the MCU.

    7. Marvel did not make this. Fantastic Four and the X-men film rights belong to Fox.

  14. Craptastic 4?

    1. I think you mean Crapt4stic.

  15. “perhaps the most ill-conceived and poorly executed superhero film of the modern era. (And I’ve seen the Ben Affleck “Daredevil” as well as both of Nicolas Cage’s “Ghost Rider” films.)”

    Ooh, BURN!

    Yeah, calling this movie good would be a STRETCH.

    I CAN’T SEE any redeeming features.

    Something something CLOBBERING.

  16. Oh, and the poor Human Torch, all that flame scorched his skin black!

    [whisper, whisper]

    Oh, ha ha, never mind.

  17. Frankly, I saw the trailer for this and immediately decided against ever watching it — not even on Netflix.

    First, why on Earth is Reed Richards a teenager? Every story I ever read had him as a middle-aged genius, complete with graying temples. Yeah, he was once a kid (pre-powers and pre-Fantastic Four), but no one cares about those years.

    Second, WTF is up with remaking movie every 5 years? By all means, keep making new movies about the same heroes, but don’t re-tell (and retool) the origin story every single time! Even non-comic fans know the basics of most superheroes’ origin stories by now.

    1. Ever since DC’s New 52, they’ve figured they’ll get far more money out of recycling the same stuff.

    2. Every story I ever read had him as a middle-aged genius, complete with graying temples. Yeah, he was once a kid (pre-powers and pre-Fantastic Four), but no one cares about those years.

      I haven’t read a Marvel comic in a long-ass time, but I’m pretty sure that in the Marvel Ultimate Universe the Fantastic Four are teenagers.

      1. The premise for this sounds like it is lifted from the Ultimate version rather than the original characters.

    3. Second, WTF is up with remaking movie every 5 years?

      I guess you aren’t a fan of the Maltese Falcon.

  18. Reuters = Celebrates Indigenous Peoples With Cute Slideshow; shows no further interest beyond pandering to liberal ideas of poor natives being happier & morally superior despite crushing poverty, squalor

    1. Whoops meant that for PM linx

  19. I mentionned in another Fantastic Four topic some Downfall parody clips about them https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_5501022

    Comparing to this movie, even the old 1967 Hanna-Barbara cartoon is a more cool and faithful to its source material.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbS3LL0QHg8

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