The Fantastic Four Movie is BAD. Here is Why it is Not Worth Seeing…
The following commentary on the new Fantastic Four movie should be taken in with the understanding that I, the reviewer, am a long-time fan of the Fantastic Four comic books. Rather than run through a formal summary of the movie, and pointing out all of the problems, this review will just list out the major plot points and character issues. By the nature of this process, each point made here will contain major spoilers. As you should NOT go see this movie (unless you are some weird super-hero hating masochist), then the spoilers will not matter, since at best, if you MUST see this film, wait until it is on cable or Netflix so that you do not spend any specific money on this film failure. If you want a look at why I consider the Fantastic Four comics (i.e. what should be the source material for any FF movie) so darn good/great, check out the post on my love affair with the Fantastic Four comics.
Fantastic Four Movie Poster
The Plot of this Un-Fantastic Four Movie:
The plot and dialogue of the Fantastic Four movie are unoriginal, pedantic, and predictable. As I sat in the near-empty theater on a Friday afternoon in a popular suburban multiplex (maybe seven or eight others besides myself were present), I actually was able to predict various lines spoken by the on-screen characters. The screenwriters should be ashamed of themselves. The fact that three people receive writing credits for this movie (Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater, and Josh Trank), may be a clue as to why it seems so disjointed and predictable. The old saying about ‘too many cooks’ comes to mind.
Also, and this was a problem with the first two FF movies from 2005 and 2007, the writers just cannot seem to get Doctor Doom right. In a sign that this movie truly has taken the Fantastic Four to the sub-basement of super-hero movies, I can now say that the Doctor Doom in the first two (mediocre) movies was the better extrapolation of the character. The Doom in the new Fantastic Four movie is not done right in either a comic book sense, nor a decent movie sense. With that, let’s look at the specific problems with the major characters and the actors.
Problems with the Characters and Actors:
Doctor Doom: Since we mentioned him already, let’s go ahead and talk about how Josh Trank and his fellow writers (he was also the director, by the way), in malfeasance with the poor actor (Tony Kebbell) totally got Doc Doom wrong. By the way, as we go through this list, constant comparisons will be made with the characters and other points from the actual Fantastic Four comics.
In the comics, Victor Von Doom is a complex, arrogant, and interesting character. His primary motivations are a hatred/competition for Reed Richards, who he feels wronged him in a personal and in a scientific sense. Many of the best villains in the FF comics were motivated by a jealousy of some type with Richards and with his scientific genius. In addition to the points mentioned above, Doom is also the absolute monarch of a small, secluded Eastern European nation called Latveria. Despite all of his other character issues, Doom truly cares for his people and his nation. That is part of what makes him a complicated, multi-dimensional character.
In this movie, they get his motivation all wrong, (he has the hots for Susan) and while we see his arrogant side, his dislike for Reed is not based primarily on an intellectual competition with Reed. The ‘hot for Sue’ theme more properly belongs to the Sub-Mariner in the comics, and never really was a Doom thing. Fail.
Also, he is from Latveria (which the movie does touch on). But where is the accent? A couple of times, it sounds like Kebbell is trying to speak with a slight accent, but not enough to convince me he is an actual European. Fail.
After Doom gets his powers (and it should be pointed out that his origin is more-or-less taken from the Ultimate version of the Fantastic Four, as is most of the origin story for the FF. More on that later…), he is gone for over a year, and when he does appear, any motivation he has for fighting the FF based on his prior relationship to Susan and Reed is suddenly gone and not referenced again. His powers are now a generic ‘end-the-world’ variety, with no connection at all to his comic-book origins. Also, while he is disfigured by the accident that turned him into a villain, in the comics his disfigurement is a major part of his character and motivation (think Darth Vader), here it is not touched on at all. Fail.
Dr. Doom in the Fantastic Four Movie
Reed Richards: As mentioned before, this movie takes the basic origin story from the Ultimate line of Marvel books, (which actually makes more sense in the modern world, IMHO), with a dash of the criminal ‘let’s steal the ride and go to space/other dimensions’ that we see in the original FF comics). In this sense, I cannot complain about this film’s origin story, starting out with Reed and Ben as kids growing up as friends. The actor playing Reed (Miles Teller) does an okay job in the role, but the character is written all wrong. His dialogue should constantly be peppered with multi-syllabic scientific jargon, which we did see a bit of in the childhood scenes, and he should be a bit more open and bold in his affection for Sue. While a nerd, the Reed in the comics (both mainstream and Ultimate) has him openly in love/lust for Sue. How his powers are shown in the movie is also not bad, but we do not see enough. Also, one major aspect of this character should be how he comes up with scientific explanations for how they all have their powers. And, the biggest fail (and again, the writers take the blame) is how in this movie, Reed escapes the military base and hides for a year. No attempt to sneak back in, no attempt to contact the love of his life, nothing at all similar to what the comics version of Reed would do (i.e. be a HERO). HUGE Fail.
Susan Storm: They totally messed up this character as well. Kate Mara is the actress, and she does okay with what she is given, but by no means is she a great actress or anything. A lot has been made of the casting of her brother, Johnny Storm, (more on that later), but the effect on her character is significant. In the comics version of the Fantastic Four, Sue is the older sister and, since both their parents are dead, she is the de facto parent of the hot-headed and immature Johnny. In this movie, due to the casting decisions on the Johnny character, Sue has to be the adopted sibling. And, upon inquiry from Reed, she states that she was born in Kosovo. Really? Kosovo? For the record, most Kosovars have dark hair. Why not make her Irish or Russian or something more believable? As to the sibling thing, we do not really see Sue do the Big Sister thing much, which is too bad. Fail.Johnny Storm: A lot has been made of the casting of an African-American actor (Michael B. Jordan) as the traditionally blonde and blue-eyed Johnny Storm. Other traditionally white characters in comic book movies have been cast with Black actors (Michael Clarke Duncan was a great Kingpin in the otherwise mediocre Daredevil movie), and normally I would say ‘so what’ to any criticism of this type of casting. But in this case, it messed up the family dynamic of the Storm characters and added another layer of explanation for why the family was this way. Again, Kosovo...really? Ironically, despite all the nonsense criticism of his casting Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Johnny Storm’s angry, spontaneous, and immature character was actually spot on. His acting is probably the best of the movie. While his character is cool with his newfound flame powers, the writers again fail to adequately explore why Johnny likes the way he is now. Not a Fail, but not great either (excepting Jordan’s acting, which is good).
Fantastic Four Movie-Johnny Storm
Ben Grimm: My favorite member of the Fantastic Four in the comics and in the original movies, Ben Grimm’s portrayal in this movie is almost criminal. First, the casting was way off. Actor Jamie Bell is a cipher. He basically serves as Reed’s lab assistant/best friend, has the least amount of screen time among the FF, and is totally miscast. In every comic book version of Ben (as well as in the original movies), he is a physically imposing bruiser in his human form. In regular human form, he is supposed to be big, muscular, aggressive, while maintaining a gruff exterior, but a lovable and emotional interior persona. Jamie Bell is the shortest, smallest, and least physically imposing member of the team in this movie. His role in the middle part of the film is minimal, while the film’s portrayal of his rocky Thing-like powered character is also seriously messed up. And, where are the Thing’s pants? The visual we have of Grimm as the Thing has him walking around naked. In this movie version of the accident that gave him his Thing powers and appearance in this movie, it also...ahem…emasculated him. Therefore, no need for pants, apparently. Again, this changes the character in a fundamental manner. In the comics and in the original movies, Grimm was able to maintain a relationship with a woman named Alicia Masters. In some alternate universe versions of the Thing, he also was able to father children. Josh Trank, in creating this ‘thingless’ Thing, has changed this character completely. We would assume that if there is a sequel to this horrid film (Please, NO!) then the Thing will not be capable of consummating normal relationships with women. Uber-Fail.
Fantastic Four-The Thing Has No Pants
As a slight addendum to the Thing’s issues in this movie, I should make one brief positive comment. They did get his religion right. In a very quick scene, where we see young Ben enter his home, we get a very quick glimpse of a Menorah in the Grimm household. In the comics, it was not until several decades after his creation by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, that it was revealed that Benjamin Jacob Grimm was Jewish. It was nice to see them put that little touch into the movie.
In any Marvel movie, whether it is actually produced by Marvel Studios (i.e. all of the Avengers movies), Sony (Spider-Man movies), or Fox (X-Men and the FF), we almost always see a Stan Lee cameo. In this FF movie, we did not see Stan. Maybe he saw that this flick was going downhill fast and decided to opt out?
So there we have it. My reasoning for why this is a bad iteration of my beloved Fantastic Four. There were other things wrong with the movie, from how Sue got her powers even though she never traveled to the other dimension, to why Doom is wearing a cloak in that other dimension, to how Ben suddenly stopped being angry with Reed after a 20 minute fight with Doom. The dumb plot points and mischaracterizations in this movie keep piling up to form a giant celluloid mountain of garbage. Even if this movie were to be looked at as a straight-up Sci-Fi movie with no connections to a successful comic book franchise, it still would be no better than a very low B-Grade movie, the kind you find while channel surfing at 1:00 AM because you have insomnia. Yeah that bad.
Do yourself a favor and don’t spend money to see it. Please. I beg you...
Roger Lee is a life-long comic book and sci-fi aficionado. As such, he fell into the habit of writing about the superheroes and sci-fi scenarios that he reads in the comics and books and sees on screen. Since writings on superheroes need to be shared, he has written for web audiences for years. His writings have appeared on www.comicshistoryguy.com, www.comicbookmovie.com, www.bamsmackpow.com, and now in superheroreviews.com.