Sep 21, 2015

[Movies] Fantastic Four (2015)

Some movies seemed doomed to fail. All the early buzz related to this Fantastic Four reboot had the fan in me cringing and every new update just felt more and more wrong. The prior Fantastic Four movies weren't exactly Oscar-worthy, but at least they generally captured some aspects of the vibe of the comic.

But this movie seemed determined to go in a very different direction versus the comic book series and was almost proud of it. The best example of this was the decision to cast an African American as the Human Torch while his sister, the Invisible Woman remained Caucasian. It didn't quite feel like a meaningful change either - just a decision that seemed to reflect a desire to make the casting more diverse and thus feature a token minority or something.

But a lot of movies have had bad buzz before the release and managed to salvage things once people had a chance to see the whole thing. Instead the movie was confusing and oddly long-winded and yet seemingly unable to accomplish much either from a narrative flow perspective. What happened?

Synopsis: Fantastic Four (or styled as Fant4astic) is a 2015 superhero movie directed by Josh Trank, who is probably more remembered for Chronicle. The screenplay was co-written by Trank together with Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg.

The movie starts with childhood friends Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (James Bell) working on one science project after another until things culminate with an effort to create some sort of a teleportation device. Sure, Reed is the real inventor between them while Ben is handy enough to help out with the actual production. A science fair exhibit manages to snare the attentions of Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who leads a government-sponsored research facility. There they also meet Storm's two children, the scientist Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and the wild card technician Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan). Reed is asked to complete the work on a "Quantum Gate" conceived by Victor von Doom (Toby Tebbell).

They eventually complete the device and it is decided to reach out to NASA to put together a team to test the device and make the jump to another dimension. Reed then concocts a plan to get Ben, Johnny, and Victor to use the gate before the NASA team takes over in order to explore "Planet Zero" themselves. But not everything goes as planned the accident changes all of them, including Sue Storm who was back at home base. And as the old story goes, they all emerge from the experience quite changed.

As a reboot movie, you expect to go through their version of the re-telling of the origin story of this superhero family. But what we get is an origin that begins with Reed Richards literally as a kid, jumping to getting drafted into the Baxter Foundation and then the big experiment. That on its own isn't too bad a progression, but then the movie jumps forward even further and skips the usual period of them learning their powers and instead we focus on them as being experienced, but not necessarily a team in any fashion. They all just have powers and they were busy in different parts of the world.

So what the heck was that story about? Why kind of a journey is this supposed to be? What are we supposed to feel when it comes to these characters given how we jump forward erratically like that? I don't know the answers to these questions and I can imagine anyone who saw the movie figured that out either. One can only imagine the sort of feedback that the initial focus groups and test audiences came up with after seeing this in an even more raw form.

The "team" has no camaraderie or on-screen chemistry at all. They don't exactly end up feeling like a "family" by the end of things, which is pretty much what this brand is all about if we look back at the history of the comic. Even if you ignore the comic entirely. you have a group of people who don't seem to mesh well with one another and so you wonder why they even bother to even attempt to work together.

The biggest crime of this movie is the non-villain at the end. There was no logical build up to things and so we have a villain figure come in as late as possible in the movie and thus a silly effort to engineer a situation for them to come together as a team. And I don't think that was really the case - they just up with some spur-of-the-moment plan that sort of came together and knocked out the bad guy but...why? Such a waste of a very good legacy villain turned into a bad, bad joke.

I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but a lot of the reviews that have come before me had a reason why they panned this movie so much. The Fantastic Four is a Marvel property that has always been inspiring and this just felt like a bunch of people making the most of a bad situation and dragging their feet the whole time.

Fantastic Four is a really sad reboot and it just shows that Fox is desperate to hold onto the franchise but aren't quite sure what they want to do with it. Maybe there was a good movie at the core of how this movie was conceived, but it didn't make it through the production process. So I can only give the movie 1 sad demonstration of their fantastic powers out of a possible 5.

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