PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Childhood friends Reed Richards and Ben Grimm have worked together on a prototype teleporter since youth, eventually attracting the attention of Professor Franklin Storm, director of the Baxter Foundation, a government-sponsored research institute for young prodigies. Reed is recruited to join them and aid Storm’s children, scientist Sue Storm and the somewhat reckless technician and her younger brother Johnny Storm, into completing a “Quantum Gate” designed by Storm’s wayward protégé, Victor von Doom, who begrudgingly agrees to help due to his unrequited feelings for Sue.
The experiment is successful, and the facility’s supervisor, Dr. Allen, plans to send a group from NASA to venture into a parallel dimension known as “Planet Zero”. Disappointed at being denied the chance to join the expedition, Reed, Johnny, and Victor along with Ben use the Quantum Gate to embark on an unsanctioned voyage to Planet Zero, which they learn is a world filled with otherworldly substances. Victor attempts to touch the green-lava like substance, causing the surface they are on to collapse and the ground to erupt. Reed, Johnny, and Ben return to their shuttle just as Sue brings them back to Earth. Victor is seemingly killed after he falls into the collapsing landscape. The machine explodes, altering Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben on a molecular-genetic level, affording them superhuman abilities beyond their control: Reed can stretch like rubber, Susan can become invisible and generate force shields, Johnny can engulf his entire body in fire and fly, and Ben becomes bigger and develops a rock-like hide which gives him superhuman strength and durability. They are then placed in government custody and confinement to be studied and have their conditions and abilities tested. Blaming himself for the accident, Reed escapes from the facility and tries to find a cure for their changes.
One year later, Reed is now a fugitive and has built a suit that is able to adapt to his body’s plasticity and help him control his ability. Hiding in Central America, he is eventually found by the United States military with Sue’s help and captured by Ben, who has become a military asset along with Johnny and Sue. Johnny and Sue have been outfitted with specialized suits designed to help them stabilize and control their abilities. Reed is brought to Area 57, where Dr. Allen conscripts him to open another portal to Planet Zero in exchange for giving Reed the necessary resources to find a cure. Arriving in Planet Zero, Dr. Allen’s explorers find Victor, who has been fused to his spacesuit and can now control the elements, as well as having telekinetic abilities, and bring him back to Earth. Believing the human race needs to be destroyed so he can rebuild Planet Zero in his image, Victor kills scientists and soldiers in the base including Dr. Allen and Professor Storm and returns to Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate, with Ben, Johnny, Reed, and Sue in pursuit.
Now dubbing himself “Doom”, Victor activates a portal on Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate II, and a structure consisting of the rock formations in Planet Zero he made while in the realm, that begins consuming the landscape of the Earth. He is confronted by the four and, after a short battle, Ben punches Doom into the portal’s energy beam, disintegrating him while Johnny closes the portal. Returning to Earth, the group is rewarded for their heroics by being given a new base of operations by the US military known as “Central City” to study their abilities. They decide to use their powers to help people and adopt the mantle of the “Fantastic Four”.
In Marvel Comics, there have always been 3 main groups (though these days it isn’t so cut and dry). The Avengers, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four…and Spider-Man is on the outside looking in sometimes. We are all aware of how the big screen has treated the Avengers and X-Men, but the Fantastic Four haven’t fared so well, be it the early film that director Harvey Korman wants kept from public viewing or the two films from the early 2000s, the studio felt it time to give this family another shot. This brings us to Fant4stic, but will the film be fantastic?
What is this about?
In this updated sci-fi saga about the legendary Fantastic Four, a team of scientists who suddenly acquire superhuman abilities are soon obliged to put them to use when a powerful nemesis with malevolent plans threatens Earth.
What did I like?
Basics. When it comes to the Fantastic Four, it is next to impossible to get the basics wrong, unless you are just changing things for the sake of changing them (more on that later). The filmmakers were smart enough to give us the basic origin and characteristics of the titular characters and their arch-nemesis (albeit slightly altered), showed us the infamous Baxter building, and threw in the magical voice of Reg E. Cathey for good measure.
What didn’t I like?
Tone. For quite some time, I have been saying that not every superhero film needs to be dark and brooding. Marvel Studios knows how to have a different tone for their films, though I’m not so sure about the TV and Netflix shows. How else do you explain the reason Captain America’s films feel totally different from the Iron Man films? Now, while the FF may be Marvel properties, the still aren’t under the studio banner because of some legal mumbo jumbo that I don’t really feel like getting into right now. What is important to note is that a character like Batman works in a dark, gritty, realistic landscape. The Fantastic Four belong in the optimistic, bright, family friendly city. Someone suggested that this might have worked better as a period piece, set in the 60s. I can totally see that, or maybe being set in something similar to the new Spider-Man film. This darkness, though, does nothing for these characters.
Chemistry. These four are supposed to be family, even though at this point they’re just meeting each other. I just wasn’t feeling it, though. Sue and Reed have about as much spark as two sticks being rubbed together in the ocean. Johnny and Ben, who are known for having witty repartee’, barely interact until the last scene, and then it feels forced. One more thing, their interaction with Dr. Doom…sorry, its just Doom for some reason, was more like, *YAWN* let’s get this over with. Who ever put this group together…well, I’m not done with you, yet!
Storm front. Before this film was released, much was made of the casting of the Johnny and Susan Storm. Kate Mara as Susan felt like everything opposite of Sue Storm, except for smart. When I think of Sue Storm, I picture a smart, sexy woman with maternal qualities keeping the group together, not a cold bitch who could care less about any of them. As far as Johnny goes, he actually might have been the best part of the film, as far as acting goes. That being said, I feel Michael B. Jordan was cast for no other reason than to stir up headlines. There was no reason for Johnny Storm to be an African-American and have a white sister, a situation which was never explained as far as I can tell. Nothing against Michael B. Jordan, but his casting is one of the reasons this film didn’t work. It was too much of a distraction. If the filmmakers insisted on going with him, then they shouldn’t have cast Mara as Sue, but instead found an African-American actress who could do the role justice.
Effects. Let me get right down to it. The effects are horrible. I want to focus on 2 in particular, Doom and The Thing. As we say in Fantastic Four, Victor von Doom just can’t have a regular mask. He has to be an entire suit of metal, complete with telekinesis powers. Why? Don’t ask me! I’m really dumbfounded by the fact that they copied his look from a film that they were trying to distance themselves from. As far as Ben Grimm goes, well, he didn’t look like a lovable, blue-eyed thing, but instead a true monster. If that was the look they were going for, great. However, imagine if you’re a little kid and you run into him. Chances are you’d run away. Thing isn’t supposed to be scary, but this filmmakers seemed to think that was the way to go…and he was wrong!
Quantum leap. We are taught in school that every good story has a beginning, middle, and end, and somewhere in there needs to be a climax. Well, the person who wrote this film obviously didn’t go to school because after this film’s 90 minute extremely slow intro, it skips the middle and jumps to the climactic confrontation. What happened to the middle? Your guess is as good as mine!
Final verdict on Fant4stic? For those that are looking for a truly solid Fantastic Four film, Pixar has one in their library. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, The Incredibles? I struggle to have anything good to say about this film. Oh, it was filmed here in Baton Rouge! Does that count? Much like Man of Steel, someone got the bright idea that these characters would work better if you took away everything that had made them so popular in the first place (humor, chemistry, color, etc). As a result, the film suffers and we’ll probably have to wait for Marvel to get the rights back for anything positive to happen with these characters. Do I recommend this flick? No, you’re better off finding one of the other films, if you must have a FF fix. Don’t waste your time with this one.
1 1/2 out of 5 stars