In 1961, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby published the first issue of Fantastic Four, a tale of four scientists who were bombarded with cosmic rays that gave them superpowers: Reed Richards is elastic as Mister Fantastic, Sue Storm is out of sight as the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm is too hot to handle as the Human Torch and Ben Grimm turns into the ever-loving blue-eyed Thing. This comic is revolutionary to the business because it told a different type of superhero story that hasn’t been told before. It portrayed a dysfunctional family who would bicker and argue with each other all the time and didn’t like being a superhero. Fantastic Four brought a sense of realism to the superhero world even with its wacky sci-fi stories and paved the way for Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men, and the rest of the Marvel universe in general. To say that they’re important would be an understatement. Unfortunately, they’ve had the worst luck when it comes to live-action adaptations. There was the low-budget 1994 Roger Corman movie, which was never released to theaters and until recent years, was only available through bootleg copies (you can now watch the whole movie on YouTube). Then there’s the two Tim Story Fantastic Four movies with Jessica Alba and Chris Evans, which have an actual budget, but couldn’t save them from bad writing, stupid moments, and piss-poor characterizations of Doctor Doom and Galactus.
There were plans for a third film, but they went nowhere. Instead, 20th Century Fox, the studio who still holds the rights to the Fantastic Four, opted for a reboot and they hired Josh Trank as director after the success of Chronicle. Before its release, this film was subjected to a lot of negative press on pretty much everything. Usually, I’m one to say that no one can judge a film until they actually see it and as one of the poor unfortunate souls who paid money to see this, I can safely say that all of the people who trashed the movie were correct. So let’s look at the fantastic failure known as Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four or Fant4stic as most people would call it.
A team of young scientists are working on a teleportation device to travel to other worlds. When they arrived to Planet Zero, they’re given superpowers. They eventually must team up when a former friend becomes an enemy and decides to destroy the world. Now some might wonder why the origin story is different from what we know about the Fantastic Four and why the Four are much younger. Well, that’s because this version is based on 2004’s Ultimate Fantastic Four, a modern reimagining of the F4 with them being younger and getting their powers from a teleportation experiment gone wrong instead of being hit by cosmic rays. This is a change that I didn’t mind because it sets itself apart from the previous movies. Sadly, this doesn’t make the story good and its pace is really weird. Half of the film is spent on the origin story and it’s slow, but not anything awful. The second half, after they get their powers, goes really fast in neck-break speed and that’s where the film goes downhill.
The real tragedy of this film is that it has some really good actors in this cast, but they were given shit material. Miles Teller as Reed Richards is the typical awkward geek. He wasn’t anything special. Jamie Bell was unconvincing as Ben Grimm. Aside from being shorter than Reed, this version of Ben is barely on-screen as much before the half-way point. He doesn’t even contribute to the teleportation experiment at the Baxter building, yet Reed felt the need to have him come along as they travel to Planet Zero. Did I ever mentioned that the Thing is constantly buck-ass nude and has no penis? Kate Mara’s Sue Storm is an empty shell of a character. Out of all of the characters, she has the least amount of personality. I wasn’t a fan of Jessica Alba’s Sue Storm in the Tim Story films, but she plays the character better than Kate Mara. Sue isn’t even a character in this movie, she’s a plot device. She doesn’t even go along on the trip to Planet Zero, it was Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Victor Von Doom (we’ll get to the latter two eventually). When everything goes wrong, she tries to bring them back, resulting in the device exploding and she gets caught up in it, gaining superpowers. She’s the only reason the team can go in and out of Planet Zero. I read somewhere that if you replace a female character in a story with a woman-shaped lamp and nothing in the plot changes, then you have failed at writing a female character. Even worse is that she’s the only female character in the movie with any “significant” lines of dialogue. And now to the most controversial casting choice of the entire film, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. Boy, did this decision turn the Internet into a toxic warzone. Why? Because traditionally, Johnny Storm has always been a blond haired, blue eyed white guy and MBJ is a black man. The backlash to this casting has ranged from traditionalists complaining about comic book inaccuracy to straight-up racist comments and they got out of hand. Here’s my stance: I don’t have an issue with this. While I prefer there to be original characters of color over changing the race of pre-established ones, character is more important than race in general and by looking at his performance in Chronicle, I believe that Michael B. Jordan can pull off Johnny Storm, who’s a cocky, self-centered attention seeker. And we get bits of that in Fant4stic, but it’s more of the same bland shit. Also, I don’t believe in his sibling relationship with Sue, not because he’s black and she’s white (interracial families do exist in the 21st century), but because they have no chemistry. Like I said, the material given brings them down. Their father, Franklin Storm (played by Reg E. Cathy), is there to exposit about science and family and shit. Tim Blake Nelson is a government suck-up who was supposed to be Mole Man, but was changed in the last minute by studio interference.
And now for the worst character in the movie, Toby Kebbell as Victor Von Doom. Let me give you a reminder that Doctor Doom is one of the most badass villains not just in comics, but in all medium of storytelling. He’s the leader of his own country, Latveria. He’s a brilliant scientist and an exceptional sorcerer. His intellect rivals that of Reed Richards and other super geniuses and he has proven himself to be a formidable threat. He has gone up against every superhero in the Marvel universe, stolen the power of gods, and has taken over the world on multiple occasions and even the entire universe. Doom ain’t nothing to fuck with. So why do the movie adaptations always miss the point and make him lame? Toby Kebbell’s Doom might be one of the worst adaptations of a villain thus far. This version of Doom is a computer technician who participated in building the teleportation device and went along with going to Planet Zero where he received superpowers. Just like the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, only worse. His motivation is too fluid. Initially, he wanted to be famous, but then when he gets his powers, he wants to destroy Earth because man is evil or some Ferngully bullshit. His powers are plot conveniences. He can make heads explode, he’s got telekinesis, he can control rocks. They’re never fully explained. And his design? Dear Odin, his design. You saw that image above. It looks like a crash test dummy made out of tin foil and powered by nuclear energy. Doom is one of those character designs that should be easy to adapt to live action and they fucked it up. This is another thing that the Tim Story films have over Trank’s, their Doom actually looks like Doom.
So many issues with this film, I don’t even know where to begin. For a film with a budget of $155 million, it sure as hell doesn’t look like it because the special effects are horrible. The green screen always look fake. The CGI looks unfinished. How is it possible that a film with a $155 million budget in 2015 have worse effects than the Tim Story movies AND the Roger Corman film? There’s also continuity issues that even the blind can catch and it’s where you can tell there were reshoots. For example, Sue Storm’s hair. Her hair in this movie is supposed to be a dirty blonde color, but there are scenes where her hair is a brighter blonde color. It was clear that Kate Mara was wearing a wig during those reshoots and it doesn’t even look like her natural hair. There’s also instances of Miles Teller having facial hair, even though Reed is supposed to be clean-shaven. Was there not ANYONE keeping up with the continuity of this film? If you’re looking for some good ol’ comic book movie action, you’ll be sorely disappointed because not only is there little action, but the action scenes suck. There’s only two and they’re both really short and they happen in the second half of the film. One scene is the government chasing after Reed after he escaped from their facility a year ago when they got their powers. This scene barely lasts a minute and has some awful green screening. By the way, Reed was an asshole for leaving his friends behind. He would never do this in the comics, it’s way out-of-character for him. And the other scene is the final battle where Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben travel to Planet Zero to confront Doom and it’s one of the worst final battles ever. Bad CGI and green screen, Doom throwing rocks at the four, and it’s not fun to watch because the movie looks ugly and we don’t care about these characters or their world. Oh, and the four never gets their signature blue costumes with the 4 insignia. I can’t be outraged by this because they haven’t earned those costumes.
I give Fant4stic a 1/10. This film made me appreciate the Roger Corman/Tim Story Fantastic Four movies even more. Yes, they’re stupid and corny, but they at least captured the spirit of the Fantastic Four. You can ironically enjoy these films and have fun watching them. That can’t be said about Josh Trank’s train wreck. It’s dull, devoid of humor (despite attempts), joyless, and is SO GODDAMN BORING. The characters have little to no chemistry with each other and even worse, the main four feel less like a family and more like a bunch of angsty teenagers. Talk about missing the point. In their attempt at making a more serious and grounded Fantastic Four movie, the filmmakers ended up making something no one can take seriously. It’s the worst rated comic-book movie of all time with a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s one percent lower than Batman & Robin. Not only is it a failure among audiences and critics, but it bombed at the box office, leaving any chances of a sequel at zero. There were several rumors surrounding this movie that sealed its fate from clashes between Trank and the actors to Trank’s erratic behavior on-set to heavy studio interference, which is clear in the reshoots. It doesn’t even have a Stan Lee cameo. Even worse is that they never reached out to Stan Lee for consulting. You heard that right. They didn’t bring in the guy who created the Fantastic Four to consult on a movie BASED on the Fantastic Four. Words have escaped me. This is a movie that was doomed (no pun intended) from the start. And now, Fox are trying a THIRD reboot along with rumors of a Doctor Doom movie. Fox, stop. Please. You had your chances and you failed every single time. You’re not fit for this. The best option you can do now is to give the rights back to Marvel so they can show the world how to properly adapt these characters into film. Sadly, with how hardheaded Fox is, that will never happen and we will probably never see a good Fantastic Four movie for a while. Fant4stic, the worst comic book movie of the 2010s AND the second-worst comic book movie of all time behind Catwoman.