The Thing from 20th Century Fox's 'Fantastic Four'

10 Things You Need to Know About ‘Fantastic Four’

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Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is getting slammed so badly that the director himself has disavowed it. That’s never, ever a good sign. But is it actually that bad, or just a matter of bad press?

10. Yes, it really is that bad. Seriously, folks, do not bother seeing this in the theater. Wait until it’s on cable and experience it, preferably with a drink. If you don’t mind swears, comic artist Ty Templeton nails the biggest issue in a simple cartoon–this Fantastic Four is not very fantastic. Or heroic at all, really. They create a mess due to their own egos, then clean it up a year later, and then use that leverage to essentially blackmail the government. Well done, all. It’s so bad that I will not be using images from the movie, and instead will include panels from the classic comics.

And "The Negative Zone" is just a thousand times cooler than "Planet Zero". Copyright Marvel Comics.
And “The Negative Zone” is just a thousand times cooler than “Planet Zero”.
Copyright Marvel Comics.

9. The worst part about it is how you see glimmers of the movie it could’ve been. In fact, I’d even argue that the middle segment would be enjoyable as some kind of fan film. The first act crawls and the third is a hot mess, but that middle act is not horrific. And that, kids, is what we call “damning with faint praise.” Still, you really can see that, at some point, there was some effort put into this… and then they gave up and said “OKAY NOW KILL EVERYONE!”

8. About that! There’s a pretty high death toll here. Not quite Man of Steel levels, but there’s a moment in the third act where it goes from suspense to almost comical amounts of death. I guess you’re supposed to feel like the stakes have been raised, but it just feels over the top and silly. Almost as silly as finding out the pants-less Thing is now a covert ops mass murderer. Classy.

This is a far cry from the Thing in the comics, who only almost kills people while under mind control. Copyright Marvel Comics.
This is a far cry from the Thing in the comics, who only almost kills people while under mind control.
Copyright Marvel Comics.

7. The casting director deserves a gift basket. Seriously, the actors almost all have decent chemistry and screen presence. Michael B. Jordan feels like Johnny, much like Chris Evans did in the older version. I guess The Human Torch is just an easy character to update to modern sensibilities.

Thankfully, they did not lift his fashion sense from the classic comics. Copyright Marvel Comics.
Thankfully, they did not lift his fashion sense from the classic comics.
Copyright Marvel Comics.

6. With that said, don’t expect this movie to make up for some of the lackluster roles of women in super hero action films. Sue Storm is very much “the girl.” I’m sure Kate Mara is a great actress in some things, but she’s stuck making the same two facial expressions, modeling assorted wigs, and being a potential love interest. How sidelined is she? She doesn’t even get to be part of the exploratory mission–instead she gets her powers while sitting at home, trying to get them to come back. That’s just lame.

Mind you, that sort of treatment *is* in keeping with the classic comics. Copyright Marvel Comics.
Mind you, that sort of treatment *is* in keeping with the classic comics.
Copyright Marvel Comics.

5. You can play a drinking game for every time Franklin Storm (father of The Human Torch and Invisible Woman) stressed being a family or working together. Oh my glob, we get it. The theme of family is stressed and name-dropped throughout. Annoyingly, though, we never see anyone acting like one. Victor is apparently on his own; Sue is adopted and Franklin’s favorite, but we rarely see warmth there; Johnny is busy being an angry son; Ben is beaten by his brother (while using his own signature “it’s clobbering time” line); and Reed goes so far as to say he wishes he too had been adopted by another family. For a movie that wants to stress a family theme, they sure do show family as a terrible thing.

Speaking of families, here's Reed Richards being a jerk to his fiancé again. Copyright Marvel Comics.
Speaking of families, here’s Reed Richards being a jerk to his fiancé again.
Copyright Marvel Comics.

4. Can we talk about their powers? The Fantastic Four’s powers are treated like afflictions, which is a somewhat new take (other than The Thing), and have to be controlled via their suits. This would be an interesting take if it were not so dreary. The Fantastic Four should never be dreary, people! Almost all the powers are introduced via an infodump, violating that important movie-making rule “show, don’t tell.” Doom apparently must have somehow heard this info dump, despite not being in the same dimension, because he immediately guesses that a force field is Sue’s doing. Ugh.

3. Doctor Doom was the worst part of the 2005 Fantastic Four and he is yet again here. Tying Doom to the team’s origins is lame, and here they once again lame it up. Doom is basically a god, who has apparently spent the one year between acts one and two learning how to open inter-dimensional rifts with his mind. He decides to destroy the Earth, which is so far removed from any concept of Doom that they may as well have just named him Green Energy Guy.

2. Is there anything you or your kids may enjoy? The almost-cartoonish third act fight scene, got cheers from some of the kids in the audience. Seriously, I cannot stress how much this feels like another film that was tacked onto the rest. As re-shots were done later, this is entirely possible. Such a mishmash.

1. Speaking of, the ending may very well be the most blatant rip-off of Joss Whedon not having Cap actually finish saying “Avengers Assemble” at the end of Age of Ultron. Heck, that entire closing scene felt like an attempt to ape that more popular movie.

Seriously, folks, this is just a waste of time. If you want to see a good take on a team of four heroes that are a family, watch The Incredibles. But if you want to see a good Fantastic Four movie? You’re going to have to wait a while longer.

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7 thoughts on “10 Things You Need to Know About ‘Fantastic Four’

  1. I realized after reading this (though the headline didn’t include “parents need to know”) that this is just a review and not geared to taking kids. By that measure, it was a disappointing read since that’s really what GeekDad is about and so it seems odd to skip that type of review for a superhero movie.

    Also, I get that the author didn’t enjoy the film, but it also seems like he is predisposed to not enjoy it, rather than reviewing on it’s own merits. That said, I’m sure it’s every bit as bad as he states. I guess, it’s just disappointing that we didn’t get a “10 things parents need to know…” version instead of a straight-up review.

    1. Hi, author here. You raise a valid point, Jay. I specifically did word the headline that way, but I also noted kids in #2, and the answer was that it’s not worth taking your kids.

      I went in with an open mind, hoping it was better than people were saying. I’m sorry, it’s not. Not for me and not for kids. It’s just a bad movie.

  2. I thought of this way after submitting my article…

    The sad thing is, they really could have taken 75% of that movie and made a better one.

    Basically, lose Doom. If you must reference him, bring back the space race element – have the Baxter Foundation trying to beat Latveria into the Negative Zone (no, not Planet Zero – ugh).

    Instead, they breach the walls – all of them, including Sue! – and instead end up bringing Anihhilus to attack Earth, forcing them to learn how to use their powers and be a team on the fly.

    Instead you get a dreary, kid-unfriendly movie. Blegh.

  3. Oddly, being a selfish glory hound is an entirely plausible reading of the Fantastic Four’s (well Reed’s) motivations in the first issue.

    The difference is that Mark Waid gave it some emotional heft and played it in a way that tied into the family dynamic: Reed’s guilt and sense of responsibility towards the others. It sounds like the film-makers didn’t even put that much thought into it.

    And I agree on leaving Doom out of the origin. Also stop giving him super powers.

  4. I think most people who are fans of the comics were dreading this movie all along, based on the descriptions of the plot and characters. I often take the position that we comic nerds have to pump the brakes on this kind of pre-release commentary, as sometimes it turns out that the filmmakers know what they’re doing (e.g. the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman). In this case, however, all of our fears were apparently realized. As you say, The Incredibles did an admirable job of bringing an FF-like story to screen, whereas both the first two tries and this one widely missed the mark. As I’ve said elsewhere, part of the problem, like that in many superhero movies, is this obsession with telling origin stories. The fact is that the FF’s origin is just not that interesting. In an old interview, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman basically laughed themselves silly ripping it apart (So, when Reed’s attempt to launch the rocket is kiboshed because it’s too dangerous, he decides to a) hijack the rocket anyway and b) bring along his best friend, his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s teenage son?!?). But beyond that, none of these movies have come close to capturing the two themes that made the FF comics what they are/were. You’ve touched on the family angle. I’d argue that the second is that the FF are not superheroes, at least not in the traditional sense. Their raison d’etre is not to “fight the bad guys,” Doom notwithstanding. The movies have neglected the adventure/exploration aspect that really sets the FF apart. The FF function best as a sort of Challengers of the Unknown (to use a comics reference) with super-powers. While the origin story touches on that (in the comics with the Space Race and this movie with “Planet Zero”), it’s secondary to the fact that the FF gain superpowers. Integrating Doom into the origin takes away the exploration aspect even more, as it sets up the traditional hero-villain adversary roles. If Marvel gets the rights to the FF back (and it seems it’s well on its way after this stinker), I’d like to see them do an ongoing TV series a la Fringe or Sliders that focuses more on the FF as a family of scientific explorers and much less on the superheroics.

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