I've seen bad films that end bad, I've seen films that start off bad and end good and now I've seen a film start good, become mediocre, and end horribly wrong!
Welcome to Chamorro Cinema where today I'm reviewing Fant4STIC. Was it good? Was it Bad? Maybe a little of both? Let's get to it...
♫ It's alright cuz' I'm saved by Kebbell ♫ (The Characters)
Look, when it comes to the characters in this film we need to address two things; First, the actors are not to blame for how bad this movie was...and Second, it was a poor concept in the first place to make Degrassi: The Baxter years.
Miles Teller, for my money, is one of the better actors of his generation and when you pair him with the likes of Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, and Fricken' Tim Blake Nelson, this is a dream cast...for a different movie.
Reed Richards has one of the highest regarded minds in the Marvel Universe. He is a brilliant
theoretician and has engineering skills on par with Tony Stark. In this film, Reed comes across as someone who definitely has some machining chops and is certainly a genius, but is rarely the smartest man in the room. He always seems like one cog in the machine, never the engine itself. This is at odds with the Reed Richards that we all know from the comics, in which he is constantly trying to solve scientific problems even to the detriment of his relationships with his family.
In the film he comes across more as a passive member of the team; he is content to allow Victor and Franklin to be center stage and he is happy to be in back playing his triangle. Even when he is pulling his Bruce Banner - guerilla science routine, he is still just working in another transporter...in this film he's a one trick pony.
Sue Storm in the comics is considerably younger than Reed (he's six years her senior). She is not a
genius, as she has been portrayed in the films, but an actress that is romantically involved with Reed. She convinces Reed to let her and her brother accompany him and Ben on his shuttle test - they are bombarded with cosmic rays and badabing-badaboom they become the Fantastic Four. Sue is one of the more interesting characters in the comics. She is the heart and soul of the team and having trained with Iron Fist, is one of their most competent fighters. Her husband's commitment to science and sense of nobility often drives a wedge between them, insomuch as they have been separated and she's had relationships with Namor, but it's her love for Reed which she has had since she was a 13 year old girl that always brings them back together.
In the film, you get the impression that Reed has a crush on Sue, but they never appear to be in any sort of relationship; in fact, the romantic plot threads seem like something Josh Trank was uncomfortable with. There is never any real chemistry between Reed and Sue, and Victor's unrequited feelings are straight out of the Twilight play book (lots of rapey stares). But beyond that, I think the film did a fair to middling job of setting up her character, I would have liked to see less intensity and more of that compassion that is part of the DNA of this character in the comics.
Johnny Storm in the comics is an aspiring actor, ex-firefighter, ex-auto mechanic, that loves the
attention he receives as the Human Torch. He is often brash and a showboat but is always heroic.
In this film Johnny is a tough, street-racer type that is loyal to his friends. I think that Johnny has the best material in this film. He actually has interesting relationships with the other characters, the underpinnings of some strain between him and his golden child sister, a desire to be something more and to prove his worth to his dad, he's loyal to Reed and to Victor (even though they bust each others balls). He plays the character with a believable swagger and motivation that the campy version played by Chris Evans lacked.
Benjamin Grimm in the comics is a tortured soul. Of all his teammates he is the only one that can't
live a normal life. He was born into hardship and poverty. His older brother was killed in a street fight and these events molded him into a street tough. He eventually meets Reed in college, where he played football and studied engineering. He eventually becomes a test pilot and...well you know the rest. He is pretty much universally liked by every superhero in the Marvel Universe and has had a couple of long term relationships. His most notable relationship being with the blind Alicia Masters.
In this film Ben is a friend only to Reed. He has no other connections to any of the other characters. He is absent for half of act one, seen sporadically in act two, and assists in the epic showdown couple of punches that comprises act three. There seems to be this wall between him and Johnny and Sue, they almost never interact. He doesn't seem to be a tough guy, athlete, or engineer. In fact, early on he seems more like Reed's lovely assistant than his partner. This makes us not care about him...He actually seems more like a henchman than a hero. He is supposed to seem tortured by the violence that he is forced to inflict by the government but none of that translates.
Dr. Doom is one of the top tier Marvel villains and one that we all want to see done right in film...and
we are still waiting. In the comics, Victor is the child of Romani nomads (one of whom is a witch) in the fictional country of Latveria. He is a genius and studies alongside Reed Richards at Empire University. Reed tries to warn Victor about a flaw in a machine he's building but Victor presses on anyway; the machine explodes and disfigures his face (actually, Ben Grimm tampered with the machine to get back at Victor for being a douche). Dr. Doom then goes to Tibet, builds his mask and armor...learns some magic...takes over Latveria...becomes a super-villain intent on taking out Reed.
In the film we get some of that...Victor is from Latveria based on a piece of paper we see and an on-again off-again accent, and Reed did figure out how to make Victor's equipment work while they studied together at the Baxter building...but mostly Victor is a friend. He seems to like Reed and is more interested in complaining about the baby boomers ruining the planet than vengeance. He is given the shaft in this movie. He is given almost no backstory or material to work with and then he is made into one of the most ridiculous movie villains ever.
The Story is no more, there is only DOOM (SPOILERS)
So Fant4stic actually started out with some promise. I knew going into it that they were going for a younger cast so starting with Reed and Ben in 5th grade instead of college was inevitable, and for the most part I enjoyed those sequences. As a fan of the comics there were all sorts of goodies in there... references to H.E.R.B.I.E. and the fact that we saw Ben and his older brother's home life and the cycle of abuse that he went through; however, none of this pays off because Reed in this film is only focused on one thing...teleporting.
If we are going to see an art film version of the Fantastic Four then go for it! We should have seen more of Reed's strained relationship with his parents...We should have seen Ben's brother die...We should have spent more time with these characters so that we can see the need to have a father figure, like Franklin Storm, take them in, and in the end it makes his death meaningful.
We should have seen Ben get into the Baxter Institute, but fail out because he was always just the Vannah to Reed's Sajak. That could have been interesting and it could have given him more interactions with Sue, Victor and Johnny.
My point is that if we are going to do the CW version of Marvel then let's commit - let's see some sparks between Sue and Reed, let's have some of that tension between her and Victor...I know we are talking theoretical physics, but can't we have a little chemistry. Let's see Ben and Johnny have a little rivalry as the two jocks trying to be the Alpha Male among the egg heads...
But none of that is here - Ben is set up and then disappears. We get a glossed over love triangle between Victor, Reed, and Sue that seems like a stalker and that nerdy guy that lets you copy his homework are pursuing a girl that they are both scared to talk to. We get a Johnny Storm that is a street-racer who can fix anything...but doesn't fix anything. We get a Victor that is supposed to be a jerk and difficult to work with, but he seems to bond fine with the team. It's all very vanilla...until the accident.
The accident is the best part of this movie...once the poop hits the fan we get these great horror elements to go along with the sci-fi ones. Victor is killed by the green stuff inside of glow sticks. The doors on the transporter won't close, letting rocks into Ben's capsule and Johnny is engulfed by flames. It was intense and well executed. The way Reed is stretched out and anguished over not knowing what happened to his friends, the way Johnny is writhing as he is in flames and Ben's pleas for help were all heart-wrenching and that was a perfect realistic take on the material.
After that things go downhill fast. We have a one year time jump and Ben is a government weapon and Johnny is training to be the same. Sue is good at turning herself and other objects invisible, but still having a bit of trouble with flying and producing force fields. Reed is in Central America building another transporter...like you do, when there is a change to your biochemistry you use physics instead of, you know, um medical science. They eventually track him down because he is the only one who can finish Franklin's transporter...which makes no sense because you would have to assume that the Baxter institute had records of how that all worked the first time. There is some good material there between Ben and Reed on the plane but just like everything in this movie, there were glimmers of promise that never paid off.
After Reed fixes the transporter a team of astronauts goes in and they find that Victor is very much alive and dressed in a children's Halloween costume. He decided to come back to earth and kill everyone, then to protect his world he is going to merge Mustafar his world with ours. He has a bunch of abilities that range from telekinetics to making people explode to burning father figures and finally controlling everything on his planet. The Fantastic Four follow him through the portal and after a few punches he is destroyed and our dimension is saved in the most anti-climactic battle in the history of cinema (and that includes Aslan simply roaring to end the battle in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe).
I was actually PISSED at the end of the movie. There was no reason on God's green earth (or Zero's barren wasteland) that this movie couldn't have worked. It had a stellar cast and a director that had demonstrated that he knew how to combine sci-fi with superheroes. I wanted this to be good and the first 20 minutes or so were, then I have to assume they talked to Sony and brought on whoever the story editor was on the Amazing Spider-man to just come in and screw crap up a little. Throughout this disaster of a film there were moments that could have been great, but it failed to deliver on it's promise.
It wasn't as bad as Twitter made it out to be, but it was very disappointing. It was like losing your virginity on prom night; the night was romantic and magical, but the main event was messy, rushed and filled with empty promises.
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