Monday, August 10, 2015

Fant4stic (2015)

The moment has come...it's time to talk about the Fantastic Four. Often considered the beginning of the Marvel Age, the Fantastic Four's origin played up the sci-fi aspects of things, showing an accident that gave four friends wondrous abilities that they would use for decades to come as they went of adventures together. Over time, they became more of a family unit with two of them being wed, one being the brother-in-law, and the last member being the godfather of the children that came from that union. To many comic fans, the Fantastic Four are considered the heart of Marvel Comics and it's no shock that some filmmakers have attempted to construct films based on them, being that they are largely important characters. This week, I'll be going over the three major films that reflect those attempts to bring the Fantastic Four to life on the silver screen.

Which brings us to this...whatever it is.

In total, there have been four films based on these characters. One of those four films was never even released, making it only available via bootlegs (of which there are many). That makes four times that studios, writers, directors, and actors tried to bring these classic characters to life. Four failures to truly wow anyone. I'm going to focus, as I said, on the three major films. Will I talk about the one sequel film at some point? Possibly. But right now, we're going to look at the newest film. A film that desperately wanted to be cool, edgy, and different. It did this by hiring a director who mostly tried to reuse a lot of his ideas from his only other film. That film being Chronicle, the story of a group of young people who get powers resulting in one of them going bad. Josh Trank, hoping to prove he's not just a one-trick pony, took on this film where he tells a story of a group of young people...who get powers...resulting in one of them going bad.

I am staggered by how different the concepts for both films are. Really.
 Yeah, let's get the obvious out of the way right now before we even break down the film. This movie? Yeah, it's like a much worse version of Chronicle. Josh Trank has proven that, when given a film that is classically completely different in concept than his previous film, he can masterfully mold into a film that wants to be his previous film. Only worse. Much, much worse. I recall being wary of this movie as soon as I heard Michael Jordan was cast.

Like he'll ever be able to top the cinematic excitement of Space Jam.
What...? Wrong Jordan? Oh yeah, I knew that. Truth is, while other fans were arguing over whether Johnny Storm should be black or white, I was sitting here by myself with an actual legitimate concern, as Jordan was in the director's previous film. He was now in two films with similar stories, but we were assured Trank was going to make something new and different. Racism ran rampant in Facebook comments on the casting and I was just worried that this movie was going to be a director attempting to relive his only hit once again. From that point on, things only got more disappointing. Everything from the first pictures of Dr. Doom to the revelation that a certain member of the team would be missing something very important. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

His lovely blue booty shorts.
More on that later though, as I've held you all up long enough. Let's get to our feature presentation, which starts off in 2007 with Reed Richards as a kid. Yep, I'm not kidding, it's really supposed to be 2007. That's probably why everyone in the classroom looks like they're straight out of the 80s. Seriously, Ben Grimm is practically the spitting image of River Phoenix from Stand By Me, a movie that I would definitely recommend watching rather than sitting through this one. Anyway, Reed comes up to explain what he wants to do with his life, which is build a teleportation device. You know, he wants a career in science. He's clearly the smartest person in the room, which is made even more evident when the teacher immediately tells him he has to redo his paper because it's just "fantasy nonsense". The American education system, ladies and gentlemen. At least in this film, anyway. But, as we'll soon see, this movie isn't really fond of making anyone look good.

"Doom's ears are burning..."
Ben peeks over at Reed's notes, which resemble something from Meet the Robinsons, and we then go to the Grimm family junkyard where not only is it becoming slightly obvious that Ben's Jewish heritage doesn't exist here, but it also becomes a thing when his abusive bully of a brother says "IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME" before beating his smaller brother. Lovely. Forget coming with a trigger warning, this movie IS a trigger warning in and of itself. Ben then finds Reed in the junkyard, stealing parts for his teleporter, and decides to help him dabble in his scientific endeavors. They go back to his garage where if I didn't see a bunch of Nintendo 64s wired together, I would still swear this movie takes place in 1985.

Which is silly on my part, as we all know She-Hulk was on the Fantastic Four in 85, and I don't see her gorgeous green gams anywhere.
They use the parts Ben contributed to send a toy car somewhere and knock out the electricity everywhere, which upsets Reed's stepfather as he was watching a TV that also looks like it's in the wrong time period. 2007 my ass...anyway, we then fast forward to now and the boys are teenagers, because old people are boring and no one would go to see a superhero movie starring actors who are the age of 30, right? Pardon Robert Downey Jr., folks, he's just scoffing over in the corner next to the posters for the Iron Man and Avengers films. But yeah, they're teens and are at a science fair, because when I think of Reed Richards, I think of science fairs. The same teacher from when they're kids immediately scoffs at them after they successfully teleport a toy plane, saying it's a science fair, not a magic show. Alright, sir, first of all: fuck you. Second: fuck you some more. Even though I am not enjoying myself here, I can at least tell this kid is smarter than you. But that's not too shocking when you realize their teacher is literally Homer Simpson.

"They told me this was The Simpsons Movie 2 when I agreed to be in it..."
But the boys get noticed by the films magical black man character, played by Reg E. Cathey. He's Dr. Franklin Storm, the father of Johnny and Susan Storm. He and Sue both show up to check out the teleporter, with Franklin being appropriately wowed with it as they've been attempting to do the same thing, only they weren't able to teleport anything back. Reed gets offered a scholarship to go the Franklin's fancy school and Ben basically tells Reed he belongs there. At the school, Reed tries to make conversation with Sue, who is so not interested. Seriously, if there's supposed to be chemistry here, none of the actors convey it in the least, as she mostly seems annoyed by everyone. Franklin also goes to invite Victor Von Doom to rejoin them there, telling him that Reed figured out a way to make their project work. Victor comes back, but it seems he's mostly there because of his obvious thing for Sue...which is making my eyes roll so hard that it hurts.

Apparently the writers of these movies think these two are made for each other more than toymakers do.
See, this is a major problem I had with another Fantastic Four film. The idea that Dr. Doom is in love with Sue Storm. Not only is it a stupid idea, but it feels like a needless change to make when you already have the rivalry between Reed and Doom over who is more intelligent. It also ignores Doom's vanity and ego, as Doom cares about himself too much to ever truly love anyone to the level of obsession. The only person he's obsessed with is Reed, as he wants to prove himself the greater mind. That's not to say that there wasn't a terrible alternate reality version of Doom who also had a creepy crush on her, but that Doom also had cloven hooves and turned his internal organs into poisonous gas. If you're not going to give him those things, quit giving him the stupid creeper behaviour. It's a ridiculous and boring attempt to create a love triangle, especially when Sue and Reed have no visible chemistry between them on screen.

The hooves are really the only redeeming thing about his design, though. Otherwise he's just a hobo version of Doom.
We also get introduced to Johnny, who is a young street racer and ends up wrecking during a race, which results in a broken arm and his dad taking away his car. Franklin tells him if he wants the car back, he has to earn it by working with the others. Wait, Johnny Storm is going to be working on something? Yeah, apparently in this movie he is also a genius engineer and is mostly nothing like Johnny Storm, personality-wise. The closest he ever gets to acting like Johnny Storm is at the end of the film when he makes a comment at Ben, but the delivery seems less playful and more like his being an unlikable piece of shit. But here they are, our group! Minus Ben, as he's not smart enough for smart kids club. They all work together to build a large version of the machine, which they manage to actually accomplish, but not before Doom acts jealous because Reed and Sue talk for five seconds. The nerve! They test the machine out, sending a chimpanzee that is made of CGI that is less believable than every single ape in every Planet of the Apes film.

Yes, including the terrible Tim Burton one.
It works perfectly, which is great...until the board of directors tells the kids they won't be getting to go over on the machine, as they were planning. Disappointed and upset, they do the most reasonable things...they get shitfaced. While drunk off their asses, Reed decides they should go anyway, basically making him singularly responsible for every bad thing that happens from this point on. He calls Ben up to come join them, because there just aren't enough people there to endanger the lives of, and the boys all teleport to PLANET ZERO! Yeah, instead of traveling into space and being exposed to cosmic rays, they teleport to another dimension...that they call Planet Zero. It sure is good they didn't already have a name for a place like that in the comics, like the Negative Zone. Better just call an entire dimension a planet, because that makes sense. Also, you may notice that I said "boys", as Sue is not around for the whole getting drunk and teleporting into another dimension thing. She's too busy not being attracted to any of them men in this film.

You know, when she's not obviously looking much older than the others. If she's a teenager then so am I.
As expected, things go bad pretty quickly as the entire environment decides to start going nuts after they jam a flagpole into the ground there. It could also be because Doom sticks his hand in neon green glowing ooze, but it honestly feels like we're meant to think the flag caused it with the way it is framed. Doom gets pulled into a geyser of the ooze, which seems to immediately melt him, and the others run for the pods. Sue has, by the time, noticed their outright stupidity and is trying to contact them but is only able to get through to them after things get much worse. How much worse? Well, Johnny ends up being lit on fire somehow in his pod and Ben's pod won't close, resulting in him being pelted by rocks, because this entire dimension they're in also thinks Jamie Bell is terrible casting for the character. Sue manages to teleport them back, getting caught in a shockwave which makes her both unconscious and slightly invisible...I'm not entirely sure why, but alright. But this part here? This is where the movie shifts from boring young adult thing to straight up horror film. Seriously. Reed wakes up covered in blood, seeing what appears to be Johnny's burning corpse.

It's symbolic of what critics and fans think of this film.
His own legs are pinned and likely broken, but he still crawls along, hearing Ben crying for help. As he tries to reach Ben, it finally occurs to him that he shouldn't be able to move this far, causing him to look back at his stretched limbs and faint. I can't really give him shit, as that's some fucked up imagery. One of his friends is a burning body, another is buried, that other guy he sorta likes is melted on an alien world...it's a bad time for the John Cusack look-alike. In the aftermath, he wakes up in a secret government installation where he notices his arms and legs are all stretched out and he hears Ben crying for help. He manages to pull himself together to crawl into the vents where he sees his friend is now a rock monster, which is also stupid and I'll tell you why later. Rather than acting anything at all like a heroic lead, he instead runs away and leaves them there. Sue and Johnny are both in comas and Ben is seemingly part of the ground, for some reason. A year goes by and Ben is now a government enforcer, getting sent on missions where he kills people in foreign countries. Johnny and Sue are being trained to pretty much do the same thing, and Franklin is trying to rebuild the teleporter so they can possibly find a way to reverse it in that other dimension that is totally not the Negative Zone.

But I guess if they had called it that, then they might've actually been forced to design a threatening villain who lives there.
But they need Reed, as he has the secret spice blend to make the machine work, thus Sue goes hunting for him and finds him in Central America, where he's gained the ability to make himself look older...and somehow a different race. That's not idiotic at all, right? So, because Ben is pissed at him for leaving him, he gets sent to capture him. He does. Reed fixes their machine, and we all laugh at Reed's goofy fucking suit he's wearing with springs attached to it. He can stretch his face to look like an old Central America gentleman, but they expect me to buy that he needs these springs to hold everything else in shape? Bullshit. It looks awful and is a terrible idea. I hope whoever came up with this idea gets forced to work of nothing but terrible spoof films for the rest of their lives. They send a team over to the other dimension I refuse to call a planet and it turns out Victor is alive there still after being melted. Also, he somehow found a cape. I guess there are thrift shops over there. They bring him back, believing him to need medical attention, but he's really just got a bad case of looking like he's about to fight the Power Rangers with a bunch of his buddies.

"Doom shall crush those Rangers just like Richards. RICHARRRRDDDDSSS!"
And if you didn't think this movie was desperately wanting to be a horror movie before, well, let's just say Doom is here to prove you wrong. And he's going to do this by making everyone's head pop like an overripe pimple. It was at this time as I watched him walking through this cold environment, exploding various heads, that I recalled a movie with very similar imagery. Trank claimed he was going for Scanners, but I know a scene from Akira when I see one. They literally turned Doom into Tetsuo, the whiny drug-addled superhuman who makes people and things explode and move with his mind. Seriously, it all lines up. I dare you to tell me this is not what they did, because the results are the same.

This is what Doom does to all the soldiers and staff. I'm not joking.
I'm sorry, Trank, but I've seen Scanners. Popping people's heads wasn't quite that easy in there...but in Akira? Oh yeah, Tetsuo made exploding people into pulp seem about as easy as farting. The others all start to notice shit has officially hit the fan and come together just in time to see Franklin get killed as Doom hops in the teleporter, then turning the device into a black hole to suck our entire world into it, destroying everything in the process. Our four...heroes...end up going over to the other dimension where Doom summarily spanks them, as he's in full Tetsuo mode and won't be satisfied until he gets his way. Not even Sue can stop him, as Tetsuo's girl obsession tried and failed at that too, getting crushed to death. Trank reminds us that this isn't Akira though by having Doom...nearly crush Sue to death. Well, at least he didn't do it with his giant expanding body. I can't decide if that would've made this better or worse though. Any way, Reed manages to get a hit in and basically tells them all that they suck, but maybe if they suck as a group, they might not die.

First they have to pose for the poster though, because that doesn't take us out of the movie at all.
They manage to come together and force Doom into the magical burny light show, he dies, and without a major villain they all go their separate ways. Just kidding, they end up giving the government and ultimatum, which results in the government bowing to their demands and giving them a base to work out of. Huh. That's weird, because whenever most people do that in movies the government doesn't cooperate and treats those people as the villains. I guess it only works if plot convenience manages to portray a group of unlikable characters as the heroes. So yeah, they get their base, Johnny is an asshole to Ben for reasons unknown, and the credits start rolling before we hear John Cusack's teenage clone call them a name they did not in any way earn. The end.

"Does this mean I can have some pants now?"
To say this movie was the worst attempt to adapt these characters to film is such an understatement. It boggles the mind, honestly, that everyone involved managed to get everything so wrong to such an astonishing level. At no point in this entire film do you honestly feel like the four leads really like one another. Reed is portrayed as a selfish screw-up, Sue as a cold intellectual, Johnny as a bitter asshole, and Ben...well, explain Ben to me? Because he doesn't make sense in any way, shape, or form. He's scrawny, for one thing, which makes him becoming a massive monster make no sense. None of the others mutated in a way that changed their mass. And, big surprise, he didn't change to that degree in the comics either. He was a big guy beforehand, only really becoming more monstrous looking in appearance rather than becoming a giant mass of rocks. Also, he wasn't made of rocks, but was instead given thick skin that seemed to be made of plates. People who don't know anything about these characters often think of him as a rock monster though, because that makes sense? But, yes, let's discuss the major elephants in the room. First of which is still about Benjy here.

Specifically, the fact that he's got no penis. Yep, we're going to talk about that.
Here's this character who has obvious issues about his appearance in pretty much all of the various Fantastic Four iterations. He's dealt with depression, self-loathing, and feelings of inadequacy. We have this character who is known for having a love life, despite his physical appearance making him feel like a hideous monster who no one wants to be around. They took this character and decided to take away what even the worst comic writers always left him with: his dick. Ben Grimm is a eunuch in this film. If that wasn't enough though, they also turned his battle cry, a phrase that comic fans have often said aloud as if hoping to channel the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing's own strength, into a terrible symbol of abuse. His older brother, his abuser, says this before beating him up. Sweet sufferin' fuck, why would you do that? All it does is make it make no sense as to why Ben would say it! Every single time he says it could hinder his effectiveness in a fight due to the traumatic memories it would likely stir up. But Ben isn't alone, because they really fucked over another character here severely.

"Doom is having a not-so-fresh feeling."
That is not Dr. Doom. That is not a proper villain. No, what that is is a creepy asshole who is lusting after a woman who has no interest and then he ends up having his completely non-metallic suit melted to his body. Yeah, he's not wearing armour at all there. That's a melted fucking spacesuit. In the source material, Doom was an egotistical man who took over a country, learned sorcery, and built a fucking suit of hi-tech armour capable of taking on all comers. He's a man who stands above most villains as one of the single biggest threats ever and he does this using nothing but his own hard-earned skills. He didn't get powers from magical glowing ooze that TCBI dumped into the Negative Zone. This movie takes one of the greatest villains in fictional history and turns him into a shitty Tetsuo rip-off in a goofy looking scab-suit. They turned Dr. Doom into a walking scab. I can't get over that. It's insulting to the creators of the character, the fans, and to the character himself. And, for me, it was the final nail in the coffin that is this failure of a film.

It should be buried in the same deep dark hole as Kate Mara's annoyingly obvious wig.
As a film it doesn't work because the characters just aren't likeable in the least. Reed has a few moments where he seems alright, but those immediately get erased when he runs off to save his own ass. None of the actors felt right for their roles, the writing was largely uninspired, and the sudden shift the film has into horror territory completely sticks out as tone deaf for what this movie is supposed to be: a superhero movie. This movie has proven that 20th Century Fox really has no idea what to do with these characters and it is this writer's hope that they will do the only smart thing, which is to sell the rights back to Disney/Marvel Studios. Fox can keep the X-Men, but they need to let the Fantastic Four go, because this is just getting sad to see. I cannot in good conscience recommend this film, as it is a miserable experience that wastes all potential it may have had with the talent present. And if this movie is a reflection of Josh Trank's ability to try and do something after Chronicle, then I dread seeing his next film. So, until Dr. Doom shows up in our reality to vapourize the executives at 20th Century Fox for dishonouring his legacy in such a manner, I'll be here debating whether or not I should give myself a concussion to forget this trainwreck. Later days, bleeders.

"We'll be back in the sequel that is never getting made! See you in the bargain bins, folks!"

2 comments:

  1. Great review, Brian! Man...it just sounds awful. I almost want to see it just to see HOW awful.

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