[If you want to read my spoiler-less review, click here]
Well, it's finally here, the movie we've all been waiting for! And don't you try and deny it, whether you were for or against this film, you've probably been waiting to see it. Many, MANY people were absolutely sure that this movie would suck, and were only anticipating its release so that they could pick it apart limb from stretchy limb.
Always the rebel, I found myself on the side that was actually excited for this movie, genuinely believing that it would be an enjoyable film. There weren't a lot of us, but we made our presence known!
Well now, the film is finally out in theaters. All of its faults and features have been presented in full detail on the big screen. By now, you're probably aware of what the general consensus on this movie is. You've read review after review, report after report, and looked at the Rotten Tomatoes rating over and over again to see if it changed at all. Because of this, I'm not going to write a simple review, because you've surely grown tired of them by now.
Instead of just writing a review in the traditional way, I'm going to write something a bit different. The fact is, this movie -despite its name- wasn't "fantastic." But it was far from horrible, and pretty dang close to wonderful. Wonderment-meter aside, I REALLY liked this movie. But I'll admit, I expected a bit more from it. To explain what I mean, I've compiled a list of 4 GOOD things about this film, as well as 4 BAD things. So, let's not dwell any longer—here's the first bad thing about the Fantastic Four!
One-Liners, Exposition And Motivational Speeches!
Let's start this off with the bad side first. I always find it better to talk about the faults of a movie before you get to the good parts. Oh, I should also mention that from here on out, there will be MASSIVE spoilers ahead. So if you haven't seen Fantastic Four yet, go see that and come back after. Go ahead, I'll wait...
So, the first thing I didn't like about this movie - its dialogue. Now, I didn't hate ALL of the dialogue. A lot of it was clever, funny and really creative. But a lot of it was also cheesy one-liners, exposition pieces and heartfelt motivational speech. And to me, that was kind of annoying.
One-liners are okay, but this movie had the characters (mostly Johnny and Reed) spouting them out every five or so minutes, at least that's what it felt like. I just felt like the movie would've been a lot better if they saved those one-liners, using them at certain times; rather than just having the characters talk like they all just finished reading one of those calendar books with a new joke every month.
As for the exposition, that's a little harder to avoid—especially in a superhero movie. I love it when movies show, rather than tell, but this movie had a hard time doing that. There are parts where they could have just shown us the thing they were talking about, or kept it brief and trusted that we were smart enough to pick up on it. But there were also a lot of parts that felt like they couldn't have been explained or shown any other way, so exposition was kind of needed. Still, I just really hate it when exposition is over used, and characters like Sue Storm, her father and Dr. Allen really over use it.
Speaking of Sue and Johnny's father, he supplies the film with about 85% of its motivational speeches. Now again, this is a comic book film. Motivational speeches and pre-battle rallies are pretty much a staple element of modern (and even classic) day comics. But my goodness, was there a lot of it! Nothing against Reg E. Cathy, he's a fine actor. But I would have enjoyed his performance more if he were a little less preachy with the "United we stand!" talk, and spoke more like a regular guy.
Whole Lotta Origin!
I'm actually glad that this is an origin story. The Fantastic Four aren't like Spider-Man, in the sense that we've seen their origins on screen again and again. We've only seen their beginnings a total of two times on the big screen, so an origin story is a must do.
I only wish that the movie had made it sweet and short. In reality, the majority of this movie focuses heavily on the origins of the characters and how they came to be the Fantastic Four. Reed is the main focus here, as he is the leader of the F4. The film starts with him as a little kid, all the way back in 2007. We see that he's a real Dexter-type! The one with the laboratory, not the...serial killer...one.
We also see how he and Ben Grimm become best friends. After Ben comes over to help Reed with his prototype teleporter, the two become like blood brothers. We also get a look at the origins of Sue and Johnny. Sue's the adopted sister of Johnny, and the smartest of the two. She is also shown to be somewhat of a teacher's pet, learning from and even choosing almost the same profession as her loving father.
Johnny is the hothead (pun so intended) who's always getting in trouble with the law. We first see him in a street race, showing off his new hot rod (intended) to the other racers. After getting into a car wreck, his father appears and we learn what his relationship with his father is like. Being the stubborn character that he is, Johnny obviously has a "I love you but I don't want to listen to you" relationship with his father. After being given the "You could do better than this" speech from his father, Johnny starts to believe that he has a better purpose in life—especially when he gets his powers.
All in all, the origin stories for the characters are nice, but they take up way too much running time. Not only that, but they somehow manage to devote so much of the movie to origin and set-up, and yet at times, it feels kind of rushed and some of the characters end up without a truly fleshed out story. Which leads me to my next topic...
Doom And Ben!
Specifically, their origins, in that they were kind of underdeveloped. Now, the movie does a tremendous job of introducing us to its characters, and you get a good sense of who they are and why they do what they do. But with that being said, these two really got the short end of the stick.
First, there's Doom. And yes, his name is Victor von Doom, as opposed to Domaschev as we were initially led to believe. And like his comic book counterpart, he's still not a doctor, so hold off on that appointment. Victor is a cool character with a mysterious and intriguing past—which we learn a bit about, thanks to the powers of...EXPOSITION! Dr. Franklin "William Wallace" Storm gives us the majority of information that we get about Doom's origins. We know that he's from Latveria, that he started the program that sends him and the others to Planet Zero, and that he might be a hacker....maybe?
It isn't really explained, but I'm fairly certain he's got some sort of hacking capabilities. In a superhero movie, it makes sense that the main villain's origins aren't a big focus. But I really wish they hadn't skipped over the origins of Dr. Doom so much. We see him get absorbed by the energy on Planet Zero, and we see his suit fuse with his body (creating his Doctor Doom look). But then, a year later, we see him again and he's all "Hey guys, I'm evil now I guess!"
I mean, I understand that being left to die on a deserted planet in an alternate universe would seriously mess up a guy -and between you and me, he was kind of a jerk before the transformation- but I would have loved to actually see him become Doom over the span of that year in a couple of scenes. Rather than him having to explain it via even more exposition.
As for Ben, Like Doom he too suffers from underdevelopment. Jamie Bell did a great job portraying Ben Grimm, who we learn is a troubled kid who lives in a junkyard owned by his family. We get glimpses of his past -albeit through Reed's origin story-, like the fact that his older brother bullies him and that he's a big baseball fan.
But so much of this is never touched on again. When the film was first in the works, I heard so much about Ben and his emotional character. How he had dreams of doing something big in his life, and feeling he can't now that he's been transformed into a gigantic rock monster. I would have loved to see some more of that!
An Underwhelming Final Act!
The final act of this film is spectacular! Doom coming back from Planet Zero, wreaking havoc and mayhem on a world he believes deserves to be destroyed—villainy in its purest form!
Unfortunately, it doesn't last very long. Remember how almost all of the trailers and marketing for Transformers: Age of Extinction had the Dino Bots in them? They made it look like the Dino Bots would be the main focus of the film - they were in it for fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, a lot of films do this, show the coolest scenes from the film even if they're only a couple of minutes long. Fantastic Four is no exception.
The final act featuring Dr. Doom just goes by way too quick! His powers are cool and he's got such a threatening persona, but the F4 defeat him in about 15-20 minutes. This goes back to my talk about Victor von Doom being undeveloped. I really wish they would have given him more time to be a truly threatening antagonist. Hopefully he's still alive, so he can do more epic villain stuff in the future.
Alright, now for the good things about this film!
Obviously, in a movie about superheroes, you have to do a good job of showing their various superpowers. Fantastic Four did a very well job of this. All of the powers were visually stunning, and incredibly cool.
It wasn't just that they looked amazing, the science behind the powers also contributed to how I feel about them. For example, in the original comics -and in the original two films- Reed and the others get their powers from a cosmic ray that alters their DNA. I've never had a problem with that, but I prefer the method in this new film to the methods of the old.
In this Fantastic Four, they get their powers from a cosmic ray of energy, but rather than the ray just hitting them, it's the entire planet that attacks them! Planet Zero seems to be some sort of living organism, and after Victor interacts with it -because THAT'S what you do when you find a living planet- it reacts and swarms the main characters.
Ben is covered in rocks, forming a sort of cocoon that The Thing eventually comes out of. Reed is directly hit by the ray, causing his flesh and bones to become super stretchy. Johnny isn't just struck by fire, he's struck by alternate dimension fire that literally never stops burning! Sue is also struck by the rays, after the others (minus Victor) return from the planet. But Victor has without a doubt, the coolest transformation out of all of them!
He falls straight into the pool of energy, and practically becomes one with the living organism. His suit fuses with his body, making him look a menacing machine, akin to a melted T-1000! On top of that, his powers are just mind-blowing (all the puns intended)! He can literally blow up minds with psionic powers. It's something I wish they explained a bit more, the logistics I mean, but it was epic nonetheless. All of their powers were cool and honestly, kind of creepy. As it should be when you witness a man who can stretch his limbs, a woman who can go invisible, a guy who can spontaneous combust, a giant rock monster, and a guy who brings all new meaning to the phrase "brain fart".
A Fantastic Premise!
One of the reasons Fantastic Four gained such a bad rep was because of the liberties they were taking with the characters and the story. I actually really appreciate that they come up with something original for this film. As great as adaptions are, it gets to the point where you watch a film and think "I've seen this before".
The story of Fantastic Four manages to be both original and like the source material that it draws inspiration from. The film is heavily based on the Ultimate line of Fantastic Four comics. A young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm invent a prototype teleporter in Reed's garage. 7 years later, Reed and Ben's advanced teleporter gains the attention of Franklin Storm and his associates, and he invites Reed to continue working on his project at the Baxter Building lab.
Once there, he meets the rest of the team. Johnny Storm, the engineer, Sue Storm, the scientist, and Victor von Doom, the bad guy. I mean the guy who first discovered multidimensional travel...and the obvious bad guy.
I'm glad they decided to give this film an original premise. The story is interesting, the characters are just as much, and I think it shows that superheroes CAN be put into new situations—not just the popular storylines from the comics.
With Great Power...
One thing I think both iterations of the Fantastic Four -2005 and 2015- have done well is demonstrating the team's chemistry and purpose. In this film, the first time the Four are forced to work together, it doesn't go very well. They all try to handle Dr. Doom separately, rather than work together.
But after a rather tragic "Uncle Ben" moment, in which Sue and Johnny's father is killed by Doom, the team beings to realize why they were given these special abilities. They band together to defeat Doom, and finally work as a team.
The most defining moment in any superhero's life is when they realize their true potential, and it's even more impacting when a family of heroes realize their purpose all together. And that's really what the Fantastic Four are - a family.
They were Marvel's first family of heroes, and to this day, they are still their most family like. The X-Men films also have a bit of a family dynamic, so I guess that's just something that Fox likes to do.
Ben And Doom!
I'm sticking by what I said about Ben and Doom, they were two characters I really wish got a bit more of the spotlight shined on them. But for characters who didn't get enough screen time, they were probably the COOLEST characters in the whole movie!
Ben was exactly like he is in the comics, and angry and tough-as-nails street smart brawler! Seeing him take out tanks and armies of soldier (again, something I wish they'd shown more of) was amazing! And his design, though a bit ridiculous, is pretty visually cool. I mean, come on, he's a giant monster made of rocks. That's something I don't think we'll ever be able to portray in live-action without it looking a little weird.
As for Doom; well, I've already talked about how awesome I think he is, but I'm going to do it some more. Toby Kebell is the absolute greatest actor in this movie! All of them do a great job portraying their characters, but Kebell just knocks it out of the park. He's cool, clever and antagonistic in a way that just makes him charming.
You want to hate him, because he's the bad guy, but he's got such a suave personality. Admittedly, he ditches that suave attitude for a more sinister one once he becomes Doom—but his villainous personality is still so cool. You can really feel for Victor. You can tell he didn't start off as a bad guy, but years of government distrust and unrecognized genius turned him into a pretty horrible dude.
The only bad thing about these two characters is how underdeveloped they are. I'm sincerely hoping Doom makes a reappearance in the future. If these X-Men/F4 crossover rumors come to fruition, how absolutely epic would it be to see Doom and Magneto joining forces? That'd be the day I'd secretly root for the bad guys! No...no that was when Avengers came out. Come on, how could you not root for Loki? Even a little bit.
Ok, so those are the things I liked about the film, as well as the things I thought were pretty bad. But before I give my final score, there's still one more thing. Something that isn't necessarily good or bad—and could go either way, depending on how you look at it.
More Sci-Fi Than Superhero!
Something that everybody should keep in mind before going to see this film—it's not like any superhero move you've seen before. These days, where every other big box-office success belongs to Marvel or DC, we've started to expect a certain storytelling formula from them. DC is dark and gritty, and full of more mature themes. While Marvel is fun and adventurous, preferring a more lighthearted tone most of the time.
Fantastic Four doesn't fall into either of those formulas. But that's not a bad thing, though it isn't exactly a good one either. The film is very heavily sci-fi, with themes focusing on science, exploration and the future of mankind's existence. Going in there, expecting it to be like Avengers, Man of Steel, X-Men or any other superhero movie is just going to result in disappointment. But at their core, the F4 have always been about these themes.
Reed and Sue were scientists before they were superheroes, and Johnny and Ben tagged along with them as they tried to invent new technology and better mankind. In the comics, they have their own lab, their own research and development program, and even supply themselves and a ton of other superheroes with groundbreaking new technology never before discovered by anyone.
But the thing is, we aren't expecting our superhero movies to be anything other than...superhero movies. Like I said, there's just a certain formula that we've gotten used to. It's why all Marvel films are practically the same. Sure they've got their little genre differences -like Ant-Man being a heist film and Captain America being a war movie- but they're all very similar when you get down to it. I enjoy the feel, look and tone of Fantastic Four, and I think it's definitely a breath of fresh air to see a superhero film tackle a genre that isn't necessarily expected of superhero films. Doctor Strange, you're up.
Fantastic Four isn't the best superhero film, it's certainly not on par with any of the others that have come out this year. But it isn't a trainwreck. It deviates from the traditional formula for a superhero movie, but still keeps enough of the formula in to be considered a superhero movie. But as I said, this film is about science, sci-fi, and exploration.
It has its faults yes, and they can't be ignored, but they're nothing damning or unforgivable. The story is solid, the characters are intriguing and entertaining, and the visuals are absolutely stunning! Its final act is underwhelming, but is in no way boring. I give this film a...