Nearly one year ago, I first laid eyes on the trailer for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. I remember loving it, going for a style and tone that is similar to Interstellar. From the initial trailer, it looked like the stakes would be high, and there would be finally a good Fantastic Four film, after three failures. I also remember the dreadful complaints from fanboys about the trailer and their claims that "the movie is going to suck!" Most of the complaints were of the casting of Michael B. Jordan, a black man, as Johnny Storm aka Human Torch, and how this is not a movie from Marvel Studios. My reaction was strong disagreement, as we should be used to characters being portrayed by actors of different color (it is not big deal) and Marvel Studios is not the only production studio capable of making a good superhero movie. I sincerely hoped, and thought that Fantastic Four would be good, proving fans wrong. Not being a fan of Fantastic Four, I hoped that the movie would be good enough that it would get me interested in superhero group and show why I should like them. I especially had confidence because it would be directed by Josh Trank, who directed Chronicle, one of my favorite films of all time for its beautiful use of "found footage" and an unique character driven story that instead of the usual "where did the powers come from?"
Why am I going into how hyped I was for this movie instead of diving right into the review? I wanted to express my great disappointment on how this movie flopped after the great deal of promise it showed. So, what made Fantastic Four the worst reviewed Marvel film of all time? What did Fantastic Four do to have the claim to fame for being worse than Howard the Duck? To summarize the main issue of this film in one statement is difficult, but it would probably be something like that the movie lacked any attachment and cared little for the characters nor the events happening in the world that its trying to establish.
When I describe the lack of attachment and not caring a bit about development, I mean is that film presents itself as this contemporary take on a classic team of superheroes that shows the trials they go through (similar to Christopher Nolan's take in The Dark Knight trilogy), yet there is little stakes shown because all we are shown is secret labs and there is little depth in the relationships between characters. For example, when the five main characters are exposed to the radiation that gave them their powers, Reid runs away from the military base that was holding him and the other Fantastic Four members. In running away, he abandoned his friend, Ben, aka The Thing. There is little to know actual consequences for the abandonment. Ben is angry, but there is nothing the Reid does to redeem himself. At the end, he takes charge when Doom is attacking the planet, but it felt so rushed, so phony. There was no development that led Reid to summoning any kind of courage, nor to prove that he was a loyal team member. Other plot points such as the exaggeration of military that make them look like villains by weaponizing the three super-powered people who remained at the base without any questioning in the story nor consequences or the lack of interaction among the teammates left me feel detached, not really caring for anyone nor anything that is at stake in the story. Yet, with all of the detachment, the film has the nerve to act like that the characters are now a united team that overcame its problems.
To compensate for the lack of investment in development and chemistry, the film uses empty cliches to cue us when there is a supposed development. For example, in the final battle, Ben tells Reid that "this is what I do", referring Ben's battling enemies with his brute strength. The line was supposed to signify his acceptance of his new life and how things will never be the same. The issue is that there is no build up. "This is what I do" is said randomly, came off as out-of-place. A scene or two before, Ben is still upset at Reid. The film never explores the implications of his changed body and how he is forced to work for the military. Another example is the mentioned instance of Reid "taking charge". It's cliche, or least usually used as an effective trope, to cue the audience that the journey to leadership is complete. Films like Guardians of the Galaxy use this trope effectively as the film shows that Peter Quill does truly care for the galaxy, and that someone needs to take leadership because he witnesses his team not getting along. When Quill, aka Starlord, takes the reins, the scene holds weight. When Reid did it here, it was a worthless cliche.
Other complaints that I have are the one that most reviewers addressed. The effects at times were horrendous. At times, the effects looked like they were from Spy Kids 3-D from 2004, which had effects equivalent to the Nintendo 64, a console made 19 years before the Fantastic Four reboot. Obviously the lack of action is a problem, especially when this is a superhero movie. The other complaint is there is little showing of the world around the Fantastic Four. When Doom is destroying it, I wonder why should we care. We never saw it all. We were confined to the labs the entire time.
The actors in general were fine. I believe that issues fell with the horrid writing as I just talked about, the lack of good direction. It appears that one or so takes were done, and not enough time was put into perfecting the delivery of each line. As a result, the dialogue is awkward to watch. Many complain about Toby Kebbell's portrayal as Dr. Doom, but again, I liked his voice. Cliches like Dr. Doom randomly saying he's "doom" are the problem. Bad writing, once again, is the main issue. The film shows no good reason why he became a villain. In my opinion, Kebbell had little to work with. One other positive aspect of the film I found is the deign for The Thing. I liked the natural look of actual rocks instead of the fake costume of the 2005 movie.
I give the 2015 Fantastic Four movie a not fantastic F. Most say the film failed because it tried to be dark, but it came off as depressing, and I disagree. In a previous article, a good movie does not come from focusing on the tone, but on crafting a cohesive story. Fantastic Four obviously botched at creating any kind of story. I can see a good Fantastic Four movie being dark. I'm interested in seeing a new take, but a successful take should rely on tropes of dark movie. A successful movie should show major stakes, and the heroes taking on those stakes, with a plot that makes us care about the heroes. Like most fans, I hope Marvel Studios gets the rights back and does Fantastic Four justice. I hope I can see a great FF team along with the other great heroes of Marvel. It's a shame to see such potential wasted.