“Go see it for yourself,“ they said.
Days after the movie premiered, vocal members of the Moviepilot community defended the movie with strong words.
“Those who hated it were biased.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t that bad. It was actually pretty good.”
“I hate when people say don’t watch a movie. You should see it and make up your own mind.”
And so, it was decided. On a Wednesday after I visited the comic shop, I stopped by home and picked up my Cinemark popcorn tub and cup because it was time I made up my own mind on the Fantastic Four.
Since I was seeing it early in the day, I got a matinee ticket.
Sweet. A discount.
Seeing it around noon also meant I would be attending the theater alone since everyone else would either be at work or at school.
Not a problem. The popcorn and soda -- thank you, discounted refills for 2015 -- would keep me good company. When the clerk asked if I wanted butter, I nodded all the way to the soda fountain where I filled my cup to the brim with liquid sugar.
After that, I walked over to theater seven, food tucked in my arms. I picked my seat directly in the middle of the entire theater. I wasn’t alone – one other person sitting in the first row of the aisle break stared intently forward as I entered the theater.
I imagine we were both thinking the same thing. Why are you here? Haven’t you read the reviews? This is my theater!
The lights dimmed, and trailers began to roll. A few more lost souls walked in with hushed voices. A quick featurette asking people to turn off their cellphones gave me a few minutes to contemplate what I was doing.
I remember looking down at my popcorn which was about half full now -- I hadn't eaten anything that morning. It was cold and salty. Very salty. So much so that it felt like I was eating popcorn flavored salt.
I took another mouthful of Coke to cleanse the palate and remembered the article I read last night about how soda caused cell telomeres to shorten.
I could have bought a third-world child a cup of coffee a day for a month for what I was spending on this movie.
I should have.
The origin story begins in an elementary school class. Young Reed Richards is intent on finding a portal to another dimension for no better reason than he's a freaking genius. When I was his age, I just wanted to score free comics and video games.
In the real world, kid geniuses graduate from UC Berkeley at 14, burn out a few years later because they missed out on childhood, then get featured on news reports.
On this edition of Child Prodigies: Where Are They Now?
Little Reed Richards, mad scientist in training, presents his newest experiment in front of his class, and he comes face to face against his first foe – Teacher Without A Clue. Like a classic comic book villain, TWAC rolls his eyes and belittles our hero's imagination and potential.
“Weren’t you working on a flying car?” TWAC asks Reed, condescendingly.
TWAC never stops to take in the fact that Reed would rather do math than be an active participant in the class. Math! Teacher is literally more boring than math.
One person does notice Reed's potential -- fellow student Ben Grimm. A friendship is formed after Ben helps Reed steal some parts from the Grimm family junkyard. Reed makes a toy car disappear, and Grimm calls Richards insane.
"Thanks," Reed says.
So far, so good even if everything we've just seen was basically covered in the trailer.
The movie flashes forward. Reed and Grimm are at a high school science fair where TWAC makes an appearance as a judge. TWAC is not impressed when Reed makes a plane disappear and reappear, and the pair are disqualified.
Fortunately, Franklin Storm and his daughter Sue are in attendance at the fair. I say fortunately, but what I really mean to say is for the purpose of plotting. Why else would a world-renowned scientist be scoping out high school students except to be taking in the wonders of lava-bursting volcano after lava-bursting volcano. Suddenly, you see the key to your life's work.
On the one hand, you can now complete a multi-billion dollar project based entirely on a premise. On the other, you've just met the person who'll replace you.
“You have found the solution,” Franklin tells Reed. “Welcome to the Baxter Building.”
The movie devolves into a series of montages. Montages of Reed making friends. Montages of Reed and his friends building a machine that will send people to another place. Montages of montages, like montage-ception.
Vignettes give us bits of characterization that don't explore as much as they just sort of gloss over everything.
We learn that Johnny Storm wants nothing to do with his father and would rather be building and racing his custom Toyota. Johnny blows up his car in a race by going fast -- anyone who knows anything about gear ratios or has played Gran Turismo will have huge problems with the racing scene. So, either Johnny is a bad racecar driver or a bad mechanic -- either way, all it does is prove that Johnny sort of sucks at the whole being independent thing.
His adopted sister Sue, on the other hand, follows in Franklin's footsteps and loves music. Totally. She name-drops Portishead – the default band for people who need to prove in a pinch that they're into good music. Sue's got a knack for figuring out patterns, which makes you wonder why she isn't listening to Chemical Brothers or Bonobo instead.
And while we’re talking about Sue Storm – let's address the elephant in the room. We all know about the casting issues regarding changing one person's color to another. I have a huge problem with it.
Of course, we're talking about Sue’s wig. Seriously, it goes from streaks to platinum blond and then back again. The length changes, the style changes -- it's sort of a huge problem. One begins to wonder if the wigs have a union.
When the teleportation device is finished, the child-scientists are informed that NASA will be taking over.
What? You mean we can’t has fourth dimension?
By now we're starting to realize Fantastic Four has a fatal flaw – a flimsy script filled with artificial flavors and fake sweeteners. Bobbing and weaving around logic, the story steamrolls forward despite huge hangups.
In any other space travel movie, lengthy montages show what kind of training astronauts go through to get their bodies in shape. Not just anyone can travel to another planet, let alone pilot a ship worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yet, somehow, these prodigies think they're entitled to be the first ones to step foot into another dimension.
The other issue concerns how little the screenwriters cared about actually explaining things. I mean, this is Fantastic Four, right -- Marvel's version of Star Trek.
When the teleporter is tested with a live primate, mission control gets video sent back from the test ship using frequencies.
Imagine Captain Jean-Luc Picard discussing the ramifications of interfering with an alien species, and Commander Riker responding with, "Because diplomacy."
It's as if the production crew went with a first draft script filled with Post-It notes that said, "Research and include more details." The problem is, no one bothered to fill in the blanks or create a realistic explanation.
Instead, the only explanation for receiving video from an unknown place or time is frequencies.
Because that’s how video works.
Now that they know it's safe to go where no human has gone before, Reed, Johnny, and their new buddy Victor Von Doom decide to underage drink because no one will ever remember their contributions to the program.
“Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin,” Doom lists. “What are the names of the scientists who built Apollo?”
Reed gets totally upset because he can't answer the question. He calls long-lost friend Ben out of the blue, and the boys take the teleporter for a ride.
No one mentions or even calls Sue, however. Even without powers, she's still the Invisible Girl.
And besides, who's going to call dad when someone hijacks the most expensive vehicle on the planet?
I mean, really? No failsafes or guards?
Anyways, things go bad. Very bad. Von Doom falls into a pit of energy, and his friends leave him behind.
They hop aboard the teleporter.
Loud noises. Shaky cam.
Fire. Earth. Stretch.
Right now, I have to point out -- in case you missed it -- that the Fantastic Four are based on the four elements.
Reed is fluid like water, Johnny can engulf himself in fire, the Thing is basically a living rock, and Sue is invisible, like this movie's chance at the Oscars.
With their powers combined, they are the Fantastic Four.
But catch this -- the movie goes further than gamma rays to explain why they get those particular powers.
When the inter-dimensional space thing comes roaring back to Earth, all sorts of things go wrong. Johnny catches on fire, Ben gets pelted with dirt, and Reed wakes up after the wreckage and reaches out to his friends while his legs are caught under the debris. Looking back to the ship, Reed sees his lower body stretched out, like a grotesque piece of taffy no one should ever be allowed to make or eat.
At this point, I sat up in my seat because I realized Fantastic Four was meant to be a horror movie. The weak motives, the plot on rails, cheap special effects – this was supposed to be a tale of rotten teens who ignore the warnings and punished.
Had the movie ended here, I would have been totally okay with it.
But it doesn’t end. How could it? We have to see how Sue gets her powers, right?. Gamma rays bathe her in a blue glow while she's exposed to the Earth's atmosphere. Now, if she had received Ben's powers, things would be incredibly tragic. Instead, she gets to turn invisible and force-push objects.
Reed wakes up in a lab, and we’re given a tour of the aftermath as all four of our teens with attitude have been granted new and frightening powers. The military, seeing potential, steps in ready to exploit, exploit, exploit.
At this point, the movie begins to fall apart quicker than the Thing being dropped from a plane onto a Humvee. If that sounds familiar, you must have seen the trailer because you don't get to see that in the movie. What you get instead is one of the most awful second acts in any movie, ever.
I have to point out I was stuck with a belly full of soda and bad popcorn when the Fantastic Four start freaking out about being lab rats. I didn’t want to leave the theater because the movie is a trainwreck on a two-hour collision course.
You just can’t close your eyes. You mustn't turn away.
Reed escapes the facility, and the military chooses to enlist Ben with the same kind of persuasiveness makeup companies have used for decades to target insecure women.
“You’re ugly. But we can help.”
Ben, the rock monster, becomes the military’s secret weapon. Releasing the Kraken is no longer a thing for the army. It's all about Clobberin' Time -- which poor Jamie Bell has to say several times over the course of the movie.
But let's not forget that Ben, who's still for all intents and purposes a young adult, is a certified killer who gets to watch highlight reels with an animated kill count meter that shows him how awesome he is at something no one should be awesome at.
You would think the psychological damage would turn Ben into the movie’s villain, but no – he just hates Reed.
“You did this to me,” he tells his former best friend as he captures him somewhere in South America.
No, Ben, the gamma rays did this to you. Reed’s been on the run for the past year trying to fix this.
None of this makes much sense, and it gets harder to believe when you think at all about it.
The discovery scene entails Sue pinpointing a man who can literally change the shape of his face and body, staying off the grid and buying random parts in cash. Occasionally, he logs into an unspecified email account to contact junkyards for pieces of electronics -- and he does this all behind a relay.
Reed's been building another inter-dimensional transport machine because he wants to fix his friends.
After his capture, the military puts him to work doing the exact same thing, except with another purpose in mind -- building an army of super-powered soldiers.
Reed agrees to the proposal on the hope he might get to cure his friends of their “afflictions."
At this point, one wonders why he escaped in the first place.
The trip to Planet Zero begins peacefully, though Reed quickly notices the planet's landscape has changed somewhat.
A hooded figure appears, stumbling ever closer from a few hundred meters away. It's the slowest, most painfully stretched out “It’s coming our way!” scene that must be seen to be believed.
We all know it's Doom, even with his makeshift hoodie that also probably doubles as a tent and parachtue. Those Bear Grylls Youtube vids Doom must have been watching while Reed was doing all the work building the teleporter sure came in handy.
The scientists bring Doom back to Earth, and he gets the same carrot on a stick that Ben got – “Help us, and we'll fix you.” If only it was that easy to manipulate people by disrespecting their facial features.
Doom ain’t havin’ it tho’.
He collapses the roof onto the scientists killing everyone in the control room. Then, he somehow insta-kills everyone else in the med-lab before making the insulter explode inside his containment suit like a water balloon inside a microwave.
The next few minutes play out like Akira, except Tetsuo is now a glowing green crash-test dummy with LEDs for eyes. Tetsuo-Doom explodes heads, wipes out a crew of soldiers, and for no reason at all, kills Franklin in front of the Fantastic Four.
“I’ll leave you four alive while I go back to my home planet,” Doom chuckles to himself, “Because this movie would be even worse without a fight scene at the end.”
Spoiler-alert: There is a fight scene at the end.
If you want to know how underwhelming and terrible the fight scene is, imagine the world’s worst human being hit with empty plastic bags in a sudden whirlwind. He growls, he grabs at his attackers. The plastic bags, they do nothing but launch themselves again and again.
That is way more compelling to watch than the Fantastic Four’s climax.
And yet, they win.
Yes. The Fantastic Four win with teamwork.
“How?” you ask.
I'll say it again.
The military, thankful that a group of awesome teens has saved the world, decides to bend the knee.
Yes, the United States military decides to bow down to a group of teens and hand over an entire science division that could build the world’s next atomic bomb.
Reed begins his reign as emperor of the United States with the first order being: deciding the team name.
Like me, he has a problem. He's terrible at coming up with names.
The credits roll, and so do my eyes. I realize I've had a big smile on my face the entire time because someone has literally stolen my money – and I let them.
Should you watch this movie?
You would do yourself a favor to let me make up your mind for you because I know you don’t like terrible things. You like good things. You work hard for your money, and you want the world to be a better place.
Trust the reviews. Trust the voice in your brain that says, “Why would you, you, of all people be different? Why would you enjoy a movie that no one else likes?”
Listen to that voice. It’s got you this far. It wants to help you. It protects you from pain.
If you choose to shell out money or waste bandwidth downloading this farce of a film, then let me be the first one to tell you this one thing.
I told you so.
-Fantastic Four might go back to Marvel, but who cares at this point? That's like handing someone a five-dollar bill inside of a used diaper.
-Reg E. Cathey awesome as Franklin Storm. Film's best character with the most gravitas.
-Everything else. If I had the choice between buying X-Men: Apocalypse with Fantastic Four included or X-Men: Apocalypse for a few dollars more and without the extra movie, I would work an extra hour to get that unspecial edition.