“Go see it for yourself,“ they said.
Fans of the movie came to its defense in various comments section, and their words were strong.
“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 to make up my own mind on the Fantastic Four.
Since I was seeing it earlier in the day, I got a matinee ticket.
Sweet. A discount.
It was around noon, which 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 and had my pick of seats. 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. This tastes like popcorn flavored salt.
I took another mouthful of Coke to cleanse my palate, and then I remembered the article I read last night about how soda caused cell telomeres to shorten. Every sip was shaving years off my life.
Man, 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 for show and tell, 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 stopped 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, however, take notice — fellow student Ben Grimm. The pair bond after Ben helps Reed steal some parts from the Grimm family junkyard. Reed takes Grimm back to his garage where he makes a toy car disappear.
“You’re insane,” Grimm says.
“Thanks,” Reed says.
Flash forward. Reed and Grimm are at a high school science fair as high school seniors. Inexplicably, TWAC makes an appearance as a judge, and he’s probably asking for tons of overtime because he’s definitely not down with science. Point is especially made when Reed takes a kid’s toy plane and makes it disappear into thin air and reappear.
Instead of being congratulated, the duo are disqualified.
Fortunately, the father-daughter science team of Franklin Storm and his daughter Sue are in attendance. I guess it’s their thing — checking out random science fairs and taking in the endless wonder of lava-bursting volcano after lava-bursting volcano.
Franklin, coincidentally, has been working on teleportation, and he’s just found the answer to the riddle that’s been haunting him. On the one hand, you can now complete a multi-billion dollar project based entirely on a premise that hasn’t borne any fruit.
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.”
Montages. A montage of Reed making friends. A montage of Reed and his friends building a machine that will send people to another place. A montage of a montage.
Vignettes give us the barest minimum of characterization. I’ve seen cardboard cutouts with more depth. 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, thus proving he sort of sucks at, you know, everything.
His adopted sister Sue, in stark contrast, already has superpowers. She’s a genius and a daughter following in her father’s footsteps. She also has the uncanny ability to find patterns when she listens to music. She name-drops Portishead – the default band for people who have the need to defend their taste in music. I’ve got nothing against Portishead, but I’d rather the writers went with a reference to the Chemical Brothers or Bonobo instead — bands who’ve made their reputation on layers and beats.
Johnny’s latest failure forces him into his backup plan — going to work for dad on projects that could change the entire world. Things are looking good. The project is coming to completion, and the family is back together. Everyone loves each other.
Everyone except Dr. Doom.
They test the teleporter with a live primate, and everything seems to be in working order on the mission control monitors.
At this point, I’m beginning to see a pattern. I’m beginning to think the script never went past a first draft, and it was loaded with Post-It notes that said things like, “Add more. Research. Fill in the blank. Details.”
No other explanation is given for a video feed being received from an undetermined location. Imagine Doc Brown telling Marty that the DeLorean time machine works because of “roads.”
Nevertheless, the project is a success.
At this point, the movie is halfway over. And it sucks.
Once the teleportation device is completed, the child-scientists get some bad news — NASA is taking over.
What? You mean we can’t has other dimension?
The entitled teens, powered by underage drinking and Victor Von Doom pointing out that no one remembers the names of the scientists who built Apollo, decide to take matters into their own hands. Reed calls Ben, and they suit up before rushing into the teleporter.
No one mentions or even calls Sue. Even before she gets her gamma-ray powers, she’s still the Invisible Girl.
Anyways, things go bad. Very bad. Victor falls into a pit of green energy, and his friends leave him behind faster than a dirty diaper.
They jump back into the teleporter. Loud noises. Shaky cam.
Fire. Earth. Stretch.
It’s evident 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.
When the inter-dimensional transporter 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 at the ship, Reed sees his lower body stretched out, like human taffy.
At this point, I sat up in my seat. 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 teens who get their comeuppance.
I get it now!
Had the movie ended here, I would have been totally okay with it.
But it doesn’t end. How could it?
Reed wakes up in a lab, strapped to a medical table. All four of our teens with attitude have been granted new and frightening powers, and the military’s got plans.
We’re about 30 minutes away from the end of the movie now, and things are falling apart quicker than the Thing being dropped from a plane onto a Humvee. By the way, that’s a scene from the trailer that’s not even in the movie. This borders on false marketing.
Reed escapes the facility, and the military enlists 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 unlovable rock monster, becomes the military’s ultimate weapon. Forget about “Release the Kraken.” It’s all about “It’s clobberin’ time!”
Remembering that, for all intents and purposes, Ben is perhaps a year removed from high school — he’s a growing young adult, which makes his newfound role as a trained and certified killer a tough thing to absorb. But the movie never touches on it as it should — instead, it shows Ben sitting alone in his cage, watching highlight reels of himself with a kill count meter that keeps track of the damage.
Talk about tone deaf. Are we supposed to cheer on the fact that a teenager is great at something no one should be good 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 after hunting him down somewhere in South America.
And how was Reed found? Not only can he change the shape of his face and body to become unrecognizable, he’s been careful enough to stay off the grid, buying random parts with cash and using a relay for emails.
Somehow, Susan finds him with the power of Portishead. Forget invisibility. Criminals beware — Big Sister is watching.
After his capture, Reed is forced into creating another teleportation device — something he’s been working on, buying those spare parts. The military’s plan for the device is much more nefarious — they want to send soldiers to the other dimension, imbue them with the green gas, and build an army of super-powered soldiers.
Of all the counter-productive plotlines working against themselves in this movie, Reed agreeing to work with the military in order to find a cure for his friends seems the most illogical.
At this point, one wonders why he escaped in the first place.
The trip to Planet Zero begins peacefully, though Reed points out the planet’s landscape has changed somewhat. A hooded figure appears, stumbling ever closer to the explorers. What should have been a suspenseful “It’s coming our way!” sequence turns into a painfully drawn out stumble-crawl that must be seen to be believed.
It’s obvious this figure is Victor Von Doom, even with his makeshift hoodie that’s so big, it probably doubles as a tent city. Those Bear Grylls Youtube videos Doom must have been watching while Reed was doing all the work building the teleporter sure came in handy.
The explorers opt to bring Doom back to Earth, and he gets the same carrot on a stick that Ben got – “Help us, and we’ll fix you.”
But Doom ain’t havin’ it. You can only tell people they’re ugly for so long before someone snaps.
Doom, looking like a crash-test dummy infected by the Borg, uses his powers to collapse the roof onto the scientists, killing everyone in the control room. Then, he insta-kills everyone else in the med-lab before making the offending agent explode inside his containment suit like a water balloon inside a microwave.
The next few minutes play out like Tetsuo’s escape from the medical facility in Akira as Doom prowls the corridors and leaves a bloody trail of popped heads and entrails. Franklin confronts Doom, but it only gets him killed. The Fantastic Four watch in horror as Doom returns to his dimension, leaving Franklin dying on the floor.
A black hole forms in between the dimensions, and our heroes take the fight to Doom’s home turf.
Prepare yourselves for the climax! Or … climinimum.
If you want to know how underwhelming and terrible the final fight scene is, imagine the world’s worst human getting caught up in a sudden whirlwind of empty plastic bags that hit him in the face. Doom keeps the four heroes at bay with his tremendous powers, and they keep coming at him over and over again.
So how do you overcome a guy who can kill you with a thought?
Get ready for another Post-It note script tag — “Teamwork.”
“Wait. Wait!” you might be saying. “What do you mean, teamwork?”
I mean exactly that. The four band together and beat the unbeatable by the sheer power of teamwork. Not in an inspiring way. Not in a plausible way. They group together, put their hands in the middle, and scream, “Teamwork!”
At least, that’s how I remember it, which I think is a lot better than how it actually ended.
The movie ends with the military giving full control over its lab.
Yes, the United States with all of its military might decides to hand over a research facility because the Thing sneered.
The movie ends as Emperor Reed demands a name for the new world order.
“I think we should call ourselves the Fantastic Four,” Reed says.
“Didn’t I just say that?” Ben asks.
“No, Ben. You’re a rock monster with no soul.”
The credits roll, and so do my eyes. I’m wearing a big ironic smile on my face because it feels like someone has literally stolen money from out my pocket.
Should you watch this movie?
Do yourself a favor and let me make up your mind for you. 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.