This film was certainly underwhelmed a whole lot of people. It’s very hard to find any positive reviews of it online as I’ve only seen one myself. (Though tomatoes should have a few more) IRL I’ve only met 2 others who really liked it at the moment so things aren’t looking too good for the film. It was essentially doomed before it ever came out critically, but I thought that the trailers showed potential. This wouldn’t be the next Avengers, but it would be a good film and I was right on the money with that hunch!
Well, this is essentially the origin story of the team so the plot is self explanatory. Reed Richards is a super genius and one day he manages to build a teleporter. The government quickly recruits him so that they can travel to another dimension to use that planet’s resources to keep Earth alive for a little while longer and maybe even colonize it. The leader’s daughter has been helping with the project for a while and the guy’s son is pulled onto the project so that he can earn his car back after getting it banged up in a street race. Finally, Reed flexes his intellectual muscles and gets his old friend onto the team roster in time for the big experiment. Unfortunately, the heroes got too curious as they messed with the environment of the other dimension (Mostly Dr Doom’s fault) and they each got fantastic powers. Can they use them to save the world now!?
In that regard, the film plays out like you would expect. You definitely don’t want to go into this film expecting a lot of action as it’s more of a slice of life origin adventure. As long as you like the characters and atmosphere, then you’ll be okay. It’s certainly not as good as the MCU backdrop or the ASM series, but a steady improvement over the X-Men series. I was interested the whole time and the characters became likable/charismatic right away so it was fine to just see them talk and hang out even if Reed Richards was really miscast, which can be distracting.
The writing is one of the film’s weaknesses though. The language isn’t terrible, but it still comes at you a little more often than you would like. I always have to shake my head at this since older films never had this problem. I just hope that the English language doesn’t continue to deteriorate or we’re going to need more main characters to be like Mario, rarely talking except for a choice line or two. That being said, I don’t have a problem with the writing in terms of the plot or what happens in the film, just the language aspect.
In terms of the movie dialogue, I’d say that it was reasonable. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either. There’s certainly a lot of foreshadowing to get you ready for things that will happen later on in the film. Wondering if Dr Doom is here? The film name drops him right away for long time fans. Fantastic Four even essentially tells you how the film’s going to end with a what if scenario that someone insults Reed with a few times. One can make a comparison to Ant Man here as when Pym explained that nobody’s ever come back from shrinking to the Microverse, that felt like a bit of a dare to the viewers and Scott. Of course, those things tend to really come to you in hindsight as while you’re watching the film, you aren’t typically thinking about them much. I personally prefer to just enjoy the banter and action so I don’t pay too much attention to the hidden meanings of the dialogue unless it’s just that epic of a line.
Reed is the main character of course and he’s a nice guy. I’m just saddened by the fact that the film miscast one of the easiest characters to portray. I feel like almost anyone could do it, but the actor has to be older. It’s why I loved the scene where the film trolled everyone by having Reed pretend that he was older via shape shifting. If he had looked like that the entire film, I would have been thrilled! Reed shows how he is a natural born leader when the going gets tough and we can expect him to continue to use his powers in innovative ways in the sequel. I am glad that Reed has a very tough personality here. In the generic intimidation scene where Dr Doom tries to tell Reed to get away from Sue, Reed just interrupts him to say that he already finished the project ages ago and was going to go take a nap. That was certainly a hype moment and I’m glad that he didn’t just slink away like you would see in most movies.
Ben Grimm’s backstory appeared briefly here and I’m glad that it was so short since his plot could have hurt the film had it gone on any longer. Besides that, I didn’t care to see him as a kid, I wanted to see his superhero form! The Thing costume from the older films was considerably better than this depiction, but I could say the same for every other character so that’s not saying too much. He looks decent although he should have had the traditional pants. I think he gives up on Reed a little too easily and also loses sight of himself without a whole lot of help so he’s not the strongest of the characters in terms of strength of will. He started to destroy a lot of people without hesitation. He’ll likely be more like the happy go lucky Thing we’re used too in future films…hopefully.
Sue was a good heroine and actually defied all of the stereotypical roles as she did not randomly fall in love with Reed for no inexplicable reason. I can’t tell you how glad I was at this as I was expecting a Man of Steel type ending, which would have been very wince worthy. Her subtle insults at Reed were also pretty good like when she tried to ignore him by putting her headphones back on or telling him that his little science experiment almost cost people billions of dollars by taking out the electricity over the east coast. She certainly gave him a tough time and that’s how it should be since he was the new guy on the block. She never overdid it though and they still get along.
Johnny was always going to be an interesting character to watch because of how the film decided to culturally change him. His core personality is essentially intact. He’s still a hot head who has a lot of fun with his powers, he’ll just have slightly different mannerisms and slang words to fit his new character. He’s handled well for the most part and I’m glad that he masters his powers with ease. He doesn’t help with the whole language issue from the film, but none of them really do so it’s not exclusive to him. I did think that it was a little odd how his car almost went out at the beginning of the race since he’s supposed to be a really good mechanic, but I’ll just assume that it was a lucky break for the opponents. I feel like his role was a lot smaller than the other 3, but he’ll likely have his chance to shine next time.
Finally, we have Dr. Doom. You can’t help, but chuckle when you first see him since it seems like the film was intentionally trying to make him look bad. If they were going for a Mandarin level twist, they certainly achieved that! Of course, it would have had more effect if his first scene was his last one. Still, it was neat when he ultimately got his powers, but as a character, he’s not great. He flirts with Sue quite a bit and that always hurt him for me. What I do like about him is the whole anti government personality as that’s always very humorous.
He asks the tough questions and makes the heroes wonder about their mission. After all, it is inevitable that we will wreck that dimension like this one so should we really allow people to go there? He doesn’t think so and that’s why he ultimately grabs his power. He’s certainly a villain, but at least he has a goal that I can sympathize with. If he takes out the Earth, then the other dimension will be safe from those attackers and Doom can live with the world in unity. In this version, that’s how he gets his powers, which are quite impressive.
He’s essentially got telekinesis so he can move rocks around or blow people’s heads up by concentrating. It’s a little overpowered though as the heroes shouldn’t really have a chance against that. The one thing that they have going for them is that they seem to be immune to having their heads blown up. In theory, this is because the ooze that gave them their powers made them immune to that ability or just strengthened their bodies enough to withstand it. The film never gives an explanation, but that makes the most sense. Even then, Dr. Doom probably should have taken the win as he mostly just stood there and allowed the heroes to gain ground. He wouldn’t win many Super Smash battles against Sheik is he stayed on the defensive for so long!
As for the fight scenes, they’re quite good even though they’re short. Reed taking down the gunmen in the forest was pretty epic. It’s too bad that he couldn’t have really fought the Thing as that would have made for a good matchup. At that point in time, The Thing would certainly have the edge, but with a little prep time, Reed could definitely turn the tables. The final fight scene is definitely very epic as the backdrop is like something out of a video game with Dr Doom being the final boss. It’s very short though, which really hurts the fight scene and I would have liked the heroes to have used their powers more. Specifically Human Torch as he was taken out for most of the fight thanks to the rocks at Doom’s disposal. The way that Thing was taken out was a little anticlimactic and I’m calling plot hax on the Invisible Woman, but it just goes to show that they wouldn’t be quite as deadly without Mr Fantastic!
Surprisingly, the film got pretty violent in one action scene. It was like something out of a horror movie as the colors became very dark and the lights started to flicker. Dr. Doom just went around blowing people up without a care in the world and it reminded me of the walls in the Arkham games. I think that could have been toned down a little as it was unnecessary. It was an interesting tribute to the horror films out there, but I’ve never been a fan of them so I could do without that.
Unfortunately, there’s not much of a soundtrack here. That’s too bad as it always adds an extra pop to a film. The visuals were great so mixing that up with some fast paced techno music or something would have been pretty intense. Even some fast music for the dialogue would have been fun. The film just felt strangely silent a lot of the time. It really helps to capture the slice of life feel, but at the expense of that action feel we wanted. Oh yeah, it should be noted that there’s no animal violence here as the anime test trial was successful so the Ape lived. That was probably one of the best moments in the film.
So, time to compare this to the first two films! I do think that the first two win because the actual Fantastic Four as well as Dr Doom were better than their modern versions. I remember the writing being better and I also preferred the costumes/actors. Beating those films was always going to be tough though and I never expected it to top those. Still, Dr Doom can now continue to say that he has been the main villain in every single Fantastic Four film. That series certainly liked him as an opponent.
The ending of the film also gives the franchise a lot of hope. The next film would deal with the Fantastic Four actually being established and finally having their own Baxter Building. It would likely feel more like the comic book version than even the original films. The FF are respected by the government and they’re essentially rich now. There are just so many possibilities! I do think that it was a little unoriginal to steal Avengers Age of Ultron’s final line though. It’s a cool concept, but stealing it just isn’t right.
Overall, Fantastic Four was a solid movie. It’s definitely going to end up being a very underrated one. The score is incredibly low at the moment and now conspiracy theorists can speculate on whether Disney is destroying all other attempts to make non Disney owned Marvel films. If X-Men Apocalypse is critically panned (I could see it getting under a 50 for various reasons, but nowhere near FF level) then things will start to get dicey. Those kind of theories are always pretty epic to hear about, but sometimes it’s just a matter of everyone disliking a film or a big reviewer kicking things off and then the others jump on the train. “Wait…was this hype?” Yes..yes it was. I definitely hope that this movie ends up getting a sequel, but like The Amazing Spiderman, we may have just lost what could have been a beautiful franchise. The bright side is that now Mr. Fantastic can get recast. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, I definitely recommend checking this movie out. It’s got good characters, and some solid action scenes! It’s also fairly short so the pacing is quite fast and it may not be in theaters for long so you’re going to want to hurry and view it before the time is past.