As I sat watching the credits roll, wondering where Stan Lee was, why all my favorite characters were slates so blank any attempt to project myself onto them was like tossing a rock at a black hole, and why Ben Grimm spent this whole film buck naked…I wondered how on Earth I would succinctly sum up my experience with this film. The end of the credits came to reveal no end credits scene, just a large font message about how hundreds of people spent “15,000 hours” making this movie (a subtle jab to the maybe four people thinking about pirating this film), to which a guy three rows down replied out loud:
“So much time….wasted.”
It was the best part of the whole movie.
Honestly, I couldn’t have put it a better way. Let’s break this train wreck down while I sit and wonder why I didn’t spend money on the actual Trainwreck playing one screen over.
So, for starters, this film (though separate from the Marvel Cinematic Universe) follows the same pattern of drawing from the Ultimate Comics version of the Fantastic Four mythology. Instead of cosmic rays and a space race, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Susan Storm, and Johnny Storm gain amazing powers thanks to their efforts trying to crack dimensional travel. In case you’ve read the comics, let me explain who these characters are to you, cause you’re not going to recognize them.
Reed Richards: boy genius, speaks in a monotone, reacts with the same expression to both happy and sad things, asks probing questions about whether or not you’re adopted, drives a teleporter drunk (despite being smart)
Susan Storm: music is her thing, can recognize patterns by listening to music (which is her thing), is adopted (no real link to music, which is her thing), does not get insulted when asked probing questions about being adopted (presumably because music, not adoption, is her thing), is Johnny’s sister, is a brilliant scientist, does not get invited on drunk teleporter run (despite being more connected to it than Ben…but it could be that they just thought music, not stupidity, was her thing)
Johnny Storm: got lost on his way to the Fast and Furious set, likes his car, is mad that his dad doesn’t like his car, is smart (but doesn’t want to use it because car), joins the teleporter team to get car back, has a tough relationship with dad because….car? Feeling inferior to Sue? Wants to make his own decisions?…I wish they’d settle on something and develop it.
Ben Grimm: has a mean family, lives in junkyard (owned by mean family), chews gum, is Reed’s friend, gets invited to go on drunken teleporter trip…for some reason that defies all logic and common sense (stop blaming Reed for your rocky situation, dude. When a drunk nerd calls you in the middle of the night and wants you to travel with him to another dimension on a mutiny trip to stick it to the man and you say “Yes”, it’s YOUR fault!)
Victor Von Doom: is trusted (despite that name), is mad that Reed is smarter than him, stares at Sue a lot, acts possessive about Sue, hates people (except Sue), gets turned into metal killing machine that can literally crush a human skull by looking at it, but doesn’t ever use this power to defeat the ‘heroes’ who are trying to stop him.
Behold! The Fantastic Four……I think. Am I in the right theatre?
So, the kids (including Victor Von Doom, but not Sue) take the teleporter for a drunken spin the night after the first successful run takes place because the government is now interested in their project. They want to use professionals now that they know this thing is legit (God, screw them, right?). The kids get mad, get drunk, call Ben for some reason and then blast their way to what appears to be Mars with a mohawk. Unfortunately, they decide to abandon all that scientific reasoning that got them this far and just start poking things. The new land goes wacko and shoots Victor with some green goop, ‘killing’ him, while the other three escape and are brought back to Earth by a frantic Sue, who is knocked unconscious by the return burst and thus gains her own powers.
The film then becomes a weird body horror flick as it shows all the survivors in by far the most depressing military base ever constructed. Reed just looks gross, you can’t even see Sue, Johnny is screaming and on fire, and Ben just keeps calling for help as he tries to drag the rocks off his body.
I spent a good quarter of the film cringing at gross stuff.
Reed manages to escape, after trying to help Ben and then promising to return, and we cut to one year later. The military is using Ben as a weapon. He obviously has some psychological damage from his physical transformation and what he is being used for (not that the film will ever explore any of this). Johnny is being trained to be a weapon and his dad decides NOW is the time to try to find Reed and really get to work on a cure.
Sue uses her pattern recognition power (and listening to music, which is her thing) to locate him and the military drops Ben on him. Ben proceeds to give Reed the most fake head-butt ever to knock him out.
Back at the depression inducing military base, Reed helps the scientists rebuild the teleporter so they can go to the new dimension, learn about it and find a cure. The first expedition locates Victor Von Why-Are-You-Helping-a-Man-Literally-Named-Doom and takes him home, only to discover he hates people and Earth in a far more abstract sense. He literally then goes around popping people’s heads (it’s that scene from first Indiana Jones film). Again, this film might qualify as body horror, so be advised before watching it.
So Victor Von I-Gave-Up-Caring-About-This-Film-Twenty-Minutes-Ago-Doom tries to destroy the world using the teleporter and Reed and the gang save the day by becoming a team, despite no team building having ever occurred beyond….no, no team building ever occurred.
I hated this movie. It was bad. In fact, in the great words of Johnny Storm (from episode 12 of “Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes”): “I’m trying to think of a new word for bad to really capture this moment.”
From now on, whenever someone is talking about “that bad Fantastic Four movie,” I am really going to be confused over whether or not they’re talking about this one, or the previous installments.
People always like to put down the two previous Fantastic Four films because, well, THEY were bad, but you know what…at least they were fun. Yeah, they felt like fan fiction, yeah they were poorly written, yeah I felt like I was watching a parody of the source material, but I ENJOYED them! They developed the characters, they told an interesting story, they were bright, they were adventurous, they were campy…I would watch them again, especially with friends, because they are just so light hearted and ridiculous. Even if I am laughing at them, at least I’m laughing.
This film had four of the greatest comics characters ever created at its disposal and it couldn’t even be bothered to develop them. The story was a random assortment of scenes and dramatic time breaks that felt like a summery of events rather than a narrative. The backgrounds utilized every shade of gray known to man, except that one time when there was some green in the other dimension. Ben Grimm was walking around naked the whole time and there is no way I am the only one bothered by this. How is Reed Richards the most interesting character in the movie? There was a period of thirty seconds of Victor giving someone the finger and a shot where Ben’s crotch actively competed for my attention while he stood behind a seated and talking Reed. Did I mention Stan Lee is not in this?
Hundreds of people spent 15,000 hours on this and nobody stopped them?
The Fantastic Four that I know and love from the comics are a family. They explore what it means to be care for one another, have confidence in yourself, make mistakes, learn, grow, and be heroes. They are Marvel’s original super stars and original dysfunctional family team. They are a staple in the comics world. They deserve a movie as funny, powerful, and interesting as they are.
This was an insult to them. This was an insult to the fans. This was an insult to Marvel comics as a whole.
That guy three rows down is right. What a waste of time. I wonder if Trainwreck is still playing next door.