Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fantastic Four (Guest Review)

Alternate Title:  Shit-tastic Snore

A Note Before We Begin:     I had absolutely no intention of seeing this movie.  Among comic IPs, Fantastic Four has a pedigree worse than Catwoman, and despite the resurrection of X-Men by these very same means, I am not interested in going to see another movie whose very existence is a license-renewing contractual obligation.  Marvel movies not done by Marvel have an awful track record, and the same studio that brought us the Not-Amazing Spiderman was not one I was eager to see take another bite at the apple.  Fortunately for all of you people for whom my pain is a drug, a friend of mine volunteered to take a look at this one on my behalf, seeing as I had strictly no plans to fit it into the schedule.  Unfortunately, that was before the advanced buzz came back making this movie sound like a dumpster fire, and even more unfortunately, he is a man of his word.  I sincerely hope you all enjoy this one.  It was dearly bought.

Things Frigid... Saw?:  Hello, I go by Frigid on the internet and I write a book review blog called Frigidreads. Today however I will reviewing a movie in the good General's stead because it was feared if he saw this movie... Well it's likely best for all of us he doesn't see the movie. So I figured I'd volunteer, it's only a movie, how bad could it be? I'll be using the General's score for this despite having my own rating system because well, it's his series after all. Anyways on to the review:

So I went to see the movie against the advice of my family, my friends and my doctor. I should really start listening when everyone lines up to tell me not to do something.

I was told repeatedly that this film was a celebration of the comics. Well I saw damn little of the comics in this movie. The opening with Reed Richards and Ben Grimm is frankly tedious and eye rolling. Little Reed wants to be the first man to teleport organic matter (you know teleporting inorganic matter would be pretty damn revolutionary as well, just saying...) and announces this to his teacher and classmates. His teacher reacts to one of his students showing an interest in become a scientist by shitting all over him in front of his classmates and telling him to write a report on a “real” career. Really? I mean seriously, the kid before him chattered that he wanted to be a NFL quarterback. Bluntly Reed had a better chance of growing up to be a scientist working on teleportation than that kid, but no one shit on him. This displays one of the few consistent themes in this movie, any authority figure who is not named Storm is unreasonable and dislikes our main characters... For reasons.

The opening does show us how Reed and Ben met but frankly it's a waste. We're fed formulaic origin stories (Ben is alienated from his family who makes a living from their junkyard, Reed can't stand his stepfather and is a wacky child genius who is rejected and misunderstood). Hollywood, I know you love unreasonable authority figures who piss on our “heroes” for no reason but do a decent job with it, or don't do it. We jump to Reed and Ben as high school seniors in a science fair, where they show off the device and are disqualified for... reasons. This is so tired and hackneyed and cliched and they don't do a damn thing with it! It's just there to make them temporarily put upon! Why have this shit in your movie if you're not going to do anything with it?

Although the teacher does have a rather nice sneer. Reed is then offered a scholarship by Sue and Johnny Storm's father, Doctor Franklin Storm. By the way for those wondering, Susan is adopted. This isn't turned into a thing.

Ben, having served his betters for years is told 'thanks a lot now toddle on back home like a good servant'. Seriously this one burned me. In the comics Ben Grimm puts up a front of being a rather dim guy, but he met Reed in college, they took classes together. Yes, Ben is not in Reed's league but seriously who is? Regardless Ben Grimm is a fucking pilot who was good enough for fucking NASA! How is it a celebration of the comic books to take away all of Ben Grimm's skills and abilities and reduce him to Reed Richard's Igor and good luck charm? It turns their relationship from one of two men with different gifts and skills who regard themselves as equals to one of Reed graciously condescending to dribble crumbles to his friend who gave him spare parts. I would bitch about the movies getting rid of Ben's military service (he was an air force pilot before being accepted by the space program) but Marvel has got me fairly well covered with Captain America, Warmachine and Falcon. This treatment of Ben stands out all the more considering Susan Storm is turned into a scientist who while not as smart as Reed is still shown to have impressive intellectual gifts. Johnny Storm is shown to have good hardware and basic engineering skills. In the original story Sue was along literally because she and Reed were knocking boots and Johnny got to come because he was the little brother of Reed's girlfriend. So everyone got upgraded expect for Ben, who got downgraded, and there wasn't any reason for it that I can see. It added nothing to the story, it gave us no new information on Ben's character. So why have this in your movie if you're not going to do anything with it?

Then we have Victor Von Doom, except we don't. Because I don't know who the hell this guy is, but he ain't Doctor Doom. I don't know what Fox's problem is with actually getting one of the most Ionic and Memorable Comic Book Villains ever made right, but it seems they can't bear to simply give us Dr. Doom. In this movie Knock Off Doom is a withdrawn painfully introverted “genius” who will make cow eyes at Susan Storm for about a third of the movie, which I'll go into in a minute. They drop Doom's characterization for something completely different, jettison his background and origin for something completely different, and then (say it with me now) they don't do anything with it! Why even name this guy Doom? He's got nothing to do with Doom! For that matter they'll take him out of the movie and only bring him back in the last 20 minutes or so because someone pointed out they needed a bad guy and a superpower fight. So there's no build up, no foreshadowing, just Doom being lost on Planet Zero (Spent all night coming up with that name didn't ya fellas?) for a year (gonna cover this to) and being brought back where he immediately starts killing people because of crazy. To be fair if I thought I had escaped this movie and was dragged back in, I'd be pretty pissed off too.

I mean first of all... How to put this? Doom runs a country, bitch! He is a sovereign ruler with resources and abilities on par with the Fantastic Four despite not having any superpowers expect for the ones he steals from any cosmic being stupid enough to get close enough to him! He's epic, grand, petty, and spiteful, with an ego that would make gods suggest he needs to tone it down. Worse of all, at least half of the time he can back his shit up. They run from this like vampires from daylight, which only enforces that this movie is at best uncaring of its source material, or at worst ashamed of it. Which a comic book cannot be. Comic book movies can be a lot of things, as Marvel has gleefully proven with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Winter Soldier, and even Ant Man! But they cannot be ashamed of the comic books they spawned from. The sooner Fox figures this out, the faster they'll stop making shit superhero movies. I had believed between X-Men first class and Future Past they had figured it out. I was mistaken.

But let me get back to this thing. The movie tries to set up a Reed-Susan-Victor love triangle. It fails. Firstly because Reed is made painfully awkward (to be fair, I was worse in high school). Second, the actors have all the chemistry together of a pile of granite rocks. Thirdly, and this will surprise you gentle readers, the movie doesn't do anything with this plot! Seriously why bother with these tired cliches if you're not going to bother doing even a cliche ending to them? It's like someone told them all movies must have a romantic sub plot but they weren't sure what 'romantic' and 'plot' meant. Hell, it's not settled by Susan choosing to be with Reed or anyone admitting their feelings. Victor drops his half formed crush on Susan Storm to commit himself to genocide. All I could think at that point was at least someone in this movie was committing to something!

We have a montage after Reed is recruited to build a device to jump to a planet in another dimension, because space is too old school or something I guess? Despite the fact we live in a world where space travel is rapidly being privatized and there are an increasing number of organizations showing up to push back those boundaries, so a movie about people going to space would be relevant and pretty cool. But nope! We're teleporting to another dimension for reasons. I guess this could be a call back to the Negative Zone, but again they don't do anything with it! When they successfully teleport a chimp to and back, they're told that it's time to bring NASA in, and you'd think they were told that we were gonna build a new Gitmo there or something. So Reed, Victor and Johnny decide the only adult thing to do is get drunk and hijack the teleporter and do it first so they can be in the history books. Reed drunk dials Ben, because they need him to become a bad CGI rock monster. They go and bad things happen. Sue gets blasted because she walked in and tried to help. They are then turned over to the military and Reed flees because the military is bad. We now skip a year, so we have two time skips and a montage. I'm not saying that time skips are bad, but I am saying that so many in a single movie suggests to me that you need to go back to the story board. During that time skip Ben starts doing missions for the military, which is bad for reasons. The military develops ways for Susan and Johnny to control their powers and Johnny decides he wants to go on missions too. This is also bad for reasons.

The government and the military are treated as these sinister monsters who will surely destroy our heroes if left unchecked, but what do they do? They develop suits to help bring Susan and Johnny under control. I'm not a fan of these suits honestly but it's a minor plot point. They try to conduct research to understand Ben's condition and send him on missions for the US Army. When Susan says no, no one pressures or threatens her to make her do it. As to Johnny, after a year he gets ready to volunteer and everyone freaks out. Yes, clearly the stuff of villainy! I mean the most villainous person here is Doctor Storm's coworker in a suit who keeps referring to them as subjects behind their backs. But hey, an adult might be sent on a military mission of his own free will? That's awful! Speaking as a veteran of the Marine Corps? Fuck You.

But seriously why all this build up about how they can't trust the government or the military and then have the said government do... Really nothing at all that seems that sinister to me. At worst they took advantage of Ben to save other troops lives, but I guess our lives don't count. But hey, it doesn't matter because they do this build up and then... You guess it, they don't do anything with it. Instead there's Reed, who spent the year in Central America trying to rebuild the teleporter. They don't do anything with this either. Nor do they do anything with the fact the Ben is angry at Reed for taking him on a mission that turned him into a big orange monster and then fucking off to the jungle. They. Don't. Do. Anything. With. This.

It's all resolved with hand waves at the end of the movie, where they and Not-Doom have this really... generic, mundane let down of the a fight. Our heroes turn around to the military who gave them the training and equipment to win and tell them, hey we're done working for you. You're going to give us a huge fuck off lab, fund us to whatever amount we want and we're not going to share our work with you or do anything for you at all! Because you're evil. For reasons. It's an ending that reeks of the worst of Baby-Boomer-entitlement where authority exists only to give you everything you want but fuck you having to do anything or, you know, give anything back. The movie closes and I am left with this. The best part was the Star Wars Trailer and the knowledge that no one ever said they were the Fantastic Four in this film.

But I am left asking, why is it so hard to do a film about the F4? It's a simple concept: a family that loves to explore and push back the boundaries of knowledge and must at times fight against the new threats that exploration reveals. Instead Fox continually keeps trying to turn them into a generic superhero team, stripping away anything interesting or special in favor of movies that tell stories by waving about tired old cliches and then putting them down to wave another set of tired old cliches. So I have to close this review by asking the same question I've been asking throughout. Why have the rights to the Fantastic Four, why fight and scheme and sweat to keep those rights... If you're not going to do anything with them?

Final Score:  2.25/10

Next Time:  Most musical biopics do not involve machine guns.  This is not most musical biopics...

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