The Fantastic Four reboot, made essentially to keep Fox’s hands on the character rights of the Fantastic Four, came out this weekend. Although critically panned and bombing at the box office, there are still the few of us that will go see the film, if only because it is based on Marvel characters. If you are reading this review, I assume you are in that group.
This is my spoiler version of the movie, intended for those who have seen the movie, which is likely not many of you. This review is basically my spoiler-free version with specifics included. In short, the biggest problem was the pacing of the film. If it had an extra half hour to forty-five minutes, it could have been a really good movie.
So here are my thoughts on The Fantastic Four.
The film is based much more heavily upon the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, which was a Marvel reboot Universe from the early 2000’s. This leads to a much younger cast of heroes, which is an odd adjustment to many fans who are used to the mid-2000’s versions of the characters. The emphasis on the Ultimates leads to the abandoning of the radioactive space cloud in favor of a trip to the Negative Zone, here called “Planet Zero”.
The film is littered with references to the comic origins, which was actually a nice way to give origins to everything. I appreciated Ben’s brother casually saying “It’s clobbering time” or “look out, Doctor Doom”. These things, while some may see them as cheesy, grounded the film in some reality.
The first half the film, which focuses on the origins leading up to the powers, is almost issue-to-screen identical in its crossover. This includes the childhood friendship of Reed and Ben, the computer geek recluse of Victor Von Doom, and the association of the early Mole Man with the creation of the FF (although storyline is notably different, his inclusion is similar). While the drunken decision to go to the Negative Zone was original, almost everything was from the comics.
This original story is essentially abandoned afterwards. The latter half the movie, as I will discuess next section, is where it all falls apart. This events (with the exception of the death of Doctor Storm) are completely foreign to the comics. Reed runs away for a whole year. The Thing becomes a government agent. The group needs their suits to contain their powers. Basically, the entire government aspect of this movie is completely original, and misplaced, I would say. Doom’s powers are also completely original to the film. For some reason, he has telekinesis and the ability to blow people’s brains from their head.
Basically, the first half is almost too close. The second half is completely foreign. The two are not compatible and it provides a weird outlook for a comic fan.
As a Film
The first half the film is actually well-developed. While the scenes involving children are not the best I’ve ever seen, they are far from the worst. While Reed definitely gets the primary focus, the only character actually underdeveloped is Johnny Storm, who is introduced long after his other Fantastic Three and Victor Von Doom. The film feels like it is well paced for this first half, not rushing to the powers, but allowing the characters to be seen on their own first.
If the film had proceeded like this, it would have been a decent film (although not great). Instead, following the trip to the negative zone as the introduction of powers, the film suddenly becomes extremely rushed. The story takes leaps and bounds in a matter of fifteen minutes. A year passes without any blink of the eye. Relationships, especially Reed and Ben’s, are forged or changed with single lines, leading to an unbelievable relationship between… well… everyone. In the end, I didn’t feel like they had any real reason to be friends, much less form a team together. Ben’s issues with Reed weren’t solved. Johnny should still want to be a government agent (nothing should have changed that). In the end, the relationships work because they have to for a conclusion.
Entire elements of the story from the first half are forgotten, only to be resurrected suddenly. The chief example of this is Doom. When Doom is left behind in the Negative Zone, his name isn’t mentioned again until he appears. The film is unsure who its villain is, switching between Harvey Allen and Doom with only a vaporizing as transition. While Doom could have been scary, he wasn’t given the time to allow that to come to fruition. Instead, I suddenly looked up and realized that I was watching the climax.
If another 30-45 minutes had been put into the second half to develop the characters more, the film could have been believable and passable. With this one problem, the entire movie takes a nose dive.
In the final moments, it feels like everyone, cast and audience included, are sitting around waiting for the movie to end.
In short, the first half is a good intro, but the second half of the movie is incredibly rushed, leading to a very unsatisfying ending. There is already talk about abandoning the planned sequel in favor of Deadpool 2 (which is another sequel planned before the first is even released). This movie will be the final nail in the coffin that is Fox’s Fantastic Four. It is unclear if Marvel will take their own take on the characters when the rights revert, but only time will tell.