Dissecting Fantastic Four – Not That Bad?

Fantastic Four Dissection
Zac: Fantastic Four is almost a great superhero movie, with a lot of great stuff in there from Josh Trank, before the film falls apart when it tries to be something it’s not in the end.

Lauren: Uuuggggghhhh… Wwwhhhhhyyyyyy are you so stupid…

Zac: Now, Lauren, you hated Fantastic Four (read her review), but I think you are being way too unfair to the movie.

Lauren: UNFAIR!?

Zac: Yes, but let’s get on the same page for a minute.

(***Warning: Spoilers ahead!***)

The end to the movie is a clustercuss of mass proportions. All of a sudden the movie is like, we need to be a superhero team to stop this potentially world ending black hole event started by Dr. Doom on Planet Zero. It literally takes the film almost the length of time it took you to read that sentence to completely change gears from what it was beforehand. And it does this with one of our superheroes not even knowing how to be a superhero in Reed.

That was one bit I did like about the finale (besides, “There is no Victor, only Doom!”), that Reed uses a little ingenuity to defeat Doom, not brute force. But rushing to the big battle when everyone isn’t remotely ready seemed a bit short-sighted from a storytelling standpoint. The action is also pretty terrible, with everyone taking one shot at Doom, then the team up mentioned above, then that is it. It is all so rushed, comes out of nowhere, and feels like nothing else that came before it. The fight would feel like it was from another movie if it didn’t have the characters we spent the whole movie with in it.

Lauren: The Avengers final battle, it is not, that’s for sure. I’m so used to these movies going all out for the last 45 minutes or so, and it’s not always the easiest to get it right. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, anyone? But going in the complete opposite direction doesn’t quite work for a movie like this either. We want to see these characters in action. Training montages are all well and good if you like the characters and they’re clicking together, but watching Sue float around in a bubble and bickering with Johnny, when he wasn’t going on about getting his flight trial under 5 seconds, just wasn’t my idea of solid buildup.

And once we do see them all team up it is a whole lot of nothing. I enjoyed the “It’s clobbering time” moment because they had to get The Thing saying that, and it is one of the things they did do smoothly, but that’s about it. And can someone clarify what Dr. Doom’s powers are? I should know this by now, but for some reason I’m always forgetting; the movie doesn’t help clear this up at all. As far as I can tell he can explode heads (which was a well done and disturbing sequence, especially when he popped that obnoxious guy’s gum one final time for him. As in he popped his head. It was more clever in my brain…), move rocks around, and make his eyes glow. This makes you think we’re gonna have a huge showdown, but the way he is taken out so easily, and quickly, is the most anticlimactic ending you can get. Granted, a movie has to build up excitement and anticipation for something to be anticlimactic, and Fantastic Four didn’t do that in the slightest.

Zac: This fight scene is worth criticizing, but nothing in the rest of the film comes close to approaching this level of bad. Plus, this scene last only a few minutes of the film’s 100 minute runtime; there are so many other scenes with great stuff in them.

One of those great scenes is the one you mentioned above: Doom’s massacre of the research facility. How is this movie not rated R after that? The sequence was so well done, appropriately terrifying, and really set up Doom as someone not to fuck with. Though I agree, outside broad telekinesis, I don’t know what he can do exactly; and yes his death was so cheap. But that head popping scene is one of my favorites of the year in any movie.

You really didn’t dig anything else in the film?

Lauren: Other than the reference to Reed’s plans for a flying car and the “It’s clobbering time” line reading? Not really. I guess the grotesque scene Reed wakes up to when he returns from the other dimension was pretty well done, and it was in moments like that in which I could appreciate the tone.

Zac: The scenes following their return from Planet Zero were incredible. That first shot of Reed waking up and just seeing Johnny on fire was haunting. I also loved the subtlety of Ben actually being the pile of rocks right before Reed passed out. Then, when Reed wakes up, that image of him all stretched out was terrifying. Seeing Sue in a coma was sad, Ben crying for help was sad, Johnny’s look of “what the fuck is going on with me.” I was caring about all of these guys, and that sequence of events really shook me up.

From there the movie does start heading on a downward trend, but it felt like missed opportunities, not a giant failure; at least until the finale. Once they get back from Planet Zero is where the film seems to be missing a second act:

some scenes that establish who they are now and throws our characters into a little trouble. Instead, everyone seems to be sitting around waiting from something to happen.

Lauren: A whole lot of waiting…

Let’s see, what else can I compliment… I suppose every once in a while Miles Teller would do something that would get me to smile, and I did enjoy his time with Jamie Bell, but there was too little of it.

That’s the problem with this movie: Fantastic Four is about a team, and other than the final fight I don’t think they’re ever even in the same room all at once. They’re always being split up. From Reed going to school and leaving Ben behind, Sue not being a part of the boys night when they first cross into the other dimension (yes she is at the computer to bring them back, but it just didn’t feel the same…), to Reed running away after promising to fix Ben.

Which, by the way, didn’t seem truthful to the character at all. Did he really think he would have a better chance of saving Ben in the middle of some jungle than in a facility with everyone else there to help work towards the same goal? Sure, they’re being used and Reed isn’t a fan of that, but running away was such a D move. He’s the leader of the F4 and he needed to stand up in that moment. Or just be a shoulder for his friend to cry on! If rocks can cry, that is.

Zac: Reed/Teller was my favorite part of the movie. I get where you are coming from with him abandoning them, but I could roll with the “he’s scared” excuse that the film gives us. Though, it could have given us a bit more clarity on what Reed was doing. I was under the impression he was traveling the world trying to intercept Ben on his top secret missions the whole time, but I also think this was the point in the movie where things might have started to get shaken up quite a bit from what was originally intended.

Lauren: I didn’t get that at all. I just assumed he was staying on the run so they couldn’t track him down, and he was keeping track of what Ben was up to because he’s his best bud and he feels guilty for what’s happening to him.

Even with that complaint about Reed chickening out, when it comes to not being faithful to the character I can’t decide who is the worst offender: Johnny or Ben. Johnny is supposed to be this fun-loving thrill seeker, which they set up with his drag racing antics, but when they get to the other dimension he is the one who is too scared to go exploring. You’d think he’d be the idiot that does something to cause it all to go wrong, but nope. He’s just gonna stay up here in the shallow end. And then there’s Ben: at the end of the movie, after spending the majority of it being super angry about his transformation, and rightfully so thanks to the aesthetic and pain, he’s the one to inspire the name of the team by saying “it’s fantastic.” Oh really, big man? Because nothing in your situation has changed. So what’s so fantastic about it all of a sudden?

Sue was probably off during all of this listening to her headphones.

It’s stupid, Zac! Stupid!

Zac: I can’t speak to the characters’ faithfulness of adaptation, but I can agree with almost everyone being underdeveloped, Ben and Johnny specifically. I feel like I had a pretty good vibe for Sue, but she and Johnny feel like they got their stories chopped up significantly in the back half of the film: “Welp, your Dad is dead! That’s enough drama for them, right?” And ben couldn’t have come by the lab at some point? Seen what is going on? Have Doom mock him for being a simpleton?

But even with all that said, I liked what the film was doing…

Lauren: Ugh… it was doing nothing!

Zac: …even if it wasn’t giving us the deepest characters. I felt like I was watching a group coalesce into something.

Lauren: A steaming pile of garbage…

Zac: I enjoyed their scientific research progression, there was a chemistry among the group that I bought into. I was totally on board with watching these kids science the shit out of their problems and never really resort to the superhero theatrics. Save it for the sequel I say, or at least give it to us in a finale that feels more of a piece with the rest of the film.

Lauren: If there is a sequel. Looks like the movie isn’t doing too well this weekend.

Zac: I also think that maybe we aren’t looking at this film the way Josh Trank was. You mentioned your expectations for what this movie should be, but in a post Avengers world this was supposed to be something that launched a series of films. If Trank was going for a smaller, character based drama to establish this group for the countless movies they were supposed to spawn, I would have rather we got that through and through.

It has become pretty clear that Trank’s vision of the film is not what the final product looks like. But why try to mold this into something it’s not when Iron Man launched a cinematic universe with just as little action and a similar focus on character. Now, Iron Man only really had to flesh out a pair of characters (Tony and Pepper) and was basically a one man show at it’s heart, but, like I said, I was digging what Trank was doing with this group. Maybe we would have gotten the character stuff we craved in his version of the film? We probably will never know, but even though things fall short from time to time for Fantastic Four, I still found myself enjoying this movie quite a bit.

Lauren: I never said I wanted this to be the Avengers; I didn’t expect it to be. At least when it comes to the amounts of action.

Zac: I wasn’t implying you wanted Avengers, just that the Avengers changed the landscape of superhero franchises.

Lauren: Gotcha. Now that we’re talking about The Avengers, Joss Whedon could have definitely done a better job of building up this group of character, that’s for sure. There are hints of characters here and there, but even then it is never followed through on. In the first part of the film, which is disproportionately large compared to the rest of the run time allotment, we get hints of what could be. I would have loved to see more between the siblings. I don’t need a whole back story on how the Storm family came to adopt Sue, but I would’ve loved to have actually had a stronger family dynamic between the three of them, or even just the siblings.

Zac: Totally agree, but I still bought their bond.

Lauren: It was fine, and honestly now that the dad’s gone I think the relationship will get better between the two, given the chance. As I mentioned before, I would have loved more time between Reed and Ben. I’m happy with the little we were given, but it wasn’t enough!

And then there is Reed and Sue. They don’t need to start the romantic relationship in this movie by any means, but I liked the challenging nature between Reed and Victor which made appearances here and there. Victor’s already slightly defensive about Reed’s work completing correctly what he once tried to do, and we see in one moment that he doesn’t like Reed talking to Sue at all. Playing these two things up more would have at least given Victor stronger motivation to set himself apart: maybe that’s why he would be dumb enough to risk sticking his hand in alien goop, and it would definitely give him cause to fight the team when he goes off the deep end.

Zac: I enjoyed the subtlety of the romantic triangle they had, and I’m glad they didn’t make Sue the driving force for Doom’s creation. Does that mean they nailed that transition for Doom? No, but Victor being fed up with humanity was a believable path for him, even if they could have sold it better.

Lauren: Or could’ve sold it at all. He took a big leap from being an angry young adult complaining about large issues without actually doing anything to work towards combating them to suddenly feeling the need to do what he’s complaining about and destroy the entire world. As it stands the film completely forgets the middle section of storytelling to help transition the lengthy set up to the tacked on final battle. They don’t have to be fighting Victor throughout the whole movie; dealing with their newfound powers and emotional wounds would be enough (had this been stronger), but you can’t just throw in the movies “most important” conflict in the last 20 minutes and expect us to care.

GREEN LANTERN WAS BETTER THAN THIS MOVIE!!!

Zac: I liked this more than Green Lantern. And I totally agree with the jump to the finale, but I don’t think this is the appropriate ending for this movie, period. I’ll take something else entirely.

I liked the cast, I like Trank’s vision/take on the material, and I think it is a shame a potentially really good movie got stuck with such an unfortunate conclusion.

Count me in for more, and I hope we see or hear about what Trank’s original plan was at some point.

Lauren: And count me in for continuing to not understand how you liked this movie.