I’m home sick today, so I thought I’d watch one of the movies on my list of things to see. I’d been putting this one off for a while because probably the best praise I’d heard was “It isn’t as bad as most people saw.” With such encouraging reviews, what could go wrong?
writer: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank
director: Josh Trank
This feels more like two movies than one. The first movie is a decent, yet fairly flawed, origin story that kind of wants to be a horror movie but keeps giving in to its sad teenager indulgences. It relies on feelings of being an outsider and everyone looking down on the hero while not quite understanding his brilliance. This movie relies on ambiance and has to directly tell you the relationships between characters because it can never quite establish them, or connect them to the audience. Still, it comes with a feeling of building to something. What it builds to is the second movie that pops in for the last third. This is a straight up B hero movie. People with powers do things, but again, you are never quiet connected to them or the events being shown so there is never any real interest in what is happening. And then it ends.
Spoilers lurk below.
When this movie came out in 2015 almost immediately there were reports of studio interference and of the director, Josh Trank, disowning it. There were also counter-reports. I have no insight into the inner dealings of movie making. Folk wanting more of that are free to search out those old reports. I will limit my take to what is on screen.
Despite the reviews I went in wanting to like this movie. The beginning, while not blowing me away, was strong enough that I hoped it would pick up. I did think it relied too much on cliche and shorthand to feed us its ideas. The teacher being dismissive of the “awkward” but bright kid. The badboy kid how was dismissed but needed to be brought back in do to his genius. Rivalry inside a family. In all these cases we were told what the current situation is, but I never felt like we were shown enough to actually connect with the situation.
Sure, Doom was dismissed for reasons I have already forgotten even though I only finished the movie before I started writing, and we are certainly told that he has an attitude, but did we ever actually see it? And this pretty much covers every relationship. Which really hurts a movie that on some level wants to rely on the interpersonal issues of its characters.
“Hey, Ben. I know it seems like we haven’t talked in maybe a year, but I want you to come with me on this dangerous and likely illegal mission. While I’m drunk. Oh, and then when that goes terribly wrong I’m going to let another year pass and then bring up that we were best friends!”
Also, for a movie that also seems to want to pant authority and military/government as bad, it does a really bad job of painting them that way. At worst they seem to be goal oriented. There was so much room in this movie for manipulation and abuse by the powers that be, both before and after the transformation. What we got was mild. It tried to make a point that Ben and soon-to-be Johnny were being used, but in a way they seem like simply enlistments. Although with special missions.
As for the superhero section. Well, that was just dull. It was a fight, not because a fight was warranted, but because superhero movies need fights. Apparently the world was about to get ripped apart, or perhaps sucked into another dimension, and yet I never actually felt caught up by the risk. My mind was free to wander. Here are my top three thoughts:
- Doom’s expressionless face looks like the Gimp from Pulp Fiction is having dental work done.
- “There is no Victor. Only Doom.” Is that an intentional reference to Ghostbusters? Did the filmmakers do that by accident? Either way, it pulled me out of the movie.
- “It’s clobbering time!” Things not to do with a heroic catchphrase: Link it to child abuse.
In a way the more positive reviews about Fantastic Four (2015) were right. It isn’t as bad as everyone said. Unfortunately, it isn’t good either. What was meant to be moody, often turns into whiny, and what was meant to be high action is rather dull. Really, the best part of this movie is Reg E. Cathey playing Franklin Storm. I’d really be interested in seeing a movie where this story is completely told from his perspective. A scientist raising two children while also conducting research and overseeing super-intelligent teenagers. Especially what he has to do when a lab accident bring on government and military overseers. Where’s that movie?