Saturday, August 8, 2015

'Fantastic Four' review

Yup, I'm one of the few people who went to see "Fantastic Four" this weekend.

For the record before I get too far into this review, it's not nearly as bad as people say it is. At least until the last 20 minutes and its so-called Big Finale.

Rotten Tomatoes has been especially tough on "FF," saying it's "dull and downbeat." And honestly I can't completely disagree with the assessment that "this 'Fantastic Four' proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy or colorful thrills that made it great."

Granted, "FF" doesn't have the thrills to make it a great or even memorable summer popcorn movie and there aren't too many fist-pumping fan-moments either. But there is a bit of humor and while there are some tweaks to the Fantastic Four's origins, I wouldn't necessarily say it's as "woefully misguided" as Rotten Tomatoes leads you to believe it is.

And I certainly wouldn't agree that this "Fantastic Four" makes "Batman & Robin" look like some great piece of cinema.

Honestly, "Fantastic Four" isn't the worst way to spend an hour and 45 minutes — at least if you're paying reasonable matinee prices.


I didn't come out of the theater thinking I wasted my time, but admittedly I do firmly believe "FF" makes a good argument for 20th Century Fox to give up on the quartet as a film franchise and get in bed with Marvel Studios, where Marvel's first superhero group should be anyway.

Meme courtesy of Meme Generator
As I mentioned, there are some deviations from the FF's comic book origins. But keep in mind I went into it with as an open of a mind as I could have and was willing to see where this movie was going to take me.

Miles Teller's Reed Richards is an egghead even from the fifth grade. He's already drawing up schematics for inventions in class and has a vision for an interdimensional travel device — basically a teleporting machine. It's in fifth grade where Richards meets Ben Grimm, whose home life is indeed grim as his family's home is in a junk yard and his older brother beats him with the warning, "It's clobberin' time."

There are a few Easter eggs like that and the first name of Johnny Storm's father and Sue Sue Storm's stepdad that will please FF fans. There just aren't enough for my tastes. I especially enjoyed how Kate Mara's Sue Storm jokingly calls Victor Von Doom "Doctor Doom" when he expounds on how this world needs to die to make room for a newer, better version.

Miles Teller
By high school, Grimm has stayed by Richards' side in his experiments which have come to the attention of Richard Storm, whose Baxter Foundation has been experimenting with a similar concept. In fact, Von Doom came up with it when he was younger than Richards, and as you'd expect, the two end up working on the project to its completion.

It's Richards' dedication to Grimm that brings his best friend onboard (literally) later to make the experimental flight with Von Doom and Johnny Storm (an easily likable Michael B. Jordan) before NASA has the chance to steal the scientific team's thunder.

That's right; Sue Storm isn't on the voyage, but her heroics to bring the crew back exposes her to what the others experienced on World Zero. It's just one more element in the story that needed a tad more explaining. …

Just as in the comics, Richards is tasked with and has the potential to improve upon Von Doom's idea. While there's potential for some rivalry, the script simply doesn't expand up it to this FF fan's satisfaction. There's also a bit of hinting at Richards being attracted to Sue Storm and Von Doom also having a thing for her, but again that doesn't go far enough either.

Michael B. Jordan
Once the impetuous maiden flight goes wrong and the crew plus Sue Storm are transformed is where FF fans will see the biggest discrepancies with the comics.

The government has come up with suits used to help the Storms control their powers — Sue from randomly going invisible and Johnny's body from perpetually being aflame. It could be argued this makes Johnny Storm an actual Human Torch (a name not mentioned into the closing couple of minutes). On the other hand, I'm sure there are more impassioned FF fans than me who want to see Storm be able to control his ability to turn on his flame rather than through a button on his suit. (For the record, the special effects on both characters and their powers is well done and looks good — especially Sue's protective invisible bubble.)

The biggest — and most controversial — deviation from the comics is the use of Grimm's The Thing. This is a mild spoiler here: Once transformed and Richards flees the government facility after the foursome are transformed, Grimm agrees to work for the military. He basically is unleashed to wreak mayhem and destruction — and sadly, even kill — in exchange for the promise that scientists will find a way to reverse his rocky form. (End spoiler)

Grimm naturally blames Richards for what happened, thus causing a split in their friendship. By the time this is addressed in the film, some higher-up in the studio realized it was time to crank up the action quota. Unfortunately, this means the nice little scene with Richards telling Grimm he's so very sorry and Grimm saying he's not their fun ends up being just that: a nice moment with no pay-off later.

Much was made earlier this summer about Jordan, a talented young actor who happens to be black, taking on the role of Johnny Storm, a Causasian blond character. I've come full circle from my basic thought in December that casting Jordan was doing it for the sake of change only. It just took me getting used to the idea and once I realized Jordan's and Mara's characters were siblings through Sue being adopted, I was down with it.

Again, the script could have done more to develop why the siblings were seemingly estranged before their father reunites them to put the finishing touches on Richard and Von Doom's creation. And the script left a lot on the table with the fun and charisma Jordan brings to the screen.

That being said, it's Reg E. Cathey's Dr. Franklin Storm who is the glue to the movie and for the most part, the storyline. He takes Richards under his wing, brings Von Doom back into the fold of the Baxter Foundation and treats each of the students working there as his children.

Cathey (whose awesome speaking voice rivals that of Morgan Freeman and Laurence Fishburne's) connects with each of the FF and Von Doom in ways the rest of the cast seem to hit and miss. I wanted to see more done about Storm's relationship with his actual kids and him rebel more against the government once the quartet are transformed.

As I mentioned earlier, "Fantastic Four" holds its own until the last 15 to 20 minutes. That's when the film takes a turn into the hot mess you'll no doubt hear from much more vocal and undisciplined fans and critics.

Concidentally (maybe!) with Von Doom's return from being left for dead on Planet Zero, the so-called climax wreaks of The Powers That Be at the studio demanding the movie end with a big bang. It feels like a rush job and worse yet, lacks a full explanation for how the FF defeats Von Doom and saves the day. The Big Finale is just that: Big yet with a rushed sense of finality.

It's understandable than why director Josh Trank ranted on his Twitter account on how the studio messed with the "fantastic version" of the movie he created a year ago.

Grades: First 3/4 of "Fantastic Four" — B-
The last 20 minutes — C-











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