Fantastic Four — Collaborative Review

Hannah: Melissa and I have now both seen the Fantastic Four reboot, and, well… We’re underimpressed.

Fantastic Four

Melissa: I don’t think we’re the only ones either, and that’s a shame. To be honest, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong – I had my doubts from the beginning. And I tried to be objective, I really did. But I’m a fan of the original movies and I couldn’t help comparing the two. That said, I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would, but I still left the cinema feeling disappointed with the remake as a whole.

Hannah: I also enjoyed it but left disappointed. There were things I really liked, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was a “pre-MCU” movie. It had the same feeling as the Sam Raimi Spiderman movies, for instance. I loved those movies at the time, but in retrospect, they give off a strong feeling of “not quite there yet.” Not as focused or polished or confident, and without the idea of a larger universe, they don’t feel as expansive.

But let’s talk about the good parts.

Melissa: The idea of an alternate universe had huge potential. It was certainly an interesting divergence from the original story, and an accident in space.

Hannah: Yes, I was really into that idea, and how it might streamline things or allow for variations on their powers. I enjoyed the five characters and how distinct their powers were. The transformation sequence was positively harrowing!

Melissa: I agree with you about the transformation, it was brutal. So let’s take a closer look at the main players:

Human Torch – I thought Michael B. Jordan did a pretty good job in the role. He struck me as a bit of a loner, someone who wanted to carve out a path for himself instead of living in his father’s shadow. He had a subtle humour, and a confidence which suited the role. But Chris Evans is a tough act to follow; a hot-head with impulse control issues – the perfect combination for Johnny Storm.

Fantastic Four Johnny Storm

The Thing – Jamie Bell was great, and I enjoyed the development of his relationship with Reed Richards. I particularly liked the glimpse into their childhood; the bonds they formed early in life. But when he became the Thing, I was oddly detached from the character. It was bizarre that Reed left the group to fend for themselves for a year. I get he was scared, desperate to turn things around, but to leave without a word. What does that say about his commitment to his friend? It just didn’t sit well. I waited the entire movie to hear ‘it’s clobbering time’ and was ultimately disappointed. The line had no personality, and I was left feeling disappointed. To be fair though, it’s always hard when CGI kicks in, and there’s bound to be layers of separation between the audience and the actor playing the role.

Dr. Doom – I liked Toby Kebbell’s portrayal of Victor; the dark tortured personality – a result of being a genius with limited social skills. But then he disappeared for half of the movie and his motivations fell short. Julian McMahon (in the 2005 movie) did the manipulative, ego-centric billionaire really well, and so his transition into a monster made sense.

Hannah: Invisible Woman – Sue is a better female character who gets better treatment than ANY FEMALE MCU CHARACTER. She’s smart and independent, but not cocky or with a chip on her shoulder. She has her own vital set of powers, and isn’t defined by anyone else in the movie. And I really appreciate that even though some romantic elements were present, they’re kept in the background and never a major motivating force. Reed and Sue are an established couple in the comics and have been all along, but that wouldn’t have fit yet. There’s room for it later.

Fantastic Four Sue Storm

Melissa: I agree. Sue was my favourite character. I loved her – Kate Mara brought everything I thought she would to the role; intelligence, morality, and a strength which bound everyone together.

Hannah: Mr. Fantastic – I was so pleasantly surprised by this character! I was expecting “awkward nerd turns out to be the best at everything and gets the girl.” But he was actually shown perfectly comfortable conversing with everyone in the movie. He was pleasant without being annoying. Welcoming and encouraging, with no prejudices, and a kind of “leader from the background.” Smart, with a real comic-book-hero outlook on teamwork. But he still does monumentally stupid things sometimes, and makes interpersonal mistakes like the rest of us.

Melissa: Yes, I think that’s true for most of the movie, which is why I was so disappointed by the change in direction. Instead of stepping up, being the leader they needed him to be, he bailed. I might have accepted a few days, weeks at the most, but he only came back after he was captured. Then, when he did return, he did little to build those bridges.

Fantastic Four Reed Richards

Hannah: Yeah. It just didn’t make much sense, and that’s the main “negative” of the movie. The motivation wasn’t there for any of them.  Doom started out so interesting, but like you said, that just disappeared. I loved Reed and Ben’s friendship, especially when Reed sends Ben that selfie, because it shows how close they were and that Reed wasn’t just dumping him (which would be the plot of any other college movie). But then Reed runs away for a year.

That directly ties in to my other biggest problem, and that’s the pacing. Right when it was getting good, they cut it off entirely and jumped ahead a year. All the investment in the characters, gone, because we don’t actually see this part of their development. We never get the emotional payoff afterward, either. The gap created a major conflict between the characters, a fascinating choice, but that’s just waved away at the end. This should be a movie about constructing families, and all the bones are there to make it work, but we don’t get to finish it. Instead there’s a fight scene and an uninspiring speech from Reed and then a textbook “We’re a team, we need a name!” finish, all devoid of connection.

Fantastic Four

And the “science.” Don’t make me laugh. It was too ridiculous to be sci-fi, but not quite tongue-in-cheek enough to brush off as comic-book craziness.

Melissa: That sums it up perfectly, Hannah, especially your points about connection and lack of emotional payoff.

Hannah: Thank you, thank you.

There was a lot of potential here, and it was an enjoyable watch, but it would’ve benefited from another half an hour of runtime and a few more goes with the editor. Cut the weird timeskip, and tie the second half closer to the first. Then it could’ve been raised from a “fun” movie to a really good fun movie.

What do you think – did Fantastic Four pull it off? And here’s the question on everyone’s mind… Does it deserve a sequel? Let us know in the comments.

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24 thoughts on “Fantastic Four — Collaborative Review

  1. Sue gets treated better than any female in the MCU? Really? I mean I guess it shows that she isn’t totally stupid that she doesn’t go on a drunk mission, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is supposed to be part of the team, she is supposed to be an explorer and in this movie she gets side-lined. Her big contribution to the project is to make the suits (yeah, thank you for that), and after that she has one scene in which she “recognizes patterns”. She could just as well not be in the movie at all, it would barely make any difference. And until the very end, she doesn’t share any screentime with Ben, barely a few words with Johnny (even though they are supposedly siblings), which boils down her role to “potential love interest for Reed”.

    Nevermind that her character was bland, but that was true for more or less everyone in the movie.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your views, I love how people get different things from each character – see things others don’t. That’s what makes these discussions so exciting. I saw her as strong and independent, and as having a much bigger role than the others. She didn’t get a great deal of dialogue, and indeed, not as much air time, but for me she lit up the screen. The respect of her father, the position she was in – her knowledge, the trust of her peers. It was subtle perhaps, but I really enjoyed her confidence. Maybe I didn’t see her simply as a love interest because I know, ultimately, she forms the head of that particular family and they didn’t rush it. I see your point about her relationship with Johnny. I think, creatively, they went in a different direction. There was tension in the relationship, a history we don’t yet know, and I found that had an interesting twist. But, as Hannah said, the timing could have been better overall.

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    • The thing is that we barely learn anything about her. Granted, none of the characters are well established, they are all very one-note, but I nevertheless expect more from a female character than “she is smart and she sees patterns”. We never get to hear her opinion about the changes she underwent, she never showed any anger about being changed because of the actions of some immature boys, she is just a tool in this story. As horrible as the Jessica Alba version was, as annoying as it was that she constantly lost her clothes, at least she had a character and was allowed to have opinions and take actions. To me this movie managed to make a character which has been constantly mishandled even worse.

      On a different note, I think that none of the studios treats female characters as well as Marvel (again, not saying much, but it has to be taken into consideration). Fox has the rights for the best females in the Marvel comics, but the studio is constantly side-lining them in favour of the white Male lead (called Wolverine).

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      • I agree that there needs to be far greater balance, and that Marvel have given us wonderful characters like Black Widow. There is also Pepper, but I could talk about how much I love those characters for hours! I think DC do a good job in terms of television adaptations, and Marvel too gave us Agent Carter. I’m reserving judgement for Supergirl – we’ll see how that goes! 😉

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        • I saw the pilot. I am not optimistic.

          I think the way females are portrayed in Arrow and Flash is problematic. They always get storylines which revolve around their love life and barely nothing else and whenever they accidentally create a character which breaks the mould and is more than that, they either kill her off or turn her into “the love interest”. They did a really good job with IZombie, though.

          Peggy is naturally awesome, but AoS also gave us a lot of very different characters.

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          • lol! The trailer is why I’m reserving judgement. Kara seemed to be a carbon copy of CK…what with the bumbling, clumsy routine.

            Arrow and the Flash both have great female characters, but they have made a few odd decisions in terms of story arcs. And, iZombie is a great show. I loved it!

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            • Nope…the thing with Clark is that the bumbling clumsy routine is an act. Kara actually is bumbling and clumsy. You know, because she is a girl! (Yeah, this pilot REALLY annoyed me…they play the “strong female character” angle so hard that the episode ended up being pretty sexist).
              I think I would like Arrow and Flash more if they would focus less on lovetriangles.

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            • Well that blows my hopes out of the water! Not that I’m all together surprised. I haven’t seen the pilot, but I’ve heard plenty about it. And love triangles…they drive me nuts!

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      • Good points! She’s not treated perfectly by any means, and the MCU has some awesome female characters. For me, Sue gets “better treatment” because she’s -not- just a potential love interest. For most of the MCU characters, they’re “girlfriends.” Even when they have strong roles in the movie, it’s “___-man” and “____-man’s girlfriend.” The MCU is developing, though, and I think they’re going in a positive direction. (I actually have a post coming up on my own blog about this soon, following up on an earlier one I did about Ant-Man. #shamelessselfpromotion.) While they have good and well-developed and interesting female characters, they haven’t achieved what I want them to achieve in terms of -independently interesting- female characters.

        None of the Fantastic Four characters get very strong motivations or, really, much to do onscreen, but Sue isn’t treated as someone’s appendage. Even though she’s family to two of them and possible romantic interest for two more, that’s not the only way she’s presented in the movie. Her value lies in her Science Knowledge and membership on the team, just like the others, even if her Science Knowledge makes zero sense. (It doesn’t for any of the characters. They know Science Stuff but apparently have no actual fields of research, etc.) But I’m sure there are as many opinions about how well the characters worked as there are viewers.

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  5. These collaborative reviews are a great idea, and so far they’re doing well. Personally I haven’t seen the movie. I’m sure I will eventually, but probably not until it releases on DVD. From what I’ve heard, it’s an overall “meh” movie, so about the same as my reaction to the earlier Fantastic Four movies. They weren’t bad enough to get angry about, but not good enough to care after they finished.

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