Aug 07 2015

Preliminary Review of Fantastic Four

Published by at 8:17 pm under Movie Review,Writing Articles

  • The new Fantastic Four movie runs like an ill-conceived first draft. Personally, I think it deserved a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes rather than a suspiciously low 9%. It’s notably less awful than Green Lantern (26%).
  • Fill in the blank: “One thing most of the main characters share is ________.” The first thing that came to mind for me is petulance. It’s a weird direction for Dr. Doom. Other justifiable answers include insanity, mood swings, daddy issues, a lack of action scenes, unbelievably weak dialogue, a complete lack of fun in their lives, poor acting from normally okay actors, a shocking lack of energy and initiative, a director that thinks they’re in Chronicle, and a studio that thinks they’re in an X-Men movie. It is still better than Green Lantern in every way, and a better love story than Twilight.
  • Another weird direction for Dr. Doom is having him act like a Human Resources killjoy against a romantic rival. “It’s not professional. That’s not what it looked like…” He’s previously been kicked off the team for lighting the project’s servers on fire, so maybe this isn’t the most fitting or most interesting way for him to conflict with Reed over Susan. E.g. he’s brash enough to launch a renegade, drunken space mission. Maybe he could get brave enough to ask her out at some point?
  • Writing advice from 2009: “Tip: [If you’re using a super-scientist] get him out of his lab as much as possible.  Field research is more interesting and has more storytelling potential than lab research.” The Fantastic Four spent maybe 5-10x as much time in a lab as they did in the field. The stakes on their lab research were alarmingly low. Okay, it’s great that Reed Richards is really interested in finding out a way to make teleportation possible, but I think he’s the only one riding that train. It’s a train-ride with 5 minutes of combat and 90 minutes of quasi-adolescent angst. You don’t want to be on that train.
  • Writing advice from 2014: Don’t work anywhere with a containment unit. They have never, ever contained anything and are a leading indicator that everybody involved is about to die in a fire.
  • I liked the darker direction they took with the relationship between Reed and Ben, but I’m not sure what the plan was for the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman. They contributed so little to the movie in their time on screen that their roles either needed to be totally overhauled or (if this weren’t an already-established franchise) cut altogether.
  • If a high school friend woke you up in the middle of the night and asked if you want to go into space even though you have zero training, no relevant experience, no applicable skills, and a crew that is all drunk out of their minds, you have nobody but yourself to blame when it goes to hell. And keep in mind that Ben is supposed to be the sensible member of the team. (One way to resolve this would have been having Reed work Ben into the project more quickly — e.g. Reed could insist that Ben be added to the program because Reed trusts him a lot more than Victor). Also, maybe giving Ben some rarer skill and/or more meaningful interaction with Reed than lending a screwdriver.
  • Pattern recognition and uniform-making, really? Susan Storm is like half a step below a Bond girl.
  • There were something like 4 writers and 10 editorial staffers credited. I watched the movie ~5 minutes ago, and I can’t remember any line that stood out in a positive way besides maybe “You would have been too busy to notice.” This is not the stuff that 50%+ ratings are made out of.
  • Visuals and audio effects were pretty solid. Oddly, The Thing sounds a lot more human than TDK’s Batman does. And his CGI looks a hell of a lot better than it did in his first movie. Some other reviews mentioned that The Thing doesn’t wear clothes, but given that he’s a pile of rocks, it feels like a nonissue. Out of all the changes this movie desperately needed, the wardrobe is not top-30.
  • I feel like Susan Storm and her father showing up at Reed’s high school science fair (apparently at random) could have been handled a lot better. Personally, I would have cut the high school science fair and had them be contacted by the Baxter Foundation after nearly destroying the world. Once you’ve nearly blown up the world, a high school science fair is a huge step down.
  • The attempts to work in comic book catchphrases and the team name were notably clumsy. I’ll check my notes, but off the top of my head, I don’t remember another Marvel-licensed movie struggling like this. Having “It’s clobbering time” come from an abusive brother is the bizarrest use of source material I’ve seen in any movie (superhero or otherwise) in a long time.
  • The goofiness level was unintentionally high. E.g. the “CONFIRMED KILL COUNT” running during the video recap of The Thing’s combat operations, a video recap that the Army apparently outsourced to ISIS gornographers.
  • Writing advice from 2011: “…the organizations are almost always callous and/or sinister secret agencies that bend over backwards to make their conscripts hate them. If I could offer some human resources advice, I’d be very careful about unnecessarily antagonizing your workforce, especially superpowered combat specialists that don’t want to be there. Also, have you tried not hating your subordinates?”  Uhh, yeah, that is still good HR advice, it turns out. Also, not rehiring known psychopaths that have previously set your servers on fire and darkly wonder about whether humanity deserves to be saved.
  • If you’re a science teacher and your brightest student has been working on a teleportation project for years and manages to pull it off at your high school science fair, disqualifying him because “that’s not science” is, umm, a bit backwards. This is why the only scientists that come to New York City are supervillains and/or useless… For everyone else, there’s everywhere else.
  • I feel like the Thing’s combat operations (which happen almost entirely off-screen) would probably have been much more interesting than the movie they actually showed. And also probably a better love story than Twilight.
  • The product placement was annoying bordering on obnoxious, but once the box office returns come out, this’ll look a lot wiser in retrospect. [UPDATE: Probably the smartest decision the filmmakers made, actually.]
  • I watched it Friday evening (6PM) on opening weekend and the theater was at 40-50% capacity. The correlation between Rotten Tomatoes ratings and a superhero movie’s box office success is very strong.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Preliminary Review of Fantastic Four”

  1. Aj of Earthon 09 Aug 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I haven’t seen it yet, but thought even though we knew it departed from source material that it still looked like pretty decent sci-fi in general.

    It’s a shame there’s apparently so much wrong with it, for all its potential.

  2. B. McKenzieon 09 Aug 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I’m very open to works departing from source materials. Comics are a very different medium than movies, and sometimes adaptations are necessary.

    The issues I had were more with execution. E.g. the U.S. military personnel in the movie sort of sounded like their lines had been written by Al-Jazeera or North Korean state media. Every character besides arguably Ben came off looking like an ass. (Even the senior Dr. Storm, who made the obviously crazy choice to rehire Victor and then did not supervise Victor even though he had promised to).

    The movie also tried to squeeze Dr. Doom into a Chronicle-sized hole (e.g. he’s sort of a slackerish twenty-something that spends more time on-camera playing video games* than making brilliant and/or clever moves*), which makes it harder to take the character seriously.

    *Which come up one time and no times, respectively.

    If I had to make 5 changes to the script, I would have focused on:
    1) Make the teleportation project REALLY important. E.g. thousands of lives are on the line. Not “It might potentially lead to clean energy!!! Despite there being no evidence for this” but more like “There’s an extradimensional epidemic ravaging (a major country) right now and our best chance to save tens of millions of people is an extradimensional trip to collect soil/ biological samples to find alien organisms that have developed an immunity to the epidemic.”

    2) Victor/Reed/Johnny should begin a renegade mission because of a major difference with the authorities, NOT because they want to be famous. E.g. the authorities try to scuttle the mission because it’d be irresponsible to send astronauts in a contraption that dangerous, but Victor/Reed/Johnny send themselves because the mission must succeed and no one else can/will in time.

    3) Get Ben on the project earlier, and give him and Johnny some skill or asset that explains why they’re worth having there.

    4) Shorten the first half of the movie (everything before the characters get irradiated) by 30 minutes and lengthen the second half by 30 minutes, or vice versa.

    5) Cut everything cartoonish (e.g. military talk of taking over multiple worlds, Dr. Doom as a Human Resources wannabe, characters drunkenly launching renegade space missions to become famous, “CONFIRMED KILL COUNT”, etc).

    Bonus #6: This would be a longer-term project, but redoing the dialogue in virtually every scene to make the Fantastic Four characters more memorable and/or more engaging.

    Bonus #7: Either deepen the romantic triangle between Susan/Victor/Reed or remove it altogether. Personally, I’d prefer to cut it, but I suspect that Marketing and/or the studio would object.

  3. Zedon 10 Aug 2015 at 2:53 am

    It was definitely worse than Green Lantern idk where u got that from

  4. AceofXon 10 Aug 2015 at 7:45 am

    This is from way out in left field, B. Mac, but I finished the rough draft of my first novel yesterday, and I wanted to thank you for an awesome site filled with great advice. It definitely would have been harder without you and some of the other resources I found.

  5. B. McKenzieon 10 Aug 2015 at 4:09 pm

    “It was definitely worse than Green Lantern idk where u got that from.” FF-3 ranged from pretty poor to hilariously bad, but I don’t feel that it treated viewers as mentally damaged. Green Lantern’s lows were much lower (e.g. “by the power of Greyskull!”, the voiceovers, go-karts, the main character’s relentless incompetence, a side-villain whose head looks suspiciously like a part of the male anatomy, etc). In a month, I won’t remember much about how bad Fantastic Four was, but Green Lantern will haunt me for decades.

  6. B. McKenzieon 10 Aug 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks, AceofX! Congratulations on finishing the draft.

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