Everyone was wondering why they made the Human Torch (Michael B. Jordan) black, and now we know: it was a distraction tactic, a feature as the only thing even remotely interesting about this boring, grey, sad, husk of a movie.
I’ve had less boring sessions on a treadmill. I’ve genuinely had a better time at a funeral. Insects playing on a dark summer night have drawn more emotion from me, more lasting memories were made by computer crashes. This is the kind of movie that makes me question my own existence, a movie with so little going on I may as well have been staring at a blank screen for its runtime. This movie is rebooting a franchise whose first two installments were universally reviled, looked back on with hatred — after, that is, the poor soul who somehow found a reminder of them has choked the bile down. The bar was set low enough for most movies to trip over. The standard wasn’t even at half-mast — it was folded up and tucked away for the night. Par was set at “bogey.” But this new Fantastic Four, against all probability, is even worse than its gooey predecessors.
The movie follows Reed Richards (Miles Teller, Owen Judge in the child scenes), a supergenius building a teleportation device with his friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell, Evan Hannemann in the child scenes). He’s noticed by Frank Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who has been working on the same project with little success. Richards, along with Frank’s daughter, Sue (Kate Mara) and associate Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) crack the secret to interdimensional travel. Richards, Grimm, Doom and Sue Storm’s brother, Johnny (Jordan) go through the portal, and their excursion goes awry. Doom doesn’t even make it back, and the other three, as well as Sue Storm, are battered by radiation and are imbued with superpowers.
This movie is a train wreck. It is a medley of stupid mistakes that have been made famous by other recent terrible movies.
The Star Wars prequel trilogy taught us that no one likes watching little kids who can’t act. This movie makes us follow Judge for the first 20 minutes, despite his apparent inability to understand lines even as he delivers them. Further, it is a shining example of what awful, hollow characters can do to a movie, but Fantastic Four doesn’t learn this lesson either. The four themselves are blank slates, without even a semblance of individuality or motivation. Richards is smart, and that’s his thing, but that only manifests itself when he gets into technical jargon about science that doesn’t exist. Grimm’s entire character is being friends with Richards and not wanting to be a rock monster. Johnny Storm has motivation — he’s trying to get his car back and lash out at a father who loved his adopted sister more — but he never takes any real action toward that goal. In Frank Storm’s every scene he almost loses an eye winking at the children in the audience when he starts yammering on about how important teamwork is in a grimy, cheerless movie that will later get into splatter gore when Dr. Doom shows up. Speaking of Doom, his only function is to tick every box in the asshole cliche checklist — refusing to shake hands, talk about how humanity shouldn’t be saved, that sort of thing.
When you have awful characters that no one gives a shit about, you have no movie. Viewers are supposed to be on the edge of their seats wondering who will survive and whether or not they’ll accomplish their goals, but the kindest emotion one can muster toward these characters is indifference. For most of the movie, they don’t even have goals to accomplish.
Man of Steel taught us that grey, sad-looking movies make people feel depressed, but this movie seemingly goes to an effort to be visually monotone. Instead of bright blue suits and an orange rock monster in a diaper, the four’s suits are navy, varied and so neutrally toned that even the rock monster is tough to distinguish from the other three. The other dimension where some of the movie’s key scenes take place can best be described as brown. It is so boring to look at and so obviously a sound stage that it is impossible to take it or anything that happens inside it seriously.
Something this film may become an example of in its own right is how boring science talk is, especially when the science is fictional. Many of the early scenes are around Richards and Frank Storm talking about the technical details of a fictional device, and it’s all capped with a montage of visuals that mean nothing and don’t seem to have any rhyme, reason or degree of thought put into their making.
What’s so frustrating is there’s several glimmers of a good story here. After the accident, the U.S. government militarizes Grimm and Johnny Storm and Richards runs away, leading to feelings of abandonment from the other three. Johnny and Sue Storm obviously have some sibling relationship issues to work out, though it’s never addressed. Doom goes from asshole to full-on environmental terrorist by the end of the movie, but his views are played off as a byproduct of his time spent in the other dimension and never explored, nor is his affection for Sue Storm, nor is the budding relationship between her and Richards. All of these things the movie touches on, plants the idea of, but never addresses. Too much time is dedicated to teamwork speeches, science jargon and hollow, boring action for the movie to make viewers feel anything but angry about their wasted time and money.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. This review made possible in part by chaos consultant Max Wethington. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.