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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you know that not only has Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot earned overwhelmingly negative reviews, but the movie also has fared poorly on its opening weekend at the box office. Last seen on the big screen in 2007, this film was supposed to be the grand return of Marvel’s First Family in a time when superhero movies have never been more popular. Unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, however, this film failed to deliver a fun superhero story that could be enjoyed by both hardcore fans and people just looking for a good movie to watch. What also didn’t help matters was a production fraught with behind the scenes drama, including the director attempting to place the blame on others for the film’s failings.
Was the film completely filled with bad moments? Of course not. There were a few brief moments of competency sprinkled throughout. That said, the negatives far outweigh the positives, and the final product was not the reboot that fans and general moviegoers deserved. Currently the future of the franchise is in question, but that won’t stop us from pinpointing the reasons why this first film doesn’t work. Here are Fantastic Four’s five primary failings.
Warning: there are major spoilers for Fantastic Four ahead!
It's Unnecessarily DarkLet’s start with what we already knew going in: this movie wasn’t going to be the light-hearted affair that the previous Fantastic Four movies were. Emphasizing the sci-fi elements, the reboot looked like it was blending Marvel’s First Family with Interstellar. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s bad, but unfortunately, the dark and gritty tone proved to be part of this movie’s downfall (as many suspected it would be). There was no hope or brightness of any kind until the final minutes, and this was even reflected in the lighting scheme. It almost felt like this movie was apologizing to the audience for being a story about superheroes. While there were a few great, dramatic dark moments (like when Reed sees Ben in his rock form form for the first time through the air vent), on the whole this dreary approach was a poor creative direction that made the film a largely depressing affair.
It Has Pacing IssuesFantastic Four filmed from May to August of last year, but they had to do reshoots last January after the studio reportedly was dissatisfied with the film. If you pay close attention, you can notice continuity errors from these reshoots (Sue Storm’s hair, for one), but between the reshoots and the rumor that Fox took over the film from Josh Trank, this never felt like a complete story. This film fells like it was lacking a whole second act, jumping from Point A to Point C.
The first half of the movie was decent, albeit agonizingly slow. We learn about Reed Richards’ childhood, meet each member of the team, watch them go to Planet Zero and gain their powers, etc. Then the "One Year Later" title card comes up, and things go off the rails. Twelve months from the characters’ lives are gone, and the audience is thrown back into the proceedings after a lot of things have already happened to the main characters. Throw in a rushed fight with Doom (Toby Kebbell), and the heroes suddenly find themselves with their own headquarters at the end. Everything was rushed to completion, making this feel like half a story rather than a whole one.
The Poor Character DevelopmentOn a positive note, the movie did get Reed Richards right when it came to his intellect, although that came at the expense of some of his personality. Unfortunately, the three other heroes got the shaft. Aside from her pattern recognition and brief flirtation with Reed, Sue wasn’t that interesting. Johnny was established as a "hothead," but he seemed more angry than brash, and his reasons for joining the team were flimsy at best. Ben was essentially a blank slate whose primary function was being Reed’s friend, and even when he did turn into The Thing, he was mopey the whole time. Granted, I’d probably be sad if I turned into a rock monster, but this Ben Grimm had none of the sass and personality he had in the comics and previous film series.
Worst of all, other than Reed and Ben’s friendship and Reed and Sue’s brief flirtation, the film didn’t make much of an effort to delve into the relationships between these characters. As an example, Johnny and Ben didn’t meet until around the halfway point, and by the end of the movie, they’re making jabs at each other despite the fact that we never saw them become friendly with each other (which was also a pacing issue). One moment they’re all strangers/acquaintances, and by the end they’re all the best of friends. When did this happen? Why didn’t we explore their growth as characters? If only the movie had focused less on the technical side of things and spent more time on developing its principal players.
There's Not Enough ActionWe talked earlier about how slow the movie moved, and maybe that wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if there had been more thrills in the story. There are two primary bouts of action in the film. The first is when the main characters (except for Sue, who for some reason was left out of the adventuring) go to Planet Zero and get their powers. While I did like how they gave an explanation for why each character was affected the way they were (Ben’s pod being pummeled with rocks, Johnny’s pod setting on fire, etc), that felt more like a scene out of a horror flick than a superhero story. Still, it was exciting to watch, so it counts.
Aside from small demonstrations of each character’s ability, the other action sequence doesn’t come until Doom arrives back on Earth and slaughters almost everyone in the base. The four heroes then travel to Planet Zero to stop Doom, and within 10 minutes, the battle is over when Doom is incinerated by that pesky beam of blue energy. That’s it. And what’s more upsetting is that more than that was teased. You may have noticed in the trailers a sequence where Ben drops into a military complex. Well, that was nowhere to be seen! Fox reportedly cut three action sequences that were in the script before shooting began, but regardless of if that’s true or not, the final product was lacking in great opportunities to put the eponymous superheroes in scenarios ripped from the comics.
Doctor Doom's A BustThat’s right, the film’s lead antagonist gets his own section because of how much he was butchered. To be fair, the film did manage to capture some of Victor’s arrogance, and his name was changed back to Victor von Doom during the reshoots. That’s where the compliments end. Even ignoring that his background was changed, this version of Victor felt like a pale imitation of his diabolical comic book counterpart, who had a vague hatred of the government, but none of that dislike is ever explored or elaborated upon. He doesn’t even get to develop an antagonistic relationship with Reed outside of brief irritation that Sue and Reed are flirting. There’s barely any motivation for why he wanted to destroy Earth in the climax.
Finally, we get to the worst offense: Victor’s transformation into Doom. Just like Julian McMahon’s Doom in the last series, Doctor Doom is given special abilities. This is a villain who has gone toe to toe with the Fantastic Four using only his intellect and crazy inventions. He’s never had superpowers unless he created a device to steal them from someone else. Oh, and instead of wearing the trademark face mask and armor, this version had his containment suit was seared to his body, making him look like a rejected droid from the Star Wars movies. If the Fantastic Four ever get rebooted again (and given how this movie is being received, that’s a distinct possibility), the next creative team needs to follow one simple rule: don’t give Doom superpowers!