Wednesday 12 August 2015

The Movie Ramble: Fant4stic

Credit where it is due: the first 30-ish minutes of this film are okay, averagely decent, passes muster, good enough. Let's face it, if there's a phrase that characterises Fox superhero movies it's “good enough”. Their X-Men franchise has run fifteen years on being good enough. Yes, the characters were a bit light, the plot was a bit coincidental but a year ago I gave a pass to these guys giving Ellen Page magical time travel powers and no lines. I was ready for a good enough film on an X-Men: The Last Stand sort of level.

Then the Fantastic Four get their powers and it all falls apart. I am not kidding, there is that clear a dividing line between the good enough portion of this and the trainwreck portion.

Didn't matter, I was already obsessed by the chimp at that point. You see, in this version of events the FF (or, rather, Reed, Johnny, Ben and Doom) get their powers by jumping in a teleporter they built and visiting an alien planet. Or an alternate Earth, it's oddly ambiguous. First, though, they test it by sending a chimp through.

A CGI chimp. A poorly rendered CGI chimp. And so it was, during the many moments when my attention began to wander I wondered whether it was really that prohibitively expensive to rent a chimp for a day. My friend and I, first thing we said to one another when the lights came up, was to ask each other about the chimp.

It's not even the worst effect in the film. There's an unconvincing tree at one point. No kidding: there's a green screen effect so bad it makes a real, living tree look like bad CG.

There was a groan, an audible group groan in the cinema, when Reed Richards has the “we're stronger fighting together than separately” revelation.

If you've heard bad things about Kate Mara as Sue Storm, I'm telling you: it's all true. She isn't part of the expedition that gets them their powers, her own powers are an odd effect of the others coming back from the expedition. There's even a scene from the trailer which has been changed for the finished film: instead of using her forcefield to wreck a whole bunch of transport containers like a bomb going off the finished product has her barely able to shift two in a move she clearly has little to no fine control of. Her powers are barely used except as transport for the two non-flying boys. There is literally not a single sequence in which she appears that she is not somehow sidelined. There's one sequence that looks like it might involve her going off and doing something but then the heavy lifting gets handed to the Thing and a six pack of army men.

When early-60s Sue Storm compares favourably in terms of agency to 2015 Sue Storm, you know you're on to a loser.

What's more, Fox continues with this bizarre notion they have that Reed, Doom and Sue need to be a love triangle yet barely commit to it beyond a single scene in which Doom tries to scare Reed off while Sue... sits in the background blissfully unaware of this entire plot strand. Are we really in a place where, as a society, we can't get together a better modernisation for the origin of a mad scientist THAN FRAGILE MASCULINE SEXUAL SECURITY!? Especially when the source material gives us good, old-fashioned hubris and rivalry?

Oh, the hell with, let's just rail on all the politics: there's an environmentalist subplot that somehow justifies Doom wanting to destroy the world; a cartoonishly evil government man who wants to replicate the FF's empowerment to make super-soldiers; the fact that this plot involves the Thing taking human lives is just sort of shoved out there and never addressed; Doom is an unwashed internet activist stereotype when he first turns up but his personal politics don't actually seem to extend much beyond moody nihilism except here and there he has a plot-convenient spirit of exploration about him.

Consistency would be nice. This is a short bloody film and Doom disappears for a third of it, giving him a consistent character shouldn't be that hard. When he does reappear, having been abandoned for a year on the alternate Earth/alien planet he has ALL THE POWERS! He can kill people with a look just so long as they aren't important to the plot and shape the alien/alternate world to his will so long as it wouldn't protect him from taking a punch.

He is literally defeated because Reed Richards, super genius, works out that all four of them hitting him together is more effective than hitting him separately. Cue audience groaning.

So Doom can't settle on a personality; Reed has no recognisable emotions; Sue has nothing to do; Ben has none of the personality that usually allows him to cope with his condition; and Johnny... honestly, Michael B. Jordan ain't bad but he just isn't given the material. No one is. None of the character interactions really come off: Ben and Reed's friendship, as adults, is strangely sterile; Reed and Sue flirt once in lieu of anything resembling human interactions; Ben and Johnny's first actual conversation is in the final bloody scene; endless potential existed in exploring an uncommon sibling dynamic in a continuity where Sue is Johnny's adopted and more accomplished sibling yet it is never exploited; Doom and Reed's friendship is set up in a fun little montage of the group eating takeaway but is, again, never explored; and, I've already ranted about the anaemic wretchedness that is Fox's latest attempt to boil Doom's motivation down to feeling cuckolded.

Don't see this movie. Just don't. It isn't even a fun bad movie. A fun bad movie has to made in good faith with the actual ambition, misguided as it may be, that what is being made is going to be great. This has no ambition beyond merely existing to satisfy a contract. It didn't need to be good, it just needed to be made cheaply and that is achieved by having a middle third of it in which nothing happens at all. Just endless scenes of Vancouver forests and underground bunkers in which the cast think seriously about maybe having a character moment if they feel like it. 


SallyP said...

I do not plan to see this movie ever, unless it is on regular television in five years, and we all plan to get drunk and yell at the screen.

Sue doesn't even go get bombarded by cosmic rays? A love triangle with Doom and Reed? Funny, I thought it was Namor and Reed.

Speaking of which, I'd love to see a Fantastic Four movie with Namor!

James Ashelford said...

Sadly, someone else owns Namor. They sold off his movie rights separately for some odd reason. I think Universal owns him.

I don't know why they did this horrible thing to Doom twice, I really don't.

SallyP said...

Doom is a great villain. He is THE villain when it comes to Marvel. And for some reason, they just can't seem to translate that to movies. His own origin story is amazing...heck they could make a movie just about that!