With the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot on the horizon — well, next year — Mekaela and I made the possibly unwise decision to rewatch the original Fantastic Four.
It’s so much worse than I remembered.
This review will contain SPOILERS. Not that there’s all that much worth spoiling, honestly.
A group of scientists (or people related to scientists) gain super abilities after being exposed to cosmic radiation. The four good guys have to stop the one bad guy. That’s about it.
1. This is not a good movie, and yet I’m grateful for it anyway. This is why.
Fantastic Four wasn’t the first movie Chris Evans starred in (we also had Cellular and, of course, Not Another Teen Movie) but it was undoubtedly his big break. And he is, without doubt, the best part about the film. Johnny Storm is kind of an immature jackass, but Evans plays him with so much energy that it’s hard not to like him at least a little. Johnny’s joy with his newfound powers is awfully infectious, perhaps because everyone else on the team is such a gigantic mopeypants about their situation. (Okay. Ben, at least, has cause.)
2. Actually, Michael Chiklis isn’t too bad in this movie, either.
I’m not real familiar with the source material — there were no Fantastic Four cartoons when I was a kid — but from what I can tell, Chiklis does a decent enough job as Ben Grimm/The Thing. In fact, my only real problem with The Thing is less about performance and more about costume — because even in 2005, this makeup was a little hard to take seriously. Now, it’s nearly impossible.
3. But a dumb looking Thing suit could have easily been overlooked. Flat leads with no romantic chemistry, on the other hand, are harder to ignore, especially if you add an ill-conceived-not-love triangle with an overwrought villain into the mix.
Reed (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) are so boring. Of course, Reed is supposed to be a mild-mannered scientist, but that shouldn’t preclude him from having a personality, right? And Sue is just as dull — she simply has the added bonus of being incredibly annoying as well. I especially love that her power — and her power only — is directly related to her emotional state. Cause she’s a WOMAN, see.
(Other examples of Sue’s womanhood: she’s the only one to have physical consequences — in this case, nosebleeds — from overexertion of her powers, she’s the only one who goes down — and needs help getting picked back up — in the final fight, and of course there’s the part where she’s in a hospital bed surrounded by a sea of flowers after the initial accident, despite the fact that she really shouldn’t be any more injured than Reed or Johnny. But hey, you know, girl parts make you weak.)
But back to Reed and Sue’s whole relationship with one another — it’s bullshit. Actually, everyone’s relationship in this movie is bullshit. But let’s start with these two.
Sue and Reed broke up a couple of years before the events in the movie, mostly because Reed didn’t pay enough attention to her. (He was too busy with science, see.) And hey, she wasn’t happy with the relationship, so she got out of it. Totally fine. But wanting your partner to pay attention to you and wanting your partner to be a different person are two entirely different things.
Essentially, Sue breaks up with Reed because she was tired of waiting for him to propose, as if it’s never occurred to her that she could propose. You know, cause girls don’t do that sort of thing, or at least they shouldn’t have to, because a REAL MAN wouldn’t be scared of a little thing like asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you. Sue also seems angry with Reed for not ogling her boobs long after they’re separated, and later, when he tries to be a mature adult and tell Sue that he’s happy for her and Victor, she whines, “That’s all you can say?” Like she wanted him to to treat her like a stolen possession instead of an independent person. Like Sue expected Reed to come charging up two years later, punch Victor in the face, and declare, “That’s my woman!” Because that’s attractive. That’s absolutely how I want men to act around me.
4. Of course, this is all complicated by the fact that Sue and Victor are apparently not actually dating.
Yeah. Everyone just seems to think they’re dating, presumably because Sue is an attractive female who’s reached a position of some authority, and how could she have attained that if she wasn’t sleeping with her boss, right? Even Johnny, her own brother, seems to think they’re going out, which tells me these two don’t really talk all that much. (Or, at least, that Johnny doesn’t stop talking long enough to listen to his sister, which seems accurate enough.) But we know that Sue and Victor aren’t together because she explicitly tells Reed that there’s nothing between her and Victor, and there never was.
Which makes Victor’s marriage proposal at the beginning of the movie all the more strange.
Up on the space station, Victor begins to propose to Sue. Sue clearly isn’t all that jazzed about it, just as Victor clearly isn’t expecting to be turned down. And that didn’t seem too weird to me because Victor’s clearly an egomaniac, and I just figured their relationship wasn’t all that serious, but . . . they’re not even in a relationship? That’s . . . odd. Like, outside of screwball romantic comedies, I generally expect there to be some kind of romantic understanding between two people when one of them has proposed matrimony. Instead, Victor seems to think, “Hey, I’m rich and attractive, and you’ve been dealing with my probable sexual harassment for two years. Time to tie the knot, right?”
Sue doesn’t have to answer right away because, thankfully, a big cosmic storm gives everybody superpowers. But she never really acknowledges the proposal for the rest of the movie, like, she doesn’t call Victor up and say no, actually, I’ve decided against marrying someone who’s never even taken me out to the movies and is, also, kind of an asshole. The whole thing is just bizarre.
5. It also doesn’t help that Victor von Doom is a pretty terrible villain.
I generally like Julian McMahon, but this is not one of his finer roles. His Dr. Doom is incredibly over the top, and not really in a fun, Raul Julia as M. Bison sort of way, more of a . . . John Travolta in Battlefield Earth kind of way. (Okay, he’s not quite that bad, but you know what I mean? It’s the rare kind of cheesy overacting that isn’t actually that enjoyable. Like brie, you know? It has an unpleasant aftertaste.)
More importantly, nothing about Doom makes sense. Like, his motivation? It’s dumb. Clearly, the guy was always an asshole, and that’s fine. A little boring, but fine. Not all my villains have to be super complex. But there’s still a leap you have to make from ‘generically scummy guy’ to ‘cold-blooded murderer,’ and Fantastic Four doesn’t quite stick the landing for me. Like, okay, after the big fiasco, Doom loses control of his company, and I get why he’s pissy about that. Also, Sue doesn’t say yes to his proposal. (She doesn’t say much of anything, as they never have an actual conversation about what happened, but Doom sees that she’s staying at Reed’s place while they try and figure out what’s happened to them, so clearly that means Sue has decided to offer her precious
fairy vagina to Reed.)
So, yeah. Basically, Doom blames Reed for stealing his girl and losing his company, and decides to kill him (and everyone else in the Fantastic Four) in a stupidly overcomplicated plan. Disregarding the casual leap he makes to outright murder, can we briefly go over this monumentally unnecessary plan?
Dr. Doom’s Stupidly Overcomplicated and Monumentally Unnecessary Plan
Step One: Sell Ben a bunch of contrived and obviously trumped up bullshit about how Reed is so busy thinking about Sue that he doesn’t give a shit about Ben’s problems, which will in turn lead to Ben yelling at his good buddy of however many years, which will in turn make Reed feel so guilty that he’ll hastily test out his Superpower Reverso Machine and seriously injure (though not kill) himself.
Step Two: Plant bugs all around Reed’s lab so that he can overhear Reed realize what went wrong with the machine and how to fix it.
Step Three: Sucker Ben into believing that Reed fixed the machine himself and change Ben back to normal himself.
Step Four: Kill Ben while he’s vulnerable, so that Ben cannot stop Doom from completing Step Five.
Step Five: Kill Reed.
Now, for your consideration . . .
A Better Way to Kill Reed
Step One: Just wait for Reed to finish working on the machine that he was already working on, kill Ben when he’s vulnerable, and then kill Reed without needing to deal with any Machiavellian nonsense or late night diners.
Or even . . .
Another Way to Kill Reed
Step One: Wait for Reed to be alone at some point — because, seriously, it’s not like he and Ben are conjoined at the hip — and then kill him, whether Ben is alive or not.
Isn’t that so much easier?
6. In Doom’s defense, I will say that he kind of gets a raw deal in this movie.
The people who take his company away from him are all freaked out about the Fantastic Four, even though the FF seem to be getting fantastic press. Like, everyone in NYC loves them. Personally, I don’t really believe that everyone in the city would love them, but since everyone seems to, I’m not really sure why Doom loses his company in the first place. I’m pretty sure if Doom put two seconds of thought into this, he could come up with a PR plan that would enable him to keep control of his business.
Also, Doom kills his doctor. Not just for the fun of it, mind, but because Doc discovers that our chief antagonist was also affected by the radiation and decides that it’s his responsibility to call the CDC on Doom’s ass. Normally, that would seem like a perfectly adequate explanation for murder to me — well, for a supervillain, anyway — but the whole CDC threat seems strange, considering that everyone already knows about the Fantastic Four, and no one appears to be calling the CDC on them. I don’t know. It’s just weird.
7. Also, can I just ask . . . why aren’t there any consequences for Reed’s colossal fuckup on the space station? Like, okay, I guess it’s supposed to be a freak accident that no one could have prevented, but . . . I’m not sure I entirely buy that, and for that matter, why didn’t the shields work like they were supposed to? The movie makes a point to say that Reed is never wrong, but he seems pretty spectacularly wrong about this one. And even if he isn’t, you’d think someone other than Doom might bring it up at some point, like, boy, you really screwed the pooch on this one.
8. Oh, but I completely forgot we were talking about bullshit relationships!
Before the accident, Ben is engaged to this woman named
Andrea Debbie (Laurie Holden), who’s great and awesome and perfect . . . except when she sees Ben’s new appearance, which causes her to turn around and run screaming from him in her fucking nightie. (Seriously, I love that she just comes outside, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the city, in her nightie. Doesn’t bother with a pair of PJ pants or nothing, because yup. That’s totally something women do.) And admittedly, Ben could have handled this a little better, but you’d still think that — since this scary looking dude is still clearly Ben — she might not react like a werewolf just jumped out of the shadows and tried to take a giant chunk of flesh out of her or something.
But okay, I can see having a (spectacularly) bad reaction the first time around. What kills me is this — Debbie follows Ben all the way to the bridge, just in time to see his stunning display of superhuman heroism, only to silently drop her engagement ring and turn around? Seriously? Good to know you were a useless and rotten person even before you starred on The Walking Dead, buddy.
Of course, if you’re feeling bad for Ben, don’t bother — because he gets another beautiful
cliche woman to love by the end of the film.
I love Kerry Washington, but really, you guys? We’re doing Blind and the Beast? You know, I wasn’t even a big fan of this trope years before when Dark Angel did it. Also, I don’t personally know any blind people to ask — and it seems a little rude to strike up a conversation with someone at the bus station with a “Hey, you’re blind, let me ask you a quick Q” — but I wonder if any visually impaired people are ever like, “You know what I don’t do the very first time I meet someone? Caress their face with my hands. Nope, not even if they sound totally hot.”
I don’t know. Maybe it’s something that’s actually done, but it certainly feels like a giant whopping cliche to me.
9. You know, this movie got me to thinking about that scene in Into Darkness where a female character gratuitously strips down to her bra and undies, a scene which generated a whole lot of internet outrage. I’ll admit, as a woman, the scene didn’t particularly offend me — but I was reminded of it here because I think Fantastic Four has one with Jessica Alba that’s even worse.
See, Sue gets all nekkid so that she can, er, more easily push through the crowd of people blocking her path on the bridge? Yeah, it is incredibly stupid. I don’t even generally get particularly up in arms about gratuitous nudity (or semi-nudity, in this case), but come on, guys. You need to be able to come up with better justifications than this.
10. A quick note about Jessica Alba’s appearance . . . I guess I can see the blonde hair for, like, iconic reasons, but I always though the choice to give her obviously fake blue eyes seemed strange. I get that Alba is a Latina actress playing a traditionally Caucasian character, but if they’re trying to conceal her ethnicity — which they really don’t need to do; it’s a wild, biracial world out there — they’re not very successful at it. And again, who even cares? You tell me she and Chris Evans are siblings, I’ll go with it. If you need to, show me a picture of their parents, and I’ll be like, okay, he favors Mom and she favors Dad, and seriously, that’ll be the end of it. It’s cool when siblings actually look like they could be related in movies, but come on — even if they do share the exact same ethnic background, how often do actors in movies really look like they’re related to one another, anyway?
Mind you, as obviously fake as they are here, the blue contacts in this movie are nowhere near as terrible as they are in the sequel. Good God, it’s so bad.
11. Basically, everything about this movie — saving Johnny Storm, of course — is pretty weak. The plot is weak. The relationships are weak. And man, is the final battle weak. It lasts, like, twenty seconds and is incredibly anticlimactic.
Also, Ben turns back into “The Thing,” despite his desperation to be normal again . . . because of course he does. We knew this was coming — we’ve seen this storyline many, many times before. Except that it’s kind of worse here for a couple of reasons — one, even his friends have been kind of shitty about Ben’s new appearance. Putting aside Johnny’s general lack of sensitivity, even Reed at one point is like, “I’m gonna make you Ben again.” Ben, unfortunately, does not reply, “What the fuck are you talking about? I’m still totally Ben, you dick. I just want you to fix my face! And maybe my hands as well, so I can regain enough manual dexterity to use a phone again!”
Two — while Ben changing back into his Orange Superhero Form makes sense for the final battle, I don’t really understand why he doesn’t change back after they Han Solo Dr. Doom. I mean, I get the basic justification — I’m more useful this way, I’ve found my worth, blah blah. But one, Ben never seems to actually come to these realizations, much less say them out loud, and two, at this point, our team doesn’t really have any reason to suspect more supervillains (or villainous space clouds) are on the way. I’m saying, just because we all know this arc of old doesn’t mean that the movie doesn’t have a responsibility to sell us on Ben’s sudden, “Never mind, I love being the Thing!” philosophy switcheraoo, and the movie fails on that score completely.
Sue: “It’s got to be the cloud! It’s fundamentally altered our DNA.”
Reed: “Now, let’s not jump to conclusions. We need much more scientific evidence before we can say that.”
Johnny: “Hey, guys.” (He snaps his fingers a few times, lighting his finger on fire and extinguishing it again.) “Now picture that but everywhere. I mean . . . everywhere! What?”
Reed: “. . . the cloud has fundamentally altered our DNA.”
Sue: “What are the risks?”
Reed: “Even a small miscalculation could increase our symptoms exponentially or perhaps even kill us.”
Johnny: “Now dying — that’s bad, right?”
Alicia: “You know, being different isn’t always a bad thing.”
Ben: “Trust me, this ain’t one of those times.”
Firefighter: “Who’s the leader?”
Johnny: “That would be me.”
Firefighter: “No, really.”
Incredibly mediocre. I’d have forgotten about it years ago if it hadn’t also done the great service of introducing Chris Evans into my life.
Chris Evans. Like that even needs to be said at this point
Don’t listen to women who pretend they want to be treated like actual human beings. They’re lying. We want you to treat us like property. Jealousy and possessiveness are both super hot.