****WARNING: This is not a review filled with spoilers, just enough detail I believe to give you a flavour of what I thought about the film – and why. But to be spoiler free entirely, move on. Or for even more spoilers, go here.
I was invited to see it by a PR firm working for Fox, at Vue Cinema in Leicester Square this evening.
If you go and see the Fantastic Four movie (and I reiterate that you probably should) then consider, ten minutes before the end, walking out, You will have a much more pleasurable experience. The moment they see the new building, go. Get out of there, let those seats flip. There’s really no more plot just some really cheesy dialogue that tries to do the end of Age Of Ultron, but left the audience I was with laughing openly at the screen.
Up to that point, I was really okay. I had some issues with the climactic fight scene, and maybe you could also leave at that point, but there was still good stuff to be had.
But the film as a whole, I really enjoyed. It’s a technological procedural movie, looking at how different people with very different backgrounds, can come together at the right time, in the right place to do something special and be greater than the sum of their parts. That’s what makes the Fantastic Four, but it’s also what makes the research team that puts together the interdimensional device that causes all the upset. And together they create their own definition of a family – Reed has no family he can relate to, Sue is no longer American born, she is adopted from Kosovo, and Johnny is at odds with his father. Doom’s deal, who knows. And although excluded from this posse, Ben is bullied by his brother’s “clobbering time” and as he grows, it doesn’t seem that too much as changed.
This is where this film succeeds the most, it is sweet, funny and human, without stretching into caricature. Not at first, at least.
The film gives us the idealism of children, forced to live against an adult world that seeks to constrain them, often for selfish, cruel reasons. The beginning, Richard and Ben, knocking about in the Grimm scrapyard reminded me totally of The Iron Giant, in tone as well as image. That comes back, later. Notice there is an N64 controller, jammed into part of the original teleportation device that Reed Richards builds. Which dates it nicely and makes you wonder which games with teleportation Reed has been playing to give him the idea to build it. Super Mario 64?
Keeping Ben Grimm out of the project, his connection to the group is a lesser one, and that feels a shame, though it may make his decision to allow himself to be weaponised easier to swallow. This also brings a moment that will turn the stomachs of many Fantastic Four fans, even those happy with the film so far. The Thing, as a soldier, being sent into action around the world to covertly seek out and destroy. And kill. Yes, kill, we see “43 confirmed kills” on the screen. Ben Grimm has been through a lot, but now he is a sanctioned killer. Makes up for looking like a mix between the rock monster of Galaxy Quest and the early Nome King from Return To Oz.I was reminded of both, sadly.
I mean, in the original comics, Grimm and Richards were both soldiers in World War II where they met, and that army background has been maintained, if modified. So they did some killing – but not in their superpowered forms. And yes, that’s a thing, though it is not picked up on, just let to lie there on the screen for the audience to take in.
Johnny doesn’t go down that path completely, but he begins to. It would only have been a matter of time for Sue. Each is slowly corrupted, and they have to find a way to seize the day again.
Because much in this film is shown, and not said. We see Reed’s facial scars and know they come from his work. We see them on Johnny and know they come from his play. And some aspects are slipped past us, we don’t know they are going in at the time. Sue Storm isn’t just an Invisible Woman, she has her own specific skills in the organisation she works with, that of pattern recognition (via a Portishead plug). She tells us that a musician holds back, while the audience anticipates resolution. Well, that’s the film right there. We don’t go straight into action, we are following these people on the journey, even though we think we know where they are going. We will stumble and fall, because the musician has something else planned.
Sue is also the one who name checks the good Doctor as a sarcastic nickname, “listen to Doctor Doom here” or similar, . Totally down with that. Much has been made of this film being “humourless” but that’s just not true, the humour is lighter, more natural and well placed, and often used to delineate the characters. Johnny’s fist bump and Reed’s unconscious response is a great example of that.
And yes, it’s a pleasant change to see Sue being employed for her mind throughout the film. This Sue Storm can defeat Reed Richards with her brain in certain circumstances – and she does. Oh and the first time we see Doom, he has a Google Glass device he uses to control stuff in his office. Anyone with Google Glass must be evil. And turn into a walking talking Scanners effect.
The constant message about how something wonderful can be taken advantage, controlled and even weaponised, may be a message from the creators of this film to the studio, but it also plays off the battles that Fantastic Four co-creator Jack Kirby and his estate tried to fight over the decades and a message of “owning whatever we come up with” is one of the greater ironies of the film. His estate only recently finally settled with Marvel Comics for an mid-eight figure sum. It seems such a subversive message in the heart of something so blockbuster.
Because we know where this film comes from, the original comics, reinvented. So much has changed, but so many of the details remain, and they do create a truly convincing cast of characters in this film. The Baxter Building sums it up, a big shiny skyscraper, but its foundations are built on something, old, reliable and real. And that really hasn’t changed.
The film also gives us something we generally don’t see, the physical pain of having such powers, as well as the mental toll. We get an idea of why each individual gets the powers that they do, and it’s not down to any innate psychological nature of the character, it is just what happens. The utter alienness of such an event, how it is rejected, how wrong it all is and how much it hurts, is effectively portrayed by this film. As Sue says “they’re not powers, they’re aggressive abnormal physical conditions” no matter how people try to gloss it over. It takes a lot longer to come to terms with what has happened – if they ever will.
All in all, the first two thirds of the film, I was very happy with, much of the last third felt wrong, like it was trying to be a different film. I’d almost suggest that this is where the reshoots came in, and I’d like to have seen where an earlier cut would have gone. There is plenty of material in the trailer that is missing from this cut. It feels like there might be a different, better film, waiting to get out. Certainly, the very end was laughable, and not in a good way. But for the most part? Yeah. I’d watch it again. I would just leave at the right time, that’s all..
And I still want to know what happened to Reed’s toy car. I wish one of the four had stepped on it, in the brand new alien world. Also, I want to know what happened to that monkey…
Could we get a Red Ghost appearance in the sequel, as well as Mole Man? And you can also see how much this movie is based on Ultimate Fantastic Four here…
The Fantastic Four is released in the UK on Thursday, and in the USA on Friday.