Fantastic Four (2015) is so aggressively awful I call it Fant4stic out of disrespect. Which is the stupid title stylization it has on the poster. Fant4stic is easily the second worst movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen bad movies, but there’s something especially bad about a movie that offends you on a personal level. As I’ve said in my previous Fantastic Four reviews, the Fantastic Four are a team I’ve loved since childhood. It breaks my heart that all 4 (seriously, 4!) Fantastic Four movies have never been fantastic. Stan Lee’s seminal superhero team deserves so much better. Since Fox wanted to be a bunch of a-holes, they withheld the rights for 8 years. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was a failure before the MCU even began.
Yet Marvel Studios is clearly better equipped for such a lighthearted team. I was cautiously optimistic when the reboot was announced. Approaching it with the same level of interest I’d give to any other Marvel film. I was a big fan of the found footage original superhero film Chronicle, so director Josh Trank was promising. Then I grew increasingly nervous each time they casually tossed around the word gritty. The problem of darkness in Fant4stic is the exact opposite of the problem of lightness in Fantastic Four (2005). Fant4stic somehow ended up worse, with a record low 9% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a shared Razzie win for Worst Picture. Fant4stic is worse than any Marvel movie I’ve ever seen (and that includes Howard the Duck)…
Fant4stic misses the point of the superhero team completely. According to behind the scenes rumors that sound more entertaining than the movie itself, Josh Trank was a bit of a jerk on set. To the point he either quit or got fired by Fox. You can tell where the studio started interfering. Despite Trank’s objection that a fantastic version of the movie exists, the movie would have sucked regardless. Making a movie dark & gritty does not automatically make it good! The Fantastic Four are the furthest thing from brooding, tormented, or complex. The Thing can get that way, but he still knows how to have fun once in a while. There’s nothing fun, humorous, or even pleasant about Fant4stic. And Trank didn’t seem to care. In retrospect, hiring someone who directed a subversive superhero movie was a horrible idea. He turned down all the lighthearted scripts in favor of something “relatable.”
Despite the horrendous reception, I still dragged myself to the theaters to see Fant4stic. Then I ranted all the way back home. Fant4stic makes the exact same mistake as Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man. By opening on a pointless childhood flashback. Reed Richards is a boy genius presenting a scientific method to a class taught by Homer Simpson. Why they cast Dan Castellaneta in that part I’ll never know. Ben Grimm is fascinated by Reed’s idea and sneaks over to his house to learn more. But not before seriously pissing me off by turning the Thing’s fun catchphrase, “It’s clobberin’ time!,” into something his abusive brother told him before beating him. Reed invents a way to transport matter between dimensions, yet that’s still not enough to impress his teacher years later. Another distracting problem with Fant4stic is the decision to make everyone teenagers. They were younger in Ultimate Fantastic Four, but when were they ever this young?
Miles Teller is good in most of the things I’ve seen him in, but he has a very punchable face. There’s Reed being an awkward genius and then there’s just being lifeless. Then again, every actor in the movie is monotone and almost never smiles. Easily the worst casting choice is Jamie Bell as Ben. He has little to no personality and no part of him screams muscle. Reed & Ben are approached by scientist Franklin Storm and his daughter Sue Storm. Who happen to be looking for young scientists at a science fair. They’re taken to the Baxter building, which is now a science institute. For no reason whatsoever, Ben leaves because he’s not smart enough. Reg E. Cathey lowers his standards by playing Professor Storm. Yet he’s still the only actor trying even a little bit.
Kate Mara is a pale imitation of who Sue is supposed to be. All I know is that she’s vaguely scientific and likes music. Her hair was dyed blonde, but it’s clearly a wig later in the movie. Surprisingly this isn’t the only awful superhero flick she starred in (Zoom being the other one). Reed & Sue have zero chemistry that amounts to what some people might call flirting. Sue was clearly adopted, because the rest of her family is black. Michael B. Jordan is a fantastic actor who’s proven himself time and time again, but he is not Johnny Storm. Race changing only bothers me when it’s being done to an iconic character with a well defined appearance. Johnny is a rebellious street racer who’s forced to work with his dad just to get back his car. They may only be step-brother and step-sister, but that’s no excuse for zero chemistry between Sue & Johnny. I just want to see the Fantastic Four I grew up with, but it’s obvious that’s not gonna happen.
Since The Incredible Hulk didn’t go anywhere, Tim Blake Nelson appears as the government scientist heading the project. He was supposed to be Harvey Elder/the Moleman, but his last name was changed for no apparent reason. Speaking of name changes, Victor von Doom was nearly called Victor Domashev. It was literally the only fan backlash that worked on the movie. Although it wasn’t enough to change Victor from being a weird anti-social reclusive tech guy. Toby Kebbell was passionate about the villain, but this isn’t it. The project Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Victor work on is a larger version of the matter transporter. Since they lazily forgo them being astronauts. The transporter is a success after they send a CGI ape, but the team is disappointed when they aren’t allowed to go.
I kid you not, Reed, Johnny, and Victor get drunk and call useless Ben to join them on a mission to the other dimension. Leaving Sue behind for no apparent reason. Although it should have been the Negative Zone, they instead give it the inane name Planet Zero. A barren wasteland with green goo in it. Victor is left behind after a storm and that’s how they gain their powers. Inappropriately shot like a horror movie that makes another terrible decision to have all their powers be on all the time. It’s not just Ben who’s always a rock monster. Reed is constantly stretching, Sue is constantly invisible, and Johnny is constantly on fire. Completely missing the point of the Thing’s difficult situation. I was happy to finally see a CGI Thing, but why did it have to be wasted on this? Reed then abandons his friends and the movie actually jumps ahead an entire year. Skipping all the action of Ben being used by the military and Sue & Johnny still perfecting their powers.
Since they seriously thought Fant4stic was gonna crossover with X-Men, Fox stupidly makes the costumes unrecognizable from the comics in 2015. Nobody wants to see bland grey containment suits! They’re the only thing keeping everyone normal, except Ben who’s always naked. Reed is out searching for a cure while the government tries to track him down. His stretching is a bit more realistic, but it’s still silly in a movie trying to be serious. “Flame on” is just a way to turn on Johnny’s flames, which look no better than what came before. Sue’s invisibility and force fields are increased to include the flight she never had in the comics. Ben finds Reed and their fight ends before it begins. After endless miserable discussions in dark rooms, we finally get some action at the end. Which may be the worst climax in Marvel movie history.
Doom somehow survived being stranded in the dimension, but it’s given him unexplained power and a suit that’s fused to his body. This horrifically butchered version of Doctor Doom wants to destroy the world to save his new world. The PG-13 was already earned, but they go a step too far by having Doom seriously explode people’s heads with his mind. Doom’s grand villainous plan is to set off the sky beam that you see in literally every superhero movie. The final straw for me was having Marvel’s first family only be together in the last 18 minutes of the 1 hour & 47 minute movie. They seriously kept the 4 of them apart the entire movie. Amounting to a team of jerks with no chemistry defeating the crappy Doom by punching him real hard. They’re taken in by the military at the end and they’re too embarrassed to even say their team name out loud. Fant4stic is just plain insulting. I was so happy to see it bomb at the box-office, for the sequel to get cancelled, and for Marvel to finally get the rights back.