You may have heard something about Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. Probably you heard that it was a cataclysmic dumpster fire, the victim of massive rewrites and reshoots upon the insistence of the studio, and that Trank more-or-less disowned the finished film in one of the least considered Tweets of all time.
Whelp. Yep. I watched it because the Dr./Mrs. was on the phone and it was on HBO Go and I thought I’d just check out the first fifteen minutes or whatever.
But it was so unbelievably terrible I couldn’t look away. It was like someone took the off-cuts of Super Mario Bros and wrapped them in an industrial safety video. It was like someone took a hot coal of awful, cooled it down until all the glow and spark was gone, and then shoved it up your colon with a rake.
Fantastic Four is, start to finish, ghastly. There was not a single scene that worked in the slightest way. Every line of dialogue sounded like it was cribbed from an after school special. The effects were as thrilling as a cold egg roll. There wasn’t so much a plot as there was a gaping plot hole, six feet deep, begging to be filled in by morose looking, shovel wielding Fox executives.
It starts with young Reed Richards standing up in his elementary school classroom explaining how he’s going to create a teleporter. No one takes him seriously because, for a genius, he expresses no intelligence in the slightest. He wears glasses, see, so he’s smart. The local junkyard kid, Ben Grimm, helps him swipe stuff from his folks’ business and, ergo, they are best friends.
They probably hang out and talk about stuff and things, but god knows what since they have nothing in common and none of those scenes exist.
Then they grow up to be Miles Teller and Jamie Bell. In a coincidence that boggles the senses, a scientist whose raison d’etre is helping brilliant kids achieve what he doesn’t bother to try achieving, Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) happens upon Reed’s science fair project — an actual goddamned teleporter to another dimension — which fact no one but Ben Grimm even begins to recognize, as Reed has exhibited no signs of intelligence to anyone else. And, wouldn’t you know it, Franklin has been working unsuccessfully with other brilliant kids (Toby Kebbel as Victor von Doom) on the EXACT SAME THING!
Good thing he just happened to drift through the Oyster Bay high school science fair on his day off from not building a teleporter.
Oh. Also Franklin has a young, brilliant, hot, adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara) who studies patterns, so she ‘helps’ by making environmental suits for interdimensional travel. Makes sense. Franklin’s son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) is a drag racer who can build anything but a recognizable sense of belonging in any scene he’s in.
And then these characters proceed to walk around for another hour reciting lines that define their characters with all the elan of a wet tortilla chip. I am hard pressed to think of a crew of as talented actors performing as universally poorly. They suck the oxygen out of every scene like someone who can spontaneously combust and chooses to do so at tea parties.
They create a dimensional portal! They travel through it! They exhibit no sense of wonder or fear at the immensity of their feats! Things go wrong and — uh oh — they become superpowered freaks.
Then there is a stupid battle against a stupid villain to finish a stupid film.
Actual lines of dialogue include, “There is no more Victor. Only Doom.”
I saw Josh Trank’s Chronicle. It wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t really good. A decent premise legged out with a bit of promise. But even if Fox stepped on Trank’s original version of Fantastic Four hard — which I’m sure they did — and reshot 80% of the film, which I doubt they did, there remains no excuse for the bits that remain of Trank’s first at bat. Because there isn’t a kernel of good here. There isn’t a whiff of competence.
Fantastic Four offers nothing but a perfect example of how not to make a movie. It shows no understanding of character, of pacing, of drama, of visual design, or of human speech patterns or behavior. It is a dumpster fire full of other, smaller, dumpster fires.
You should not watch it.