Not fantastic but not all that bad.
by rick olivares
The headline alone might shock you because practically almost all the reviews and social media postings have been negative.
However, that’s the fanboy ire that has somewhat influenced a great many viewers.
You want my cred? Here you go.
I first read and collected the Fantastic Four back when Gerry Conway (who picked up the writing chores from Stan Lee) was writing the book. Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott were the artists and that first comic I bought off the racks was FF #147 where they fought Namor, the Sub-Mariner. However, this was the early 1970s and I was a grade school kid who heavily relied on my grandfather to buy me comics. There were no specialty shops then so collecting titles in numerical order were impossible.
The best way for me to get them was to go to the old Clark Air Base where my grandfather had access as he once was connected to the US Army. The first real string of consecutive issues that I was able to get were beginning FF #164 with Roy Thomas now the writer and George Perez and Sinnott as the artists (the cover was done by Jack Kirby). That was their first meeting with the Crusader.
While the X-Men were my favorites (this was before Giant-Size X-Men), I loved the FF. They were science nerds. Or at least Reed was. They had some great foes and even bigger adventures. I collected Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard’s run, that incredible five-year tenure by John Byrne beginning with FF #232 to Walt Simonson’s take (I skipped the Roger Stern and Steve Englehart stories). I collected the Jim Lee and Brandon Choi run (that I hated but I only got coz of the art). I loved the third series that began with Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis and was picked up by Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca. Then there was one of my fave FF runs ever with Carlos Pacheco and the Karl Kesel and Mike Weiringo books. Even the spin-off book with the Allreds was something I collected. Even up today, I still get the book even if I think that James Robinson does not understand Marvel’s first family. My first ever letter that was printed on a Marvel Comics was in the pages of the FF (the second was Daredevil in case you want to know).
I have a shirt with the “4’ on it and go to bed wearing it. So there.
Having said that mouthful, as an old time fanboy, here are my problems with the film even before I saw it:
It had so much disconnect to its Marvel origins. From the ethnicity of Franklin and Johnny Storm to Susan being adopted and Ben Grimm not being a test pilot to the Baxter building is a “school” or a working lab and not the FF’s headquarters to even their original debut foe which were the Mole Man’s monsters; yes, sir, I’ve got problems with that.
Sure, Doctor Doom is a more compelling foe than some monsters by why imbue the villain with the same cosmic rays that changed the F4? Doom’s powers are mystical and mechanical in nature. The other time someone tried to replicate what happened to them, they became the U-Foes. The only connection of Doom to the comics was that it said that he was from Latveria. That’s it. Nothing more.
Now going into the screening, I decided to divest myself of all my prejudices as an old-time fanboy and sit back and enjoy it like I know nothing about the FF. And to be honest, I thought it changed my perspective about the film.
Now here are my thoughts after seeing the film:
If I know nothing of the comic Fantastic Four it isn’t so bad. I don’t feel the level of sympathy that I have for Steve Rogers after he kept getting rejected by the Army. Peter Parker was an outcast and I felt for him. When Tony Stark had that moment of clarity, I pulled for him all the more.
The characterization was here, there, and nowhere. It is mostly a good cast save perhaps for Jamie Bell who isn't the right person to portray a gruff and tough Ben Grimm. I ended up comparing this to the other FF films. Michael Chiklis was perfect as Ben. Chris Evans nailed Johnny Storm. And I love Jessica Alba as Sue. Ioan Gruffudd was fine as Reed except he seemed a little quirky and not nerdy enough. Almost all through its comic book history, Ben calls Reed “egghead” or “big brain” because he was Sheldon Cooper before there was a Sheldon Cooper.
Miles Teller has the nerd look down pat but there should have been more exposition. They showed a better young Reed than an adult Reed.
Teller and to an extent, Michael B. Jordan had a lot of character development but that left the others really under exposed. One of the core themes of FF is the friendship of Reed and Ben and how the former crucifies himself for the mistake that turned his friend into a monster. It was shown rather briefly but should have been explored more. The two start out their science trip together but Ben gets left out only to be remembered when they take an unauthorized jaunt into the other dimension that surprisingly isn’t the Negative Zone but Planet Zero! WTH!
Furthermore, it would have been really cool to see greater and more creative executions on their powers. The fights were brief and left me hanging. It was nice to see Reed take on the military but it should have been longer. And how cool would it have been to see him going up against an Apache gunship or even a tank? The Thing was doing some black ops fighting but it would have been nice to see him against tougher military hardware. In contrast, the Hulk of Ang Lee had better fights with the military.
The special effects were nothing special. Guardians of the Galaxy had better effects. There was nothing spectacular they brought to the FF reboot and it is criminal that they did not bring today’s technological advances to bear.
Now putting on my fanboy hat, the Josh Trank film was devoid of many of the hallmarks that make the Marvel Cinematic Universe such a hit with film fans. There were a few attempts at humor that have been the hallmarks of not only the comics and the film adaptations. Furthermore, there were no Easter Eggs that make it fun for fanboys. They even took the Thing’s signature battle cry of “It’s Clobbering Time” and gave it to his bully of an older brother.
It was a science film disguised as a superhero film. Fine. I wish they showed the wonders of science. At its very core, the FF are explorers and not really superheroes. They are a family as well that got extended to the point where other people donned the same costume of unstable molecules with that famous “4” in front.
I had high hopes given the recent success of the main Marvel films not handled by FOX. You’d think they would have taken notes but no! Fantastic Four is not fantastic. It is not one of the best Marvel let alone superhero films. However, it isn’t that bad. What it has is the feel of a Steven Spielberg film that got away. The first act was all right as they had this modern take on the old origin but the second act was too quick like it got sucked up that gravity well that Dr. Doom conjured. The sad thing is so many possibilities too got sucked away as well leaving the FF reboot good but ultimately unsatisfying.