From the moment it was announced the new Fantastic Four movie has been plagued with criticism, everything from the decision to make the Storm siblings multi-racial to the idea that Dr. Doom was some kind of terroristic blogger. It finally limped into theaters this weekend and, well, all those things people complained about weren’t really the problem. The problem is the movie is just terrible.
Massive Spoilers follow. In fact, all the spoilers. I’m going to spoil this film for you. You can thank me later.
We open with young Reed Richards giving a class presentation on Career Day about how he wants to build a machine that teleports people. He’s of course mocked by both students and teacher, and thus begins my annoyance with this film. Much like the Ben Affleck Daredevil opening with the bullies picking on the blind kid, inexplicably, this movie begins with the teacher telling the obviously brilliant young thinker that he has to do his report over and it has to be about a real job. Cause science isn’t real? What a dick. The guy before him gave a presentation on wanting to be a famous baseball player, so, you know, reach for the stars, I guess. At this point I thought the movie was going to just be a long indictment of the state of the public education system in America, but alas.
Young Ben Grimm is also in Reed’s class and appears fascinated by Reed’s notebook full of drawings for his teleporting machine. Then we cut to Ben’s home, which is a salvage yard, where his older brother beats him, apparently all the time, by starting his attacks with the phrase, “It’s clobbering time!” So, good job movie, you’ve taken the Thing’s most oft-used catchphrase and made it all about domestic violence. Good work.
Ben catches young Reed in the scrap yard looking for a “power converter” and I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be a sly reference to a young Luke Skywalker wanting to go to Tosche Station to get power converters, or if the screenwriter just couldn’t think of anything reasonable that Reed would be looking for in a scrap yard. Ben and Reed are now bestest friends and we cut to 7 or 8 years later and they’re in high school and giving their Science Project demonstration of a machine that teleports things. Here’s the thing, it actually makes things disappear, then brings them back, but Reed doesn’t know where they go. He thinks they’re going across the world to the Gobi desert or someplace, but then Dr. Franklin Storm and his daughter Sue show up to tell him they’re actually going to a different dimension. The science project, despite clearly sending a model airplane “somewhere” then reappearing is disqualified, because Reed still has the same asshole teacher.
Ben is brought to the Baxter building to work on his Interdimensional machine, and we’re introduced to the Storm children. Sue was adopted from Kosovo, is an expert at pattern recognition, which she tells us when she explains that music is just patterns played over and over, and for some reason she’s working on the environmental suits that will be used in the other dimension. Because despite literally knowing nothing about it other than some dirt samples that come back everytime they teleport something they know what kind of environment suits they’ll need, and also that the place is probably filled with new sources of energy that will “save our world”. This phrase gets used so many times during the movie I’m surprised it wasn’t on the posters, but no one ever really tells us what we need saving from. I guess just generic, “we’ll run out of energy someday” saving. They never go into exactly what Franklin is afraid is going to happen, but he’s sure we need interdimensional travel like right now.
Johnny Storm is apparently a street racer, he’s built his own car, and in the first race we see him in it won’t start. Then it does start and goes really fast, and then it redlines and dies and he wrecks it and ends up in jail. His dad bails him out and tells him he can’t have his car back because Franklin paid for the car, even though Johnny built it, so now Johnny has to come work for his dad on the Interdimensional travel machine. Someone at some point asks why he’s here and we get the generic trope of “He can build anything”. Except race cars, I guess.
Also we’re now introduced to Victor Von Doom, who is a computer genius, an ex-protege of Franklin’s, who lives in a warehouse where all the doors are controlled by some kind of remote control google glass thing he wears or something? I don’t know. He also has half a dozen monitors with various images and code on them so we know he’s a brilliant hacker. He started the interdimensional project with Franklin, but he doesn’t want to go back cause he’s edgy and angry or something. But Sue’s going to be there and he perks right up and comes to join the team. After meeting Reed he goes on a rant about how the government just wants to steal all their stuff and ruin the world, and Sue mutters under her breath, “Dr. Doom over here.” Which is a terrible, awfuul piece of writing. It’s supposed to show that she’s sarcastic and funny, but here’s the thing. HE IS DR. DOOM. And I don’t mean that in a “clearly his character is going to become Dr. Doom” kind of way, he’s most likely got a doctorate in computerology or something and his name is Doom. He’s literally Dr. Doom. It’s not sarcastic to call someone their own name. I can’t tell you how much this moment bugged me.
Then we’re treated to a montage of the team building things, putting the machine together, getting everything working. Weird looks from Doom as Sue and Reed start to bond in what looks to be a subplot that got completely excised from the movie, because there’s the setup here of a love triangle that started the moment Doom perked up when he found out Sue was working on the project, and then…nothing. It just fizzles and never gets mentioned again. Finally the machine is done and they send over a monkey to the next dimension and bring it back and yay, everything works! Now the team is preparing themselves to go to the other dimension themselves, when the evil government shows up and tells them, oh no, you’re not going. We’re sending our own people.
The evil government is represented by Tim Blake Nelson at his most smarmy. The kids are all angry that they’re not going to get to go to the other dimension and while Franklin and Sue go off to try to convince the government to let them go, Doom convinces Reed and Johnny that they should just do it, put on the suits and go. Reed calls Ben and tells him to come with them. Ben, who apparently has nothing better to do, shows up to go dimension hopping with his old high school pal. So the four of them suit up and jump to another dimension. I’d like to point out at this point that SUE DOES NOT GO WITH THEM. This annoyed me. The four guys cruise around in the other dimension, looking at the green glowing stuff below the surface, and let me tell you, the other dimension? It’s pretty unimpressive. It’s just like dark and there’s some green glowies and the sky is red or gray or whatever, who cares, it looks cheap.
Doom falls over a cliff and they can’t save him and there’s an earthquake/storm type thing, so they jump back into the interdimensional hopper and here’s where we get really cheesy, Ben can’t get his door closed so his compartment fills with rocks, the window on Johnny’s compartment blows open letting fire in (from somewhere) and Reed’s compartment…appears to be fine. They can’t get back so they call Sue on their interdimensional cell phone and she comes to override the science to bring them back and she gets hit with a blast of invisible energy when they come back, and that’s how they become the fantastic four. Neat, right?
The government of course takes them all hostage, Johnny is laying on a bed on fire, Sue is unconscious and as a scientist tells us “going in and out of the visible spectrum, she doesn’t seem to be able to control it”. Duh, she’s unconscous lady. Ben is just a big ball of rock, and Reed is stretched out, his legs and arms are like twenty feet long and they have him strapped in for some reason, and this scene bothered me because his arms and legs look terrible here. Like bad photoshop terrible. Reed manages to get himself out of his restraints because he hears Ben calling for him through the air vent, he crawls through the vent to find him, tells him he’ll fix it, then promptly escapes from a hidden government facility like the A-Team, only with no fighting or anything, he just wanders off.
Tim Blake Nelson comes to Ben to do the worst manipulation job in the history of movies, telling him, “Your friend left you here. We’ll fix you, but you have to do somethign for us.” Ben says, “What do you want me to do?” And that’s the story of how the Thing became a government agent.
We jump forward in time by one year. The Thing is airdropped into hostile locations to beat up, I don’t know, bad guys? Very generic bad guys with random military uniforms on. Tim Blake is giving a presentation to some other military guys to show them how awesome this is, and explain about the other dimension, which he tells us his scientists have taken to calling Dimension Zero, for no apparent reason. They’re building another interdimensional hopper, presumably so they can wreck it on their way back and create more superheroes? It’s unclear what their plan is. But they can’t get it to work. Not without Reed, who’s been missing for a year.
Johnny loves being on fire all the time and is all about having super powers. Sue is glum and hates everything and just wants to get fixed, but she’s also letting them study her. Ben is still mad at Reed. Franklin tells Sue the best way they can get fixed is to go back to the other dimension and study it so they can figure out how to fix it, but they need Reed. She has to use her magic pattern recognition abilities to find him, since no one else can. Of course she figures it out in like five minutes by looking at email addresses, finding one called C4ptain_N3mo, because Reed once told her he liked 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and they send a capture squad to get him.
This is the only scene in the movie I thought was cool. When they come to get Reed the military guys try shooting him with taser guns, only he uses his stretch abilities like a bad ass to fight them off. This is the best thing they did. It looks cool, it shows some real superpowered awesomeness, and it lasts about ten seconds. Then Thing shows up and headbutts him and they bring him back. Reed doesn’t want to help them but he does want to help Ben, which is what he’s been trying to do for the last year on his own, build his own dimension travel device so he can go study dimension Zero, so he agrees to help them with their problem, which he fixes in like 10 minutes because he’s Reed Richards.
So they send in another team of soldiers to the other dimension, who are presumably there to study the other dimension, but instead Doom shows up and they abandon everything they were doing to bring him back. They take him to a medical lab and Tim Blake says, “I’ll talk to him first.” Cause he wants to use him as a weapon, the only thing the military cares about, in case you forgot, and then Doom shows off his new powers, which apparently consist of killing people just by looking at them. He either kills or knocks out everyone in the medical lab (it’s unclear which he does) without moving, then gives a long speech about how Tim Blake is indicitave of the problems of this world and that’s why it needs to be destroyed, then he looks at Tim Blake Nelson until he implodes in his own containment suit. Then Doom starts walking the halls, looking at people and making their brains explode out the backs of their heads (it’s clear at this point he’s killing them).
Reed, Ben, Johnny and Sue all just sort of wander around looking at dead people while panic ensues, then they all meet up in the interdimensional hopper room, where Doom makes Franklin die, but not by blowing up his head, just like, radiating him or something? So he can live long enough to tell the four kids to take care of each other, then Doom goes through to the other dimension, and does…I don’t know. Something.
He makes a giant rock pyramid that shoots a giant blue beam up into the sky that somehow attaches itself to earth and starts sucking everything into it, and Reed says some science stuff about how he’s making a black hole or something and the world will be destroyed so they go to stop him by flying through the blue light, with Reed, Ben and Sue inside one of Sue’s magic force field bubbles and Johnny, well, just on fire and flying. I guess he doesn’t need protection.
They get to the other side where one by one they try to confront him but Doom makes rocks fly onto Johnny to cool him off, then makes bigger rocks fly into Ben to make him unable to move. Sue uses her forcefield to temporarily block his giant blue beam but then he hits her with some rocks and it goes away. Then Reed stretch punches him and then Doom makes Reed’s arms and legs all long and wobbly somehow and he can’t do anything anymore. You may be wondering why he doesn’t just make their brains asplode, but Reed mentioned just before this that he got his powers from dimension Zero and they got their powers from dimension Zero so they’re the only ones that can stop him, so I’m assuming that’s why he can’t just make their brains go boom. Cause, you know, science.
So Reed’s laying here looking at Sue on one side knocked out and Ben on his other side, trapped in a rock, and through the power of being a good guy he finds the strength to get up, unstretch himself, convince the others they can “Do it together” then they all free themselves, Johnny flies through the rocks that make up the support structures of the rock pyramid while Sue uses forcefields to help Ben throw rocks at Doom, Reed stretch punch doom, and then Ben punches him into the blue light and yay they saved the world together. Good job.
Back on Earth they go to the government and tell them you’re going to give us a facility to work and Ben makes vaguely intimidating noises and the military guys are like, yeah, sure, whatever. Then they go to a top secret government facility where they’re met by a guy who shows them around. This bit of the movie made it seem like I should know who this guy or this place is, but I didn’t, and rumor has it this guy might be Mole Man? Not sure exactly, but it totally fell by the wayside cause the movie ends with the four of them looking longingly at their new science place and trying to come up with a name, and Reed says to Ben, remember when we were building this thing in my garage, and he says, “Yeah, it was fantastic.” And Reed says, “Say that again.” “It was fantastic.” And then Reed says, “Guys, I got a name…”
I can’t believe I got through all that. I watched it, so you don’t have to. And you probably shouldn’t.