Well the “Four” part is right, anyway

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In a moment of what first seemed like extreme carelessness, while I was waiting to see Fantastic Four I inadvertently threw my ticket in the trash. In retrospect, it was probably a sign from the universe begging me not to watch this film.</p>

OK, let’s take things from the beginning: Fantastic Four is the latest superhero popcorn flick of the summer, and it’d be best if you avoid it at all costs. Even as a comic nerd, I had doubts about the movie — the only reason the movie exists is because Fox needs to put out a Fantastic Four movie every so often to keep the movie rights. The film’s production was pretty troubled as well, with (very bad) scripts leaking, rumours of the film’s director being an absolute nightmare on set, and millions of dollars going into last-minute reshoots. By the time I saw the movie, I was ready for it to be awful — and somehow I still left disappointed.

For those unfamiliar with F4, the plot centres around a group of scientists who go too far in their quests to discover the unknown and end up with bizarre, nightmarish powers, powers they end up using for good by forming a superhero group. The movie follows their origin story, but adds some weird twists that will probably turn off not only devoted comic geeks, but pretty much any movie-goer.

To fully understand where the movie goes wrong, it helps to know what it does right. First and foremost, all four main characters are portrayed pretty faithfully: Reed, the brilliant mind whose devotion to science often makes him a dick; Johnny, a promising man undermined by his own hotheadedness; Ben, the muscle of the group who’s also kind of a softie; and Sue, the most level-headed one (OK, Sue’s usually the boring one). The actors are pretty likable, and the first act of the film is actually pretty exciting, particularly if you know the fate in store for the characters. The best scene in the film comes when the characters undergo their transformations, a totally haunting event that makes you want to know more about the characters.

Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. The movie places an unwarranted emphasis on the military and the government afterwards, overshadowing both character development and action for the entire middle section of the movie. Yes, this is a superhero film where the majority of the superpowers are showed off in montages. The movie also makes unnecessary changes to the film, throwing in awkward time jumps, dull or annoying characters, and really half-assed explanations, all the while failing to resolve the conflicts it sets up between characters or answer the questions it poses (don’t go into this movie expecting an explanation of what even caused the Fantastic Four to get their powers).

The worst decisions probably involve Victor Von Doom, the film’s antagonist. In the comics, Doom is a brilliant, egotistical, terrifying ruler of an entire nation. In the film, he’s a 20-something neckbeard who’s brilliant-but-lazy, living off of Chinese takeout in a miserable-looking shed. Even when he does get his power, he’s still so focused on weird anti-authoritarian tirades that he seems more like a child throwing a tantrum than a threat to mankind. His poor characterization leads into an underwhelming climax, leaving movie-goers with a bad taste in their mouth as a final touch.

Perhaps because I went into the film with such low expectations, it’s disappointing to see that the film actually did have some moments of promise. The main characters are written well, and some of the changes — like the drastic, uncontrollable nature of their powers — could have made for an interesting film. Unfortunately, Fantastic Four is too steeped in mediocrity and the constant sense of “cash grab” to actually churn out even a mildly satisfying popcorn flick. 

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