The Fantastic Four reboot was a movie we neither needed nor deserved, as 20th Century Fox managed to take a much-loved Marvel franchise and make it worse. Here be spoilers!
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a lanky, socially awkward science whiz who discovers a prototype teleporter for inter-dimensional travel from his garage at the age of eight. Ben Grimm is his gangly sidekick from the wrong side of town. Sue Storm is the adopted daughter of an influential scientist also researching inter-dimensional travel, while Johnny Storm is his estranged biological son.
There was little effort made in forming coherent character expositions and the storyline was rushed faster than a bullet train. Reed goes from the wide-eyed eight year old to an awkward teenager in matter of minutes and within the hour sets off on an inter-dimensional travel with his gangly bunch of misfits.
The existence of another dimension was a gold mine for plot if utilized properly. This was an Earth 2.0-like planet, Planet Zero, covered in fluorescent lava, which is ultimately responsible for giving the characters their super powers. But this plot device was used half-heartedly to justify character angsts of a bunch of teenagers. Once Reed and his team manages to create a working Quantum Gate, a portal to this other dimension, they are made redundant by the powers-that-be, who, very logically, wanted NASA to commandeer the exploration to Planet Zero. Not willing to be cast aside, a drunk Reed, Victor, and Johnny decide to make a trip to the other side in the dead of the night. Reed even manages to coax Ben out of his sleep to make the 45 minute journey to the facility to join in on the fun. As one would expect, letting inexperienced teenagers embark on unauthorized inter-dimensional travel is a recipe for disaster.
While out on their exploration, predictably things go wrong when the surface of the planet gives way. Reed and the rest make an attempt to get back to their transport pod in order for Sue to bring them back to their own dimension but Victor falls off a cliff, presumably, to his death.
In a movie heavy on disappointments, the toughest pill to swallow was the character massacre of Victor Von Doom, one of Marvel’s legendary villains, into an angst-ridden, misanthropic teenager. Victor is another young science whizz, who initially came up with the concept of inter-dimensional travel; he used to be Dr Storm’s former wayward protégé and a past love interest for Sue. His on-screen introduction was underwhelming – sitting in a dim-lit apartment full of computer screens displaying a catalog of science mumbo jumbo. He looked more like a junkie than a villain in the making. The movie fails spectacularly hard to set up any context for Victor to want to destroy the world later on.
After acquiring their superpowers, Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben, are taken to an isolated military base where they are kept under strict observation. The movie’s “greedy military” narrative worked well in this context and one can’t help but wish Marvel Studios still had the rights to this franchise to introduce in Civil War. While Dr Storm tries his best to protect the four of them, whom he lovingly refers to as his “children”, the military is more interested in using their newly acquired superpower in combat. Ben and Johnny are quick to sign up while Sue is hesitant; Reed manages to escape, becomes a fugitive, and disappears for in South America for an entire year before he’s tracked down.
Almost three-fourths of the movie passes before Reed and the others brought are back to put the finishing touches to a second portal that had been built in the mean while. This time, the U.S. Army sends its soldiers to explore Earth 2.0 and ‘lo behold, they find Victor alive (nobody saw that coming right?). In a visually cool shot, we find that Victor’s space suit had molded to his body, which made a nice transition for the iconic Doom mask.
It is a general rule in almost all science fiction/horror movie – if you find something on an alien, terrestrial world that you have absolutely no clue about, do not bring it back to ours. Victor is naturally brought back to be studied in a similar fashion that Reed and co. were. But he snaps and goes on a killing rampage throughout the facility before escaping back to Planet Zero; without taking into account the poor set-up, this scene was probably one of the best bits of the movie. Also, the death of Dr Allen, set up to be the annoying, secondary antagonist, was very satisfactory.
The threat of Victor, as well as the death of Dr Storm, unites Reed and co to go after him. Superhero movies really need to come up with alternate and creative ways to get their quarreling heroes to play nice.
When they return to Planet Zero, this time with Sue in tow, Victor mocks them (or rather Mankind in general) for their greediness and brags about the superpowers the mysterious, glowing lava gave him. Mostly telekinesis, but at this point, it was, unfortunately, hard to take him seriously as a credible villain. The final battle is as anticlimactic as you’d expect; Victor’s evil plan is a crossover between Transformers 3 and Man of Steel – he wants to bring all resources from Earth 1.0 to Earth 2.0 and rule over humanity. After initially struggling to contain him, Reed and co. finally manage to defeat him in a showdown that lasted less than 10 minutes of screen time.
In the end, returning as heroes back to Earth 1.0, Reed and co. manage to negotiate with the army to be left alone. They are given a new facility to conduct research in and stay away from prying eyes – think Avengers tower – and in more attempts to rip off of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ben comes up with the group’s name. He says “Fantastic…F” before the camera fades to black.
Overall, it was an uninspiring superhero movie that tried to take itself too seriously and fell into the trap of most DC films. The poor character developments, terrible script, and a haphazard narrative made it worse. Besides, it never stood a chance against a naked Chris Evans sitting in a pool of melted snow.