Why do I feel inspired to write about only the movies I'm disappointed in? Maybe I worry I'll be too fanboy-ish about the movies I love and will fail to say anything insightful about them, sounding like Chris Farley meeting his idols on Saturday Night Live ("You know that movie you were in? ... That was cooool.") Hence, I've written nothing on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, or Ant-Man (just to name a few), but plenty about Man of Steel... and now its aesthetic cousin, Fantastic Four.
[UPDATE: As has been pointed out to me, I did in fact write about Avengers: Age of Ultron. But it is rather fanboy-ish, isn't it?]
As you may know, I love the Fantastic Four; if you don't, I gushed about them recently over at the Cultural Gutter. Even though I avoided actual reviews of this movie, there was more than enough doubt in the air to dispel any hopes I had that I would be happy with it. I had the worst of expectations. As I told a friend yesterday, I couldn't not see it; I just had to know.
As I watched last night, in a local theater with about a dozen teenagers with nothing better to do on a Thursday evening—what a difference from early showings of other recent superhero flicks, which were packed with diehard fans—I couldn't help but think about Man of Steel. If it had been about any other superpowered person, Man of Steel would have been an interesting and entertaining movie—my problem with it was that the Superman it showed bore little resemblance to the Superman I believe in.
Fantastic Four, on the other hand, did no particular disservice to its characters, if only because they had very little character at all, and faced no tragic dilemma that would have revealed something about their heroic dispositions. This is no fault of the four lead actors, all of whom did the best they could with what they were given. What a horrible waste of talent this was, especially that of Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, who have both shone in other work. (And the less said about Doctor Doom, the better. At least he wasn't a blogger, as widely reported earlier.)
My issue with Fantastic Four wasn't the portrayal of the lead characters. It was simply a bad movie. Utterly lifeless, it had no discernible plot, and no drama or suspense—only when the denouement came did you know that the climax had passed. The dialogue was bland and cliched (and not even based on comic book cliches, beyond the awkward insertion of several beloved catchphrases, one introduced in a particularly depressing way).
Visually, it made Man of Steel look like Pee Wee's Playhouse—I don't think the color blue appeared once, much less any other primary colors. Even the other dimension they travel to was disappointing, a slight improvement on the alien sets from the original Star Trek series. (On a brighter note, the flame effect on Johnny Storm was very well done, and the Thing's appearance works better than I imagined, and for the first time in a movie you can see how he would inspire true fear and not just disgust or discomfort.)
As a concept, the Fantastic Four is supposed to be about wonder, adventure, and exploration, but there was none of that in this movie. It's also supposed to be about the relationships between the four members, but there was very little of that in this movie. And it is supposed to be fantastic—and there was definitely none of that in this movie.
P.S. Maybe this will lead people to reconsider the first two Fantastic Four movies, which were far from perfect but captured very well the playful and optimistic spirit of the comic (as well as simply being more entertaining.)