The world owes Joel Schumacher an apology.
No, really, Batman & Robin has long been held up as this sign of superhero movies gone wrong, but that was nothing compared to this. The bloated pile of fecal matter which is Fant4stic doesn't just surpass that the worst Batman film, it eclipses it. It makes Green Lantern looks fun. It makes X-Men Origins: Wolverine seem coherent, and makes Blade Trinity and Steel look good by comparison! The Amazing Spider-Man 2? That film actually starts to look passable when put side-by-side with this one. This isn't just a bad superhero film, it's the absolute epitome of superhero films gone wrong,
The story here... actually, you know what, you know the story. Several people are involved in an experiment which goes kaput, they come back with weird powers, a man calling himself Doom comes back later, they fight him, they kill him, the end. There is literally nothing in this film which will come as a surprise to you, and in fact many bits you might be disappointed to find are entirely missing. The big money shot with the Thing dropping out of the sky and frog-splashing a Humvee? Nope, not in the film. Hell, from the trailers alone it seems Fox must have been repeating Sony's treatment of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 and left half the bloody film on the cutting room floor.
I am being completely honest here when I say that there is nothing redeeming, no smidgen of quality to be found which might allow you to give it a slight pass. What we get is so devoid of action, investment and pacing you'd probably have more fun just going out and buying the actual comics. Hell, do that and you'll have a better idea of what makes these characters tick than the damn creative team!
In one example shown early on you can easily see just how badly derailed the entire group was in their desperation to make this darker and more edgy. You needn't read anything else, just hear this bit to know they royally buggered this production over with a fish fork, utterly jumping the shark before the film even picked up speed.
The Thing? His famous gloriously hammy battle cry of "It's clobberin' time!"? The yell which is as iconic to Marvel as "To me my X-Men!" and "Avengers Assemble!"? Do you want to know what origin the filmmakers inflicted upon this glorious part of their identity? They associated it with physical abuse. It was the same declaration Ben Grimm's brother made just before beating the living shit out of him on a daily basis. I'm not sure you could manage to utterly fuck this up worse, even if you tried!
To make matters worse, every character here is badly written and so horrifically mishandled that they don't even feel like heroes let alone the Fantastic Four.
For all the controversy surrounding the racial changes, Johnny Storm is written as any old generic hothead, with little more than a few cliched outbursts to help define his character.
Susan Storm might as well not even be in the film, being left so out of focus that, sad as it is, it's a step down from Jessica Alba's treatment in the previous duology.
Ben Grimm might have been halfway worthwhile, and Jamie Bell really could have been the saving grace here, but terrible CGI torpedoes any chance of truly taking him seriously.
Finally, Reed Richards doesn't reflect any of his positive characteristics save for his intelligence, and sometimes not even that. Blank faced, and barely reacting to his surroundings, Miles Teller seems bored with the material he's given. Though, given the insipid dialogue and excruciatingly poor storytelling, who can blame him. Honestly, as if the above example wasn't bad enough we have Johnny calling the pre-Doomified Victor "Adolf" purely out of personal dislike.
Now, all of you are probably asking yourselves what happened to Doom? Well, we've got good news and bad news. The good news is that the background reported on a while back isn't anywhere to be seen in the film. The bad news, that might have actually been an improvement over what ended up being plastered all over the big screen. Doom's characterisation begins and ends with him being obsessed with Susan, getting left behind on the planet they visit, and then coming back as a blank, faceless generic doomsday villain. Stumbling about from place to place, killing everyone in his path in a directionless rampage, before the four "heroes" go in and murder him. Really, that's it. He's not even in most of the film, and what little we get has less emotional range than the average Dalek. Despite such an astoundingly botched handling of a brilliant villain, both the actor and crew have made comments about this being an improvement over the old animated series. Yeah, let's compare that for a second.
Personally I think i'm going to stick the sorcerer-mad scientist-masked dictator with the voice of Kain over the one in a SHODAN possessed gimp suit.
Even if you're going into this film for some basic superheroing and super powered fighting, caring nothing for character development or pathos, you're still out of luck. The film drags endlessly throughout the whole damn thing, and it takes almost the entire run time to actually reach the point where there's a genuine super-fight. Even then, here's what you can expect:
"It's not working, perhaps we should punch him all at once!"
*Doom Dies, FATALITY*
The CGI is laughably bad, and the green screen effects even worse at times. Sure, you can perhaps overlook that if you have a halfway good story or it's immersive enough, but not when things are reaching truly insulting levels. A certain face morphing scene for starters looks as if it was done just at the dawn of computer generated effects, when people were still learning the ropes.
Ponderous, joyless, pathetically made and with such an inept investment you'd be forgiven for falling asleep before the first act is done, this is most definitely one to skip. As bad as Batman & Robin was, at least that film was laughing at itself. This? It's so utterly serious, so hellbent upon being seen as a "realistic and gritty" superhero film that you're left with no remorse, no sympathy and no entertainment.
With so many talented people involved, it's honestly disheartening to walk away from this one as a train-wreck rather than a triumph. This said it's not hard to see why. I stand by what I said previously: Josh Trank is a talented man but simply the wrong one for the job. The film he wanted to make would have better suited countless other franchises from the X-Men to the Runaways, but never the high adventure the Fantastic Four wholeheartedly embraced. While his decisions were bad, even then it's hard not to blame Fox given all we've heard and what happened with their last superhero franchise. With all the re-shoots and obvious shilling here to try and set up a cinematic universe yet again, triggering another Amazing Spider-Man 2. The sad thing is, their mistake might have buried any big screen adaptations of this group once and for all.
Don't waste your money on this one, don't even try to get invested. Spend your money on Ant-Man instead, or just re-watch Iron Man and see the same ideas done vastly better than what's here. Hell, better yet, you could spend that ticket money on Fantastic Four: Dark Reign and see a far, far better story. Just forget about this film and hope that the rest of the world does the same before the year is up.