Film Review | Fantastic Four (2015)

fantastic four movie review 2015 fant4stic josh trank michael m jordan miles teller jamie bell kate mara fox marvel mcu

Hmm.

Okay. So. At the minute, this movie is on something like 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. (Wait, no, I just checked. Actually, it’s 8%.) The general consensus that the movie is “Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great.”

And, so, I thought that was a shame. Because I’ve been defending the movie for ages – whenever someone would complain about the trailer, I’d say that I actually thought it looked quite good (I did) and that it was probably too early to make any pre-judgments (it was). But that obviously became increasingly more difficult to maintain, especially as all the news of the troubled production came out. By the time Miles Teller was making excuses for the movies poor reviews, I’d essentially given up on it.

Thus I decided to go and watch it and basically just mock it. Mean spirited, I guess. But it’s kinda fun to sit and make jokes while watching bad movies – that’s why things like Sharknado exist. I was all set for a pretty awful movie, essentially.

So imagine my surprise when I actually really enjoyed it.

And I do mean I really, really enjoyed it. I thought it was excellent. The body horror angle was something that’s not really been explored before in the recent glut of Superhero movies (at least, not that I can think of) and I found that really interesting – beyond Ben Grimm’s general sort of “gosh it sure does suck to be a rock”, I’d never really thought about how scary and different it would be for these four people. It was an aspect that I genuinely believed worked really well, and I think they did an alright job of giving each character different reactions to it.

Obviously, it was not perfect. It was muddled in places, and I think the resolution was a little rushed. They had quite a few good character moments, I think, but they definitely needed quite a few more – I don’t think Reed and Ben ever really finished their arc, for example, and Sue definitely could have had her role increased. There just needed to be a little bit more to it – it’d have been nice to fill that “one year later” gap, rather than skipping right over it. (Also! At the beginning, when we see them as kids, Ben should have said “I want to be the second man to travel to a different dimension”, and that’s the beginning of their friendship.) You could tell that the actual production had been rushed; I think maybe the script needed another pass (if you never brought anything back, Sue, how did you have that extra dimensional dust?) and I do wonder how the film worked before the final last minute excisions were made.

Certainly, the “One Year Later” cut should have been reworked – given that the body horror aspect is reliant on their reactions to the changes they went through, I think it’s self evident that we needed to see more of their reactions to their powers. The initial fear was was well done, and I didn’t even have that much problem with the way they were shown to feel after the time jump, but I think the movie would have been a lot stronger had we seen the transition from point A to point B.

Overall, though, I think it’d give it, say, a 7/10, maybe? Possibly I could be lead to give it a higher mark, actually. Really, I thought it was that good…

…to the point that I’m actually questioning all the other reviews. Because I can understand hardcore fans of the comics taking issue with the movie – it is a very different angle from which to interpret the source material, and I know that a lot of comic fans wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing. Equally though, a lot of them would, simply because it’s new and different and often there are merits to that sort of thing. More to the point, I’m surprised that so many casual movie goers and critics are reacting against this – in theory, it’s tailored quite well to them, given that it’s got some key differences to the majority of other superhero movies. It seems directly tailored to combat that idea of super hero movie fatigue that everyone drags out every so often.

Presumably for a lot of people this is their Man of Steel – a movie I totally and utterly hated, because I felt like it was just… well, bad. It didn’t feel like a Superman movie to me. It came across as poorly written and – well, actually, I’d say it matches up to this fairly well: “Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great.” Except, y’know, Man of Steel rather than Fantastic Four.

But I felt like this worked. I mean, my Fantastic Four knowledge is about the same as my Superman knowledge, and I’m probably better acquainted with those characters than I am with Superman. Broadly I felt like they were better served by this film than Superman was by Man of Steel.

Man of Steel, though, was controversial at least. There are enough people on either side of the debate that it’s still going on. But with Fantastic Four, there isn’t even a debate.

All of which is leading me to think that maybe my personal taste is a weird and idiosyncratic thing. (After all, Cars 2 is the only movie I’ve ever enjoyed enough to watch in the cinema twice.)

So, to sum up. Fantastic Four had a lot of genuinely very interesting ideas in play, and I think it needs to get a lot more credit for those ideas than it has so far. It was not perfect, and I think had it had a longer development time, then it would likely have come out as an overall stronger movie. As it is, though, I enjoyed it a lot, and it deserves a far better reputation than it has.

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Doctor Who Book Review: The Witch Hunters

doctor who first doctor witch hunters steve lyons review history collection cover hd

As part of the new History Collection series, the BBC has reprinted one of the old first Doctor PDAs – The Witch Hunters, featuring the original TARDIS crew arriving in Salem, 1692, at the time of the infamous witch trials.

The Salem Witch Trials is, actually, a period of history I’m relatively familiar with – or at least, I’m familiar with The Crucible, having spent probably too much time studying it over the past two years. It was pretty weird, then, to see characters like Abigail Williams and John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse interacting with Susan, Ian, and the Doctor. (Obviously, I know that they were real people, but having treated them as essentially fictionalised versions of themselves for so long, there’s something of a disconnect for me.)

I think the novel works quite well, actually, in terms of the way it’s structured, and how each character is used. The role given to Susan stood out to me; it made a lot of sense to have her play off against the other girls her own age, particularly with the exploration of Susan’s own developing psychic abilities. Rebecca Nurse and the Doctor also had a rather interesting plotline, with a resolution that put me somewhat in mind of Vincent and the Doctor.

(Actually, I tell you what it really reminded me of in places – this story I wrote, also with Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor, in a timey-wimey historical adventure.  Obvious similarities – historical with the original TARDIS crew with a changing of time aspect, but also both I and Steve Lyons alluded to a previous event wherein the Doctor learned the hard way about changing time, and gave Susan similar ish plot beats about how she’d feel if Ian/Barbara left. The main difference is that in my story, they succeed in changing time, as opposed to being unable to in The Witchhunters.)

All in all, then, I’d actually quite strongly recommend this book. You might not get the same level of enjoyment out of it as I did if you don’t have the same background understanding of The Crucible, but there’s still a lot to like – it’s a very well written historical with the original TARDIS crew, after all.

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