Sunday, 8 November 2015

Fantastic Four (2015)

And here we go again, round...errr...whatever, for yet another reboot of yet another comicbook franchise, I hope its a winner. Yeah so after the light-hearted antics of the earlier movies failed to set the box alight way back in 2005 and 2007 (even though they weren't actually that bad), someone decided to give them another whirl. The Four are Marvels first team/family of superheroes and thusly they needed a big budget extravaganza to fit into their new successful universe.

This time things would be different, the jokey, slapstick shenanigans of the earlier movies was gone, long gone, in its place would be a much darker, grittier approach that would breathe new realistic life into the Four. The fact that the Fantastic Four were well known for being a more colourful, light-hearted set of heroes (mainly down to their rather silly super powers), seemed to make no difference to how director Trank wanted to go. This would be the Nolan-esque version of the Fantastic Four that incorporated many of the Fantastic Four comic incarnations, like it or lump it.

So the idea of trying to cover all comicbook visions for the movie was brave and reasonably sound, instead of just relying on hammy childish humour and action, they would balance that out with a much broodier tone. The characters would be younger, the technology would be more believable, costumes would be more sensible, super powers would be more grounded or shocking like an affliction, and the overall vibe of the movie would be more serious. The plot remains pretty similar to what we already know of the Four with minor changes. Instead of going into space they jump into a parallel dimension and are exposed to dangerous otherworldly energies or substances that cause the super power mutations at a molecular level. What follows is the team slowly coming to terms with their new powers whilst being confined to a secret military base and being abused by the government for special ops. Eventually, of course, they need to come up against the much stronger Dr Doom who was presumed missing in action in the parallel dimension.

Now the start of this movie is actually fine (first half hour or so), it all moves along perfectly well. We get a nice small flashback to a young Ben Grimm and Reed getting to know each other and seeing their interest in science and technology flourish. Moving on from there we jump to a much older Reed and Grimm as they now prepare to jump into another dimension with the machine they helped build along with Doom, Sue Storm, and to a degree Johnny Storm (Johnny Storm is not really required for this, or anything, in any way). Everything I saw in these early sequences was pretty engaging I thought, it all looked good, sounded good and the cast fit their roles well. As we progressed further into the parallel dimension I still found myself enjoying the film. I really liked the visuals, the spacesuit design was cool, the Quantum Gate machine looked both intimidating and functional and planet Zero (parallel dimension planet) was eerie and foreboding.

Once reaching the real crux of the movie, their super powers, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see a very hard edged approach. Now when I say hard edged, I mean its clearly been crafted in a Cronenberg fashion (as widely reported) with a big body shock element infused into the proceedings. I actually really liked how Trank and co (or whoever) did this, having Sue fluctuate between transparency without control, Grimm being a painful mass of solid rock material with no real shape, just a pile of rubble on the floor. Then you have Johnny also appearing in pain as he writhes around on a table engulfed in flames, and finally Reed strapped to a table, his limbs elongated, muscles pulsing, he doesn't appear to be in pain but unable to control his limbs properly. This angle was pretty daring for a supposed young persons comicbook flick, but it deserves kudos, I think the team behind the film really managed the impossible with such corny super powers, they made them actually believable and emotional, we could feel their fear.

What I also liked, and what also shocked me, was the inclusion of actual minor horror elements in the film. When Doom gets back from planet Zero and starts killing people for no real reason, he does it in a nasty way. He appears to fry them until their bodies pop, or their internal organs explode outward, which ever, but you do see blood! As Doom escapes from the military facility he appears to make peoples heads burst with blood splatterings galore! I did not expect this at all. Unfortunately even though Doom is a badass in the film, his visage does look very rushed as does his attire. He merely seems to be wearing a dark metallic bodysuit and mask with lots of neon green glowing through in places. Apparently his spacesuit had fused with his body but that doesn't really explain why he looks the way he does, how he got his green cloak and hood, nor does it explain his mask and weird mouthpiece (the glowing green was the energy substance found on planet Zero). He basically looks like some kind of metallic, mummified, mannequin, gimp.

Despite the half decent start to the movie things do take a nosedive quite rapidly. The timeline clearly jumps around, different edits, wigs, things aren't really explained too well etc...such as Reed running off and living in Panama for some reason. What the hell was he trying to do? what was the point in that entire sequence?? Characters talk about how Reed has been off the grid for so long and how he's hard to find...yet they just manage to find him really quickly when they decide to hunt him down. And why is it the Four agree to remain in this secret base and carry out special ops? Surely they must know these military government types are just using them and they probably won't find a cure, they all seem pretty naive to me. Then you have this whole other dimension notion, visually effective at least, but none of it is even remotely thought out properly. They reach another planet in another dimension, but it just doesn't come across as that bigger deal. Surely this would open up so many questions about that parallel dimension and that universe, that whole plot angle just seemed way too big for this movie. An entire alternative universe in a parallel dimension! that's some heavy shit! but they use it like some kind of throwaway plot device. Did I mention the wigs aspect?

I still don't really get why Doom wanted to stay in the parallel dimension on planet Zero. OK I understand that the natural raw energy somehow powers him and seems to keep him alive or healthy, but there's nothing there! What the hell is he gonna do on this barren wasteland of a planet forever?? Why does he wanna wipe out Earth all of a sudden? especially if he doesn't even intend to remain on Earth, in our dimension. Oh and how did he know when the team had come back to rescue him? how did he know where they would reappear? maybe it was the same location? Did anyone else also notice that the despite the weather appearing to be really bad and really harsh on planet Zero, it was always very calm with no wind or anything, where ever the characters were.

At the end of the day there just doesn't feel like there's anything at stake here, the finale is set in this desolate wasteland in another dimension, so who cares. The Four never really seem to fully utilise their powers for anything, or anywhere, they just get them...and mope around. Even when they must battle Doom, they still don't seem to be that effective with their powers, but I guess you could say they are still learning (for the sequel eh). Even though I quite liked the start of the movie and I did like the initial body shock reactions of the characters, the entire film is essentially just exposition for the obviously pre-planned sequel which may now never happen. As such, this movie is like a highway to nowhere, exposition that leads to nowhere, Hollywood is so comfortable with this cheeky method/formula now, and its very worrying. You don't get proper movies anymore, you get promises and setups for the following bigger movie, if you're lucky, because as we all know, films always come in trilogies these days.