Flame off

"Please! Mister Fantastic was my father's name. You can call me fired."

Rated 1.0

After a lot of bad buzz, Fantastic Four hits the screen with hopes of generating some good old-fashioned summer blockbuster magic here in August.

The movie summer is officially dead. It has been punched in the neck. I seriously doubt it will get any blockbuster air back in its lungs after this one.

Yes, the Marvel franchises have had a few misfires in the past. Daredevil, Ghost Rider and its sequel, the Amazing Spider-Man films and, of course, the two—actually three, counting Roger Corman’s never released effort—Fantastic Four movies.

Those films blew, but they had some sort of coherence to their badness. Director Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is nothing short of the most epic of discombobulated cinematic messes. It’s as if the people who wrote, directed and edited this thing never talked to each other about what they were doing with the material.

Get ready for another origin story. This one goes way back to when Reed Richards was a little kid making teleporters in his garage with tin foil and his scrappy pal, Ben Grimm. It then jumps ahead to a high school science fair, where Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) are being mischievous. Their teleporter causes a basketball backboard to blow up so, naturally, Reed gets a full scholarship to the prestigious Baxter Institute.

Reed spends his school days working for Dr. Franklin Storm (a completely terrible Reg E. Cathey). Storm’s adopted daughter Sue (a detached Kate Mara) assists Reed in making a bigger version of his science project, as does Storm’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) after he crashes his car and is forced to help out by his pop. Reed’s team also includes the rebellious Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), and that last name should be a red flag, right?

When NASA and a gum-chewing Tim Blake Nelson look to take over their project, a drunken Reed and his boys, including Ben, decide to try out the teleporter thing, and they wind up in another dimension on Planet Zero (the Negative Zone in the comics). This is a dimension where everything is dull and gray, laid out as if somebody had intended to make a 3-D movie but pulled the plug and went 2-D when they realized the film was piss.

Things go wrong, Victor gets left on Planet Zero, and the Fantastic Four is born when everybody returns all fantastically screwed up. Sue, who stayed behind at the lab, still gets transformed because she gets hit with blue light from the teleporter thing, proving my theory that a blue light bath from a teleporter thing often results in controllable invisibility.

So Sue is invisible sometimes, Johnny is the flammable Human Torch, Ben Grimm is the rock pile The Thing, and Reed is the stretchy guy. Mind you, very little action with these powers actually takes place. The film doesn’t even really allow the characters to acknowledge what has happened to them. It’s a leaden build up to an even more leaden, tacked-on finale.

Trank made a recent public statement implying that the studio hijacked his film, and the movie we’re seeing is not really his vision. Given how disjointed this film feels, I’d be inclined to believe him, although his Chronicle was nothing to get all that excited about. I’m not of the belief that, had Trank been left untethered for the entire production, the movie would’ve been any good. I do believe it might’ve been less heinously awful.

Apart from the terrible acting, dung heap dialogue, and plot problems, this movie possesses some of the worst special effects and makeup you will ever see in a modern big studio picture. For terrible makeup, look no further than Von Doom after he transforms on Planet Zero. He looks like a seventh-grader who tried to make a C-3PO costume out of melted silver Crayola crayons, then, while mushing the thing together, was introduced to low-grade meth.

Stan Lee doesn’t do a real cameo in Fantastic Four, and he shows up in almost all of these things. When Stan Lee doesn’t show up, you’ve been disavowed. This film deserves to be disavowed.