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A Fantastic Piece of Shit, Part II

Dumbasses In Space!
When we last left our foolishly stupid twats heroes, Reed Richards, Johnny Storm and Victor von Doom were convincing Reed's nonexistent friend for most of the 1st Act Ben Grimm to take a little joyride through another dimension, break every protocol in the book and possibly get themselves killed because they want to stick it to 'the Man' and not get left behind in history, despite the fact that engineers are just as renowned in the scientific community as the explorers who launch off into space. Of course Ben agrees and they set off for Tacky CGI Effect #573....I mean, the Negative Zone. Victor sees a terrible green slime effect and attempt to collect it for future study, but this causes the ground beneath them to collapse, as Victor falls into said terrible slime effect, presumably to his death. The remaining trio have to hi-tail it out of there with the help of Sue Storm, and return to Earth, but not before the machine blows up and destroys the laboratory. So, to recap - Reed and company decide to take an unauthorized journey into an unstable and dangerous dimension, lose one of the own colleagues, destroy a billion-dollar, game-changing transporter machine that took years to develop, trash the entire center, and exposed himself, and his friends, to substances that could harm them and those around them. Say what you will about Zack Snyder's version of Superman in Man of Steel,  at least Kal El saved millions of lives from General Zod. Reed damn near got everyone killed for being a dumbass.

Before I go on, let me say this about the visual effects; primarily that they're bloody terrible. Good to great visual effects enhance the story and the environment the characters are in, as well as not call attention to itself. The effects in this movie look so cheap and stick out so much that it borders on insulting. Trank, in order to save money on the effects budget, went with an unknown effects company, Otoy, who specialize in developing complex 3D graphics and effects by moving it on the Cloud format. I don't have a problem going with this sort of technology, if you're making a smaller film, but this is a superhero movie. There's no excuse for shabby effects, especially when you're making a big budget film of this nature!

We cut to the part where the film was clearly reworked and reshot, I mean, one year later, where Sue, Johnny and Ben, now dubbed, "The Thing", are learning to harness their newly-acquired powers through government help; in exchange they are trained to become military assets in hotspots around the world. I'll be honest and say that this section, as it's set up, is actually the best part of the whole film, because it takes a very interesting and believable turn. Ben is the most-used asset at their disposal, with Johnny volunteering next. Reed himself is absent, primarily because he escaped captivity and left his friends to their own devices, including Ben himself, who now harbors animosity towards his sudden departure. Papa Storm asks Sue to find him in order to help rebuild the inter-dimensional transporter device he destroyed because he's the only one who can do it, or some nonsense Simon Kinberg and Trank threw in there to explain why they don't use the combined notes of Richards and von Doom the pair probably left behind before the incident. That's not the only glaring plothole in this second act, mainly: why didn't the government try to locate Richards before? I know it's difficult because now he can change his facial appearance at will (and yes, that effect is just as bad as every other one in this clusterfuck), but Sue studies pattern recognition; she probably could have located the guy months ago if they asked her, and they're only now getting around to it!

They find Richards hiding out in Central America, where he and Grimm have a 30-second scuffle before the latter knocks out the former cold and takes him back to Area 57, because Roswell withheld the naming rights to the filmmakers. Did I mention that almost a hour into this movie, and that the fight between Mister Fantastic and The Thing is the first action sequence we've seen? Richards agrees to rebuild the portal, and trained soldiers voyage to the Negative Zone, only to find Victor, who has inexplicably survived, and is taken back to Earth for observation. If you guessed that this was all an elaborate ruse to return and exact revenge on the people who left him to die, you're completely on the nose!

By the way - this is what our villain looks like: a living, breathing candy skull for Dia de los Muertos. Victor kills just about everyone in Area 57, including Dr. Storm. Why does he do this? Because he's the villain, and he has to do villainous things to show how much his character has changed. That, and the writers have pretty much fucked up everything about Doom, from him being a pretentious hipster/computer genius to now being a generic antagonist. What's really sad is that Tony Kebbell played such a complex and sympathetic bad guy last summer as vengeful ape Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, who's motivation was strung out of hatred and anger towards the humans for torturing and experimenting on him before the Simian Flu drove his captors to the edge of extinction. Back to his grand scheme: He wants to build a portal from the Negative Zone and use it to suck up Earth's resources in order to grow the new world, which brings up a few questions:

1.) Why did he have to wait for Area 57 to build another portal to get him off-planet if he had the means to transport himself back this whole time?
2.) How the hell is that even possible?! Once he does open the portal from his end, and it does begin to suck up everything from the base of operations to trees and other items, The Negative Zone doesn't begin to flourish, or even change from it's Dark World-like setting. And
3.) Where the hell did this sudden transformation come from? I know he's evil, but please - elaborate, movie! Has he been harboring a deep animosity towards the human race for years? This feels extremely contrived, as if the writers didn't know ow to fully flesh out the primary antagonist, which really wouldn't surprise me if that were the case. At least with Michael Shannon's General Zod, you understood his position about being bred to protect Krypton and save his people, regardless of whatever means he needed to take to accomplish those ends. Here, Doom is just acting evil because the plot says so.

Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben somehow follow Victor to the Negative Zone, despite taking the transporter with him when he escaped, know what? I don't care at this point. The final showdown consists of dodgy visuals and an uninteresting confrontation because we know hardly anything about these characters, what motivates them and why they're trying to stop their former colleague from destroying the world, making the final battle a boring affair. The foursome defeat Doom, save the Earth from annihilation, and are given a base of operations by the government to continue their research.  Yep - no oversight of any kind, just say yes to all of our demands!

If the ending to this review sounds rushed, it's because that's how the ending to Fantastic Four feels: rushed and in a hurry to salvage a shitty movie brought about by poor writing, atrocious dialogue, lazy characterization, and wooden acting by everyone involved. The young core of Teller, Jordan, Mara, Bell and Kebbell are all proven and capable of giving solid performances, but Kinberg and Trank give them little to work with. I get the director's approach - crafting a character-driven, gritty popcorn flick, but the execution is so poorly done that you can see just how in over his head Trank really was with the project. The visual effects look cheap and don't blend into the rest of the picture, the action scenes are just tedious and boring to look at, mostly because the film doesn't really give the actors room to play with their given abilities, and the overall look of the film, with it's brooding color palette, takes itself so damn seriously that there's not much fun or enjoyment to be had.

There's plenty of finger pointing about what went wrong with this reboot, with articles and articles discussing the film's troubled production timeline, ranging from how Trank himself acted unprofessional and openly hostile towards the crew, to how Fox hated the original cut and all-but booted him from reshoots and post-production, in addition how the studio allegedly changed the script before production began. How much of this bears truth is probably somewhere down the middle, but one thing can't be denied: it's perhaps the worst superhero movie since...well Fox's own X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Joel Schumacher's infamous Batman & Robin and a disjointed mess that makes me rethink some of my harsh criticisms hurled towards Terminator Genysis, namely that it was the worst summer movie I've seen and the worst movie I'd seen in 2015.

Zero stars out of ****


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