There are two kinds of people in this world. There’s the kind who roll their eyes at fodder like Plan 9 From Outer Space, thinking it’s the most painful waste of time imaginable and finding it torturous to sit through. Then, there’s the kind who go out of their way to collect such movies, so they can watch them with just the right group of appropriately inebriated friends who will laugh, cat-call, and jeer the whole way through.
Sadly, I think the vast majority of people heading out to see the latest Fantastic Four movie fall into the former category. They’re going because they want quality entertainment that’s competently scripted, expertly directed, utilizing state of the art special effects to create an action-filled and emotionally engaging narrative. When the film they encounter turns out to fall short of that (and in this case, boy does it ever!) they either dismiss it as a flat out terrible waste of time, or come up with some storyline about how it was trying to do something interesting but just didn’t quite gel because of some variety of factors and hopefully the filmmakers will get it right next time.
However, for people who fall into the latter category — people like myself — this movie really has something special to offer. Hollywood studios churn out lots of second-rate, narratively incoherent, big budget disasters, but it’s relatively rare we get something quite like this! Something that’s so absurd, and at the same time so self-serious, that it becomes an unintentional self-parody.
This is a film that has Reed Richards uttering lines like “Do you ever wonder what our lives would’ve been like if we hadn’t met at the science fair?” and Doctor Doom pronouncing “The end of your world is the beginning of mine!” This is a film with $120,000,000 budget that somehow manages to create some of the cheapest looking CGI effects, as well as the most laughable looking supervillain, in the modern history of comic book movies. This is a film with a grand finale sequence that looks hilariously like the screen capture from a video game. And this is a film with some of the least on-screen chemistry between its cast members of any superhero movie I can think of.
I went into the movie expecting it was going to be bad, and for about the first half it pretty well met my expectations. The story was by the numbers, the characters all had chips on their shoulders, there was a distinct lack of action, and the film was all around lackluster. However, once the characters developed their powers the movie went from merely dull to outright laughable. I had tears streaming down my cheeks for much of the second half of this movie, I was laughing so hard. The last time a film had me going like this one must have either been Sharknado or Troll 2. Since Sharknado is intentionally bad, though, let’s go with Troll 2. Fantastic Four is that level of bad. The kind of bad that only true B-movie fans will appreciate. This is Robot Monster bad, Giant Claw bad, Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy bad! It’s the kind of bad that the average person wouldn’t even pick up on, unless prompted by the robots on Mystery Science Theater 3000!
The dialogue seems like it could have come straight from the pen of Ed Wood. It’s trying to appeal to a younger audience, but instead comes off as something written by an adolescent. Doctor Doom is one of the most hysterical looking screen villains since Ro-Man, the ape creature wearing a diving helmet, in Robot Monster. The earnestness with which the lead characters express their shock and horror at their bodies’ transformations, after gaining their powers, is so straight faced that it comes off as pure comedy rather than the “grim and grounded” effect the filmmakers were going for. It’s like “Oh no, my arm’s stretching halfway across the room? What’s happening to me? Ahh, I’m in hell!!! The horror, the horror!!!” It’s so absurd, and yet played as something so deadly serious, that it’s totally laughable.
In summary, Fantastic Four is one of the most hilariously bad movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve been truly astonished by the number of reviews and comments I’ve read that seemed to think this had some good elements, and could have been a good movie if they’d only changed this or only included that. From my perspective, this film displayed a Sharknado level of ineptitude. It deserves to be shown on double bills with Troll 2 or Plan 9 From Outer Space. It gets everything wrong and does so with such seriousness and earnestness that it becomes one of the great self-parodies in B-movie history. I haven’t laughed this hard at a movie in years. I can’t wait to see what the RiffTrax guys do with this one!
Hollywood studios churn out lots of second-rate, narratively incoherent, big budget disasters, but it’s relatively rare we get something quite like this! Something that’s so absurd, and at the same time so self-serious, that it becomes an unintentional self-parody.