Darke Reviews – Fantastic Four (2015)

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been dreading this movie since the first trailer landed. All I could think of was how much it reminded me of the final beats of Mass Effect 3 (which we all know is epic). That the casting looked horrific for some of the critical roles. I am not talking the fact that Sue & Johnny are part of a mixed race family either. That is 100% irrelevant if the casting is good. Remember the Daredevil movie? I know some of you just winced and went for the nearest blunt object to bash your heads in; however Michael Clarke Duncan was a perfect Kingpin. I am talking about the fact that they barely looked old enough to shave. Ok, your argument is the studios change characteristics of thematic characters all the time. Wolverine isn’t a short, squat, lumberjack. Rogue wasn’t a southern belle. Storm wasn’t someone who can actually act. These kind of changes happen all the time and if done well; such as Wolverine, Beast, and Quicksilver can be an improvement and enhance the film.

So did they enhance the film or was it as bad I thought it would be? Spoiler free as always!!

Let us pause and examine the writers before all else. We hit the three writer rule, excluding ‘characters created by’ credit to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Screenplay credits go to Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater, and Josh Trank (also the director). I will talk about Trank in a minute. I do not know, nor want to know, who did what at which part of the development process. Slater has one credit prior to this, the much maligned and forgotten Lazarus Effect from earlier this year. I cannot speak to it’s quality not having seen it. Kingberg. I must ask myself why people give him work. He is so hit and miss, but mostly miss that I can see where so much of this train wreck came from. xXx: State of the Union, X-Men 3, Jumper, all are his. Yet he also has a hand on Sherlock Holmes and Mr. & Mrs Smith and several episodes of the fan favorite series Star Wars Rebels. Maybe the lesson here is that he needs to stick to TV?

Trank. Tank. Yep, bout right. Josh Trank has but one film credit prior, the quite spectacular Chronicle. This is what gave Fox the idea he would be good to direct this. I mean it was about a bunch of teen “heroes” with powers, so thats good enough right? Fox really needs to stop thinking. It rarely ends well for anyone involved when it comes to fandoms. What at first feels like a man with vision and clear ideas on how to do something new has turned into a nightmare with a 9 figure budget proportion; an estimated $120,000,000. With his hand on the script as well, Fox having their hand in the pot as producers, and Kinbergs previous work so much becomes clear to me; yet I am left with a profound sense of despondency.

The story begins with young supergenius Reed Richards and his friend Ben Grimm determined to make a device that allows teleportation. Enter Dr. Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter Sue who find interest in Richards work and bring him to the Baxter building to further his research and take it to the next level. Of course this cannot be done alone and others must be enlisted to finish the project; including Ben and Johnny. When the incredibly young scientists use their teleportation device they end up in another dimension when something goes wrong….

This is more or less where anything resembling a plot ends. After that the movie meanders aimlessly for the remaining hour without once giving me an “Oh yeah that was awesome” moment. How does a comic book movie do that? Rather how does it fail to do that?

First it takes actors who are actually rather good and sucks all the charm and charisma out of them nearly as bad as M. Night Shyamalan can. Miles Teller, best known for Whiplash, the Divergent series, and Footloose, has a natural charisma to him that you like him even when he is a jerk. He is the *only* one who shows any sign of his potential here. He has the chops to try to pull off Reed but is failed by the script and director so horribly I forgot he was actually supposed to be Mr. Fantastic and he just comes across as a moping science dude. Kate Mara (Shooter, House of Cards), another actress who can do most anything. She is far more believable as a scientist than Alba was, yet once again her own gifts are drowned out by a humorless script that gives her absolutely nothing to work with. I can count on one hand the number of smiles I saw from her in the film. Rising star Michael B Jordan (Chronicle, Creed, The Wire) is another person who should have done well. I mean Johnny Storm isn’t that hard to play, without even comparing him to Chris Evans performance, he just comes across petulant and dull. How do you make the Human Torch dull? He turns into living fire! How can you make that boring? Even Jamie Bell (Snowpiercer, TURN, Adventures of Tin Tin) just is so bland that he could become forgettable without the FX work that makes him The Thing.

I cannot recall a single emotion on this film regarding our heroes. Not one. No joy, no excitement, not even anger or sadness. Not a single emotion was felt towards them, and nary a smile was to be seen on my face. What little good will the actors were able to bring with the performances they tried to give us was destroyed by Tim Blake Nelson’s Dr. Allen. Rarely in my life have I wanted to watch someone truly suffer; which I suppose means the actor did ok, but he was just so damn annoying and stereotypical that I hated him for those facets alone. You may note at this point I have not mentioned Victor vonDoom, played by Toby Kebbell (Wrath of the Titans, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Sorcerers Apprentice). All I will say on the topic is he is actually, and somehow impossibly, worse than Julian McMahon in the original two films with the same role. It is godawful. He is godawful. I do not wish to see his career end as I am certain the bad story, bad script, bad directing, bad production design hurt anything he could possibly do.

The *only* thing that works. The effects for The Human Torch and The Thing. Thats it. Every other effect is bland, forgettable, and ultimately as dull and lifeless as the rest of the film. Some effects were clearly inspired by superior material from other sources such as Mass Effect and Halo. Thats right folks, video games look better than this did. From a color perspective, and sit down for this, Man of Steel and the recent Batman movies seem bright and cheerful by comparison. The movie is dark, dingy, and at times even dirty. It probably is what makes The Thing look good since the lines can be hidden, but the reality is the movie looks so bleak and dirty that Gotham city is considering suing for identity theft.


Jess, where is the hate? Where’s the Die Hard levels of vitriol we were hoping for?

I am sorry. I cannot hate this movie more than it hates itself. I would love nothing more than to tell you this is a pile of fetid refuse hiding in the remains of six week old chinese food, left in the bog of eternal stench, after being coated in the bile of a rabid howler monkey that smothered it in rotting durian fruit. I would love to tell you that I hate this more than I do World War Z.  I would love to tell you that the raw putrescence of the film is so gag inducing that those who suffer from Bulimia will be able to watch this to trigger their condition. But I can’t.

This movie hates itself more. It hates science. It hates the characters. It hates the actors. It hates color. It hates laughter. It hates happiness. It hates chemistry (literal and figurative). It hates the military. It hates the government. It hates the source material.

Most of all it hates the audience.

I watched this so you don’t have to. Save your money. Do not let them think we should go ahead and make the sequel.

Please for the love of all you hold holy, unless you are being dragged to this do not see it. If you must, be drunk. Be stoned. Be in some kind of altered state. You might find enjoyment somewhere in this soulless mass of self loathing celluloid; at the very least you won’t care.

I know I didn’t at the end.

Darke Reviews | The Thing from Another World (1951)

I am ending the month of reviews with the film that I answer the question: “What’s your favourite movie of all time to?” when asked. No it’s not what I put for security questions that ask the same. I am insane, not stupid. I have seen this twice on the big screen by pure luck and enjoy it every time. I avoid the colourized version when possible and suffer through it when not. It’s important to note, when looking at the genre of Sci-Fi this is one of forerunners of the modern alien movies. Coming out in 1951 it was part of the rise of cultural xenophobia and anti russian sentiment growing in the US during the post war environment. We were already at war in Korea during this and the Russians were the boogeymen. The boogeyman can’t be a man though, not really, not then anyway, it had to be something else, something Alien perhaps?

The Day the Earth Stood Still had not come out yet that year, and the genre of science fiction has been around on screen for as long as we’ve had screens. It’s been on the air since well we had airwaves to transmit for entertainment. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, a little thing called War of the Worlds? Novels of such things have existed even longer with a mother of science fiction in Mary Shelley, and those who followed such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. The 30’s saw a rise in pulp fiction, with such literary greats as Robert E Howard and H.P. Lovecraft; or even a certain man (he might even be called super) created by Siegel and Shuster. Yet, with all of this background the idea of alien films was still very new and this is among the earliest and due to two factors more overlooked. The first factor is the Robert Wise production of The Day the Earth Stood Still, one of the top films of the same year. It would be like me asking you what other Sci Fi movie came out the same year as Independence Day, you probably can’t, and that’s ok. Some films are just so big they overshadow the rest.

The second factor leaving this one overlooked and underrated is John Carpenter. In 1982 he released his take on the same story. Both films are based on a story called “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell. While, per usual, I haven’t read the original story the Carpenter version is attributed to being more accurate to the xenophobic fear that the story espouses. Carpenters version is also widely praised by cinephiles and fans of both sci fi and horror. It’s practical effects are still a benchmark. With all of this in mind, I do prefer this film.

Let’s talk about the film in the usual way shall we?

The credited director is Christian Nyby, with this as his first film. He then moved to TV and never quite looked back with dozens of TV shows to his credit through 1975. IMDB indicates there is an uncredited director – Howard Hawks, who was also the producer. Hawks worked on some of the greatest war movies and most memorable westerns of all time, with Sergeant York (a joke in the movie I realize now), Air Force, Rio Bravo, and El Dorado; he was even the director on the Marilyn Monroe classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). So the sharp direction, wit, and conversations through the movie. For 1951 it has excellent blocking and timing with the understanding that editing was more difficult back then.

The script was written by Charles Lederer, who had been writing for two decades prior, and worked with Hawks on several films after. Probably one of the most famous films he worked on was the original Ocean’s Eleven and Mutiny on the Bounty. I think it was this man that probably inspired most of what I like about the film, the dialogue. While analyzing it as an adaptation of the source material it is a fail, for a standalone story it works. It captures the paranoia growing through the country well enough and again is one of the forerunners of alien invasion movies. It also brilliantly doesn’t demonize anyone as so many of the movies in Sci Fi from the 50s and 60’s do. There is a strong anti science sentiment, mostly due to the realization of the nuclear bombs power and that science delivered it, contrasted by scientists still saving us. It’s an interesting mix in film at the time with very strong fear of the nuclear age and those who delivered it to us. This movie lets science show it’s curiosity as much as it’s caution with several of the scientists arguing amongst themselves as to how to proceed, and I admire that. Along with this, we get a strong female who has a sexual identity of her own that helps drive the backstory/lovestory between her and the main protagonist. It’s not forced, in fact it feels very real and natural as written. The rest of the dialogue through the film almost reminds me of Aaron Sorkin on the West Wing, it is witty, quick, and relies on strong chemistry with the cast.

I wish I could say more about the cast beyond that strong chemistry. Everyone in the film is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. Kenneth Toney (Capt. Hendry), Margaret Sheridan (Nikki), Robert Cornthwaite (Dr. Arthur Carrington), and Dewey Martin (Bob..seriously); all of them were great. They played their parts well, felt like a real crew who knew each other and it was warm despite the climate. The relationship between Hendry and Nikki was absolutely believable and honestly a bit racy for the 50s; especially where he lets her tie him up for a date. Carrington’s obsession with science is portrayed as reasonable at first and grows less so, but at the same time you cannot help but appreciate his arguments – Cornthwaite is responsible for that.  Bob is every sergeant story I have ever heard since. He knows all, sees all, and a good captain and officers wisely listen. They do. They even joke about it. It works.

There is of course, James Arness, who is our visitor. His name, unlike the others who vanished in to relative obscurity even with long careers, is known as Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke. They used his 6’7″ (2.01 meter) frame to full advantage which made him an imposing monster on screen.

I can’t say much about the technical aspects, it’s 1951. What they do – works rather well.


This is one of the great sci fi movies of all time and it doesn’t get nearly enough love. If you want to check it out, I highly recommend it.