Skip to content

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four (2015) published on


Director: Josh Trank


  • Miles Teller as Reed Richards
  • Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm
  • Kate Mara as Sue Storm
  • Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm/The Thing
  • Toby Kebbell as Victor Von Doom/Victor Domashev

I’ve always tried to hold to the opinion that any film is worth watching once, yes this has lead to some questionable films over the years. Particularly The Twilight Saga. But if I haven’t seen the film then I’m on no position to criticise it. So with the rising price of cinema tickets it forces cinema goers to be more selective of what they see.

On this occasion however I threw caution to the wind, I was also armed with a £6 student ticket and a childlike hope that it can’t be as bad as I’d been hearing. In recent years I’ve also tried to avoid as much supplementary material as possible to preserve the cinema experience with this in mind I’d chosen to not read any reviews and at the time of writing, roughly 24hrs after seeing the film, I’ve still only read two articles on “Den of Geek”, here and here, and the trivia page for the film on IMDB. So with that in mind this is largely unencumbered with outside opinions and influences. But as we all know now, about a week after the films release it has been universally derided.

A word of warning from this point forward there will be SPOILERS.

So what did the film do well?


The Thing; of all the live action versions of The Thing this is by far the best version of the character we have seen so far in cinema. There is real weight to the character, helped by the marvellous sound design, you can feel the solidity to the character as he moves. There is a sense that every movement for the character is pure agony as joints, now turned to rock, grind against one another.


Which leads me to Tranks desire to create a Cronenberg influenced body horror film. Which he does, for about 10 minutes. As events take a turn for the worse and the experiment goes horribly wrong, Tranks Cronenberg influences are clear for all to see. Reed faints upon turning around to see his body stretched beyond reasonable proportions but not before witnessing Johnny Storm as little more than a burnt husk and Ben Grimm a disembodied voice in what appears to be a pile of rumble. Sue we, the audience, have seen struck by a blast of energy from the experiment but it isn’t until a little later on that it is revealed that her body is phasing in and out of reality. Something she has no control over and another nice Cronenbergian touch.


Speaking of Sue, one of the biggest things that sent the internet into melt down was Johnny being African American. Aside from some clunky dialogue between Reed and Sue to explain the mixed ethnicity of the Storm household, the supposed controversy is a non-event. It doesn’t affect the film in any way shape or form.

So what did the film do wrong?

In fairness the film doesn’t specifically do anything wrong, it just doesn’t do a great deal right.

Everybody feels woefully miscast, aside from Jordan. Teller looks uncomfortable, as though he is struggling to get to grips with a role he doesn’t understand. Bell is given almost nothing to do until his transformation, other than chew gum and fold his arms, and even once he is transformed he has very little to really do. Mara also is given almost nothing to do other than being lusted after by at least two of the cast. I was also left confused as to whether Grimm was attracted to Sue as during their one scene together, before the transformation, all Grimm does is stare at her, its neither one thing or another. Just odd.

The transformations of the characters looked wonderfully promising. Following the accident they are all taken to a secret military base, which for added drama during the films conclusion is suddenly adjacent to a heavily trafficked road. The following scenes looked as though they were about to be the standout moments of the film and indeed they were. Sue, as noted, is phasing in and out of visibility, possibly sedated though this is unclear. Johnny who also has no control of his abilities appears to be constantly screaming in pain before the occasionally flare turns everything around him to ashes. Reed is strapped to a table, as we can see in one of the images above, limbs stretched about him like a grotesque vitruvian man. Whilst Grimm is locked away in a darkened room like Frankensteins monsters or Quasimodo.

This is the moment that I thought was going to set this new adaptation apart from other comic book films. Reed crawling, stretching through an air vent, having gained some semblance of control over his wayward limbs sees what has become of his childhood friend. Promises to ‘fix it’ then flees into the wilderness. In previous comic book films, characters have appeared to merely accept what happens to them with little to no issue, be it X-Men or the previous Fantastic Four adaptations.

At this moment I felt like the body horror was going to be played for all the promise that these characters offered. Psychosis, depression and insanity are all potential symptoms for what has happened to these teens. Instead were given ‘One Year Later’ and a montage of the Storms controlling their powers with the aid of some suits developed by the government and apparently none the worse for their ordeal. Grimm has been pressed into military service, though sadly this is only something we see on military monitors. Though it would appear that trousers are optional, luckily though their is no giant rock penis on display to upset the kids.

This weaponisation of the characters makes perfect sense, given that that is usually the first course of action for any ‘civilised’ nation. Nuclear power was most obviously used first as a weapon before becoming a power source, but this like the body horror is yet another missed opportunity for the film as it fails to carry through on this idea.

Doctor-Doom As is Victor Von Doom or Victor Domashev as the character was originally written. The character is introduced as a misanthropic, anti-social loner with a genius level IQ and a healthy mistrust of the government and the militaries potential involvement in the project. This version of Victor is fine for the first half of the film, I can even accept his lusting after Sue, she is pretty much the only woman in the film and therefore the universe. What doesn’t sit well with me is Victor’s motivations for being involved in the project, beyond having the hots for Sue, if he is so opposed to the projects potential to exploit another planet. Maybe its an ego thing, Victor’s desire to always be the smartest person in the room, but sadly this is never really explored. Its Victors ego which eventually costs him as well, he drunkenly encourages Reed and Johnny to be the first to another world with a wonderful analogy where he describes the whole world knowing who Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. But nobody knows the name of the men who actually put them there.

FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Nov. 1961), pg. 9
FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Nov. 1961), pg. 10

For shits and giggles Reed brings Ben along as well. Why? Bros before Hoes? Or probably because Fantastic Four mythology decrees it. Its also a flip of the comic origin of the group where for reasons beyond anyones knowledge Reed and Ben being the only ones qualified to be on the mission inexplicably allow Sue and her teenage brother Johnny along for the ride.

So as we know the trip goes tits up and in this case Victor is left behind seemingly dead, having fallen into what can only be described as green lava, which melts his protective suit. Following this we have the aftermath of the experiment, the scenes at the military base and then following the jump ahead one year Reed is captured in South America because the American Government don’t seem to be able to recreate the experiment of a group of teenagers. Something Reed is able to do in about 10 minutes.

And though I have detailed some of my misgivings about the film, the miscasting of most of the cast, the failure to follow through upon a number of aspects, the body horror and weaponisation of the characters it is at this point that the film really goes off the rails.

A team return to the other planet and find Victor, who has somehow survived for a year and whose suit has been moulded/burnt to torso. Clearly these men have never seen Alien or are aware of any form of quarantine procedures, beyond Hazmat suits, as they bring him straight back to Earth. Sadly from here the film turns into a teenage boy spending his first night with a girl there has been so much build up but then the film is over in the next 10 minutes. The whole final act feels rushed, under thought and is just a mess.

Victor once back on Earth goes Scanners on everyone and starts exploding heads, his reason being that we have ruined Earth so why should we get the opportunity to do it to another planet, and promptly heads back to the other planet where he is followed by the Fantastic Four who promptly set aside their underwritten differences to defeat him and his big glowing light that is sucking the Earth through a portal.


In conclusion:

Like a parent, I’m not angry I’m just disappointed. There was a lot of potential with this film, a move away from the bright, light and fluffy version of the characters from the previous decade but what we sadly get is an uneven film that fails to satisfy anyone.

Continuing story lines: Part 1: Stargate

Continuing story lines: Part 1: Stargate published on 1 Comment on Continuing story lines: Part 1: Stargate

For a lot of people their first entry into the world of comic books is through material derived from comic book sources. Be it Batman through the Adam West series of the 1960’s or the X-Men universe through Fox’s Animated series from the 1990’s. But this isn’t a one way street, many TV and movie franchises have expanded their universes, and additional revenue streams, from telling additional stories whether canon or not in this medium.

One of the most famous examples, until recently, was Dark Horses Star Wars Expanded Universe stories. But Star Wars isn’t alone in expanding its universes via the comic book medium. During the 1990’s, the now defunct, Topps company licensed The X-Files from Fox, before DC and now IDW produced parallel and continuing storylines.

The list of televisual and film franchises that have continued on after the series wrapped or have been cancelled has been covered by numerous people across numerous sites all around the web. But what I’d like to do here is cover series that I feel could and should continue in the comic book world.


First up is the Stargate franchise, considering that the Stargate universe includes the 1994 feature film and three network television shows beginning with SG-1 in 1997, the franchise has been severely lacking in comic book material. Between 1996-97 Entity Comics published a trilogy of stories that follow loosely on from the feature film, and then between 2003 and 2007 Avatar Press published a number of one-shot stories based upon the SG-1 and Atlantis series, and then nothing. Save for an announcement in 2009 from Dynamite Entertainment that they had aquired the rights to publish stories, click here for the story, based upon the Stargate TV universe, the previously mentioned series along with Universe.


But since then nothing not one story, mini-series, special. Not a single thing. And from a company who still continue, on and off, to produce stories based upon the 1970’s Battlestar Galactica, hell they’ve even squeezed out a few stories that have tied together the Highlander films and TV series, Dynamite haven’t exactly been shy about exploiting their various media licences.

So where the hell are my Stargate comics?

Fine SG-1 was largely tied up, I can live with that. 10 seasons and 2 TV-movies tied the show together and gave the characters some finality and conclusion. But Atlantis and Universe both finished open ended.


Atlantis was cancelled so that Syfy could pump all the money into Universe and the proposed film Extinction then got binned because of MGM’s financial issues. The scripts out there its ready to go, so why don’t Dynamite do a Dark Horse and adapt the screenplay, it worked pretty well for The Star Wars and best of all it could give the show some narrative conclusion. Plot threads were left hanging and more questions than answers were provided by the final episode.

stargate_universe-tv-31As for Universe, stylistically different from SG-1 and Atlantis and clearly appearing to do its best to catch some of the slipstream provided by the Battlestar Galactica re-imagining the series lasted 2 seasons before ending on a cliff hanger when Syfy decided they weren’t going to pick the series up for a 3rd season. A TV movie was proposed before nothing happened. So like Atlantis surely there is a market out there for fans of the series wanting narrative closure. The potential for the series is immense, unlike the previous two series Universe opted to go fully CGI with the few alien species the crew encountered and the comics medium is the perfect place to design and showcase a variety of alien beings.

Call this an open letter or just a personal wish list but there is no reason for Dynamite Entertainment to not exploit the Stargate franchise and like The X-Files, at IDW, give us a Season 6 of Atlantis and a Season 3 of Universe.

I invite anyone and everyone to continue this thread, are there series that you would like to see continued within the comic book medium?

Born Again. By Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.

Born Again. By Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. published on

“It’s the eighties. You do what you have to. And you have to do it”


classic-daredevil-story-from-frank-millerWhen Denny O Neil left Daredevil in the mid 80’s Frank Miller was asked to return to the title that made his name. Bringing Year One alumni, David Mazzucchelli, with him to handle pencilling duties Miller scripted Born Again, a story that, for me, is the high point of his career. Choosing to focus on Matt Murdock rather than Daredevil (the red costume only appears at the start and the end of the tale), Born Again starts with Karen Page selling the secret identity of Daredevil, her ex-lover Matt Murdock, for an armful of heroin. This information then works its way up the criminal supply chain till it reaches The Kingpin, who uses it to take away everything Murdock has causing him to sink lower and lower until he hits rock bottom. It is only then that Murdock finds help from the most unexpected of places, giving him the strength to start over.

Born Again is not a happy story. It’s the sort of grim tragedy that was Frank Miller’s stock and trade in the 80’s but it’s also the perfect showcase of his talents. Each character in Born Again has a well-defined arc, with a beginning, middle and end that fall together in such a way that even the smallest touches, such as Foggy Nelson getting a new job have an impact on Murdock’s fall from grace. What’s more Miller writes Murdock, and his enhanced perceptions, in a way that makes Hell’s Kitchen come alive. Electricity hums, horns blare, ribs pop, the reader gets to experience what it is truly like to be Matt Murdock and so, when his world collapses, we feel it all the more keenly.

Given that Miller was just as famous for drawing Daredevil it’s a wonder he didn’t pencil Born Again too but David Mazzuchelli’s art, coupled with Christie Scheele and Richmond Lewis’s colours, brings a sense of realism to the table that Miller’s artwork lacks. It’s not that Miller’s artwork is bad, but his characters often look a little cartoony whereas Born Again is a more grounded story. As such Mazzucchelli’s art lends Millers narrative a sense of grandeur without losing touch of its more human elements.

daredevil kingpin born again

The title Born Again has obvious religious connotations and the book is draped in Judeo Christian symbolism (Murdock’s walk through Manhattan in chapter 3 mirrors the Stations of the Cross and the start of Chapter 4 finds the Devil striking a particularly Jesus Christ pose) but Miller and Mazzucchelli are actually concerned with a more material idea in Born Again, which is the divide between the rich and poor and the influence that those with money have over those in power and how they use it to affect the lives of those with none of either.

In the early 1980’s America had experienced the worst recession since The Great Depression. Unemployment had been high and budget cuts across the country, as well as some insensitive statements by then president Ronald Regan, had left the working classes feeling that the people in charge were out of touch with their needs. Miller and Mazzucchelli play on these ideas from the outset. Starting in a crack den on page 1 before moving to the upper levels of a skyscraper on page 2 and then a yacht owned by the Kingpin on page 3 Born Again constantly contrasts the Haves with the Have Nots. The Kingpin is always surrounded by his ill-gotten wealth in panels that are a stark contrast to panels showing Murdock’s physical and mental decline. Miller also used Born Again to revisit the disust of those in power, a theme he had touched upon in The Dark Knight Returns. Even though details of the Iran Contra affair hadn’t hit the news at the time of Born Again’s publication in 1986 it’s hard not to see an echo of the scandal in the story’s conclusion as Hell’s Kitchen gets turned into a warzone when the Kingpin utilises a super powered government tool for his own devices.

With its focus on wealth and poverty, as well as its suspicions of government control, it’s easy to see why Born Again still resonates with modern readers. However it isn’t entirely perfect. I often refer to it as the first part of the Karen Page Trilogy and yet reading it again I see what a rough deal she gets throughout the story. Frank Miller has never been kind to women in his writing and Born Again is no exception as the female characters always seem to require saving by a man. It is somewhat ironic that for a book whose ideas that are still relevant decades later its treatment of women dates the book more than anything. But it’s ok, things turn out quite well for Karen because she goes to Matt and asks him for help and this is where we hit upon another interesting point.

At his lowest ebb, Matt sees Foggy as abandoning him for his new job and girlfriend (who also happens to be Matt’s ex), but in truth Foggy never stops looking for his friend. Matt can’t see this because he is blinded by his circumstances and it’s not until Matt accepts help that he is able to pull himself out of the hole he’s fallen into and start again. The same is true of Ben Ulrich, who finds the courage to speak out, and this is core theme of the book: Times are hard and it’s ok to ask for help if you’re in need and that if we all chip in and help each other we might just be able to make things better between us all and that if you see the Haves exploiting the Have Nots then you need to stand up and say something…

Dardevil - flames… Which makes it all the harder to understand why, 25 years later Miller wrote a, quite frankly insane, diatribe criticising people for doing exactly that. But hey who am I to question “the goddamn Frank Miller”? (Copyright Seb Carey 2015).

Either way Born Again is a classic that is well worth your time and can be purchased from all good retailers or borrowed from Jon.

Secondary Sidebar