So last night, my boyfriend and I decided to start a new tradition – getting together and watching bad movies. Since it was our first “Bad Movie Night” we decided to start off slowly and try some big budget movies that were simply panned by critics or were box office flops. In choosing which movies to view, I wanted to make sure that they were something neither of us had seen already. I also wanted to find movies that targeted different demographics.
The end result was one movie that I initially wanted to see but shied away from due to the consistent negative reviews I saw, Fantastic 4, and one movie I never thought I’d ever watch but was drawn to like a magnificent train wreck, Jem and the Holograms.
And I’m glad I saw these two side by side. Both movies struggle with similar issues. They are both flat movies based on previous work with a devoted fanbase, featuring a team of four people that have not yet become what their titles suggest. Both feature casting decisions that I find questionable and were stylized to attract the wrong demographics.
Needless to say, I had quite a few drinks so I had a great time. Let’s delve in, shall we?
Now there are a lot of critics out there with a lot to say about the most recent Fantastic 4 movie. Some are comic book fans, others simply have a passing interest in the Marvel cinematic universe. Some take issue with the portrayal of Victor Von Doom ( the way he looks, his personality, his powers, etc.). Some wish they had taken the time to explain the whole ‘white Sue Storm adopted by black Dr. Storm’ thing. Some took issue with the effects or lack of effects driven action. With the exception of the last point, I didn’t have a problem with any of these things. My issue with Fantastic 4 was that there was no interesting story. There was hardly any story actually. The little bit that they did have, felt extremely contrived, rushed and under developed.
For starters, you have our main character – Reed Richards, boy genius – who has inexplicably cracked inter dimensional travel (or at the very least teleportation) and attempts to show it off at his high school science fair… I was about to turn off the television and call it a night but decided to give it a shot. His high school science teacher, who apparently has been following him since elementary school, calls it a magic show and stomps off but all is not lost. Sue Storm and her father Dr. Franklin Storm happen to be at the science fair… scouting… and very matter-of-factly inform him that he has, indeed, cracked inter dimensional travel and scoop him and his non ‘sciencey’, button pushing friend to their institute. And just like that, Reed is heading up a huge project to send people to another dimension. However, the big bad government wants to come in and send their people first, so Reed and his new buddies Victor Von Doom and Johnny Storm get drunk and decide to go for an inter dimensional joyride.
It was at this point that I realized, this movie fails at making a valid argument for our protagonists, as all their actions thus far only go to prove that the military industrial complex that they attempt to vilify… is actually right. I mean, these are kids! Reckless, stupid kids!
Anyway, as you’d imagine, someone has to touch the glowing green stuff and all goes to hell. Victor falls to his apparent death in an explosion of green energy and the faulty trip back to Earth causes Reed, Johnny, and poor Ben (who was pulled into this clusterf*ck from his comfortable bed) to mutate. Sue is also mutated when she’s hit with the shock wave caused by their faulty return home. The mutated teens are whisked away to a secret government facility where they are being observed. Reed manages to escape because, I guess everyone was too distracted watching the black kid burn or maybe they were on lunch. He can stretch his body and just slips from his restraints.
THIS IS DUMB. They knew he could stretch. They had his body stretched. Escaping was possible by him un-stretching himself. That’s it… And they’re behaving as though they already have plans to use these people as weapons. How do they know they’re going to LIVE long enough to be weapons. Hardly any of them have even regained consciousness! They could wake up for an hour and then MELT for all they know. But whatever.
Reed goes on the lam for a year for… reasons, and the military begins their devious plan of using the remaining three as soldiers under the condition that they will find a cure for them. I suppose this is done so that we don’t have to waste time watching them discover and hone their new powers or actively look for a cure on their own, or become heroes. Instead we can rush ahead and introduce the teams resentment towards Reed for abandoning them. They use Sue to track down Reed, which apparently no one was able to do using the full might of the U.S government and they find Reed hiding out in Panama doing his own research. Ben, now a rock monster, brings him back while throwing him some serious shade. Within an hour of being back Reed fixes the problem that they’ve been trying to fix for a year and they immediately send a team back to the other dimension. Everyone pretty much forgives Reed for the whole abandoning them thing too, so that plot point was completely needless. In the other dimension, they find Victor, his suit and the energy from the other dimension having fused into his body. They bring him back for study but as soon as he wakes up he begins killing everyone, vowing to protect his new home by destroying Earth.
The team assembles, they follow Victor to the other dimension, they fight together, and defeat him, then they go back home and demand their own lab from the government. The End. Seriously. That’s it.
As I prepared the next movie, my boyfriend, my sister and I discussed what we thought were the main issues plaguing the film. The general consensus was that the film felt stunted. The decision to have Reed escape and then immediately times skip one year into the future felt like a cop out. There is a brief demonstration of their new powers, they track down Reed, and life goes on as normal. The main villains motivation was super contrived and generic. ‘Humans destroy everything so I will protect this new dimension by destroying humanity’. It’s old and played out. There are more interesting things this movie could have focused on. For example, learning and honing their abilities and becoming tools of war for the government, which was so unceremoniously glossed over, could be a movie within itself. Although the film showed promise, too often it seemed like whoever was in charge simply gave up and looked for the easiest way to progress the plot.
The second movie of the night was Jem and the Holograms and it was only half way through this monstrosity that I realized how appropriate this film choice was. Jem is the story of a teenage girl, Jerrica, who is thrust into sudden internet fame when her sister posts a video of her singing onto the internet without her permission. She becomes an overnight viral sensation and is scouted as the next BIG THING. However, the shy Jerrica refuses to go anywhere without her sisters and when she is approached by a corporate big wig she and her sisters strive for fame. But the corporate world of big time music is a cold hard place that threatens to tear the sisters apart. All the while, there is also SYNERGY, a little robot Jerrica’s father made before he died. It magically seems to come to life when Jerrica makes it big (maybe fame is it’s energy source) and takes her on a side adventure; a contrived scavenger hunt through L.A revealing more holograms of her father just basically making home movies.
Honestly, you didn’t need a little robot for that. They already had the technology. It was called VHS.
Eventually their big, bad, mean girl of a boss rears her ugly head when she forces Jerrica to go on as a solo act. She goes on solo and sings a song because she needs the money to make sure her aunt’s house isn’t taken away by the bank (that’s another side plot) but the sudden abandonment causes resentment and hurt feelings among the sisters and Jerrica has to decide whether this is something she truly wants. She decides that she can’t abandon her family, everyone forgives her, they find the last piece of the SYNERGY hologram puzzle which FINALLY REVEALS… that her dad says he loves her… As though that wasn’t evident. I mean he left her a whole scavenger hunt thing and what did he leave his other daughter? Nothing. Not a damn thing.
They decide that they are going to go on together, regardless of what their heartless, mean girl boss says and just before she can stop them, they reveal that they found her late husband’s Will, which puts his son in charge of the company. (The son who happens to have been the one chauffeuring the girls around and who has the hots for Jerrica). So the boy is put in charge, Jem and the Holograms get to perform together, and everyone is happy. But oh no, they have a mid credit scene which hints at a potential sequel!
Yeah, that’s not going to happen.
Much like the Fantastic 4, the passage of time and the young age of our four main characters was an issue for me. With Fantastic 4, the problem was the sudden and (in my opinion) unnecessary time skip dragging out an issue that could have been resolved very quickly. With Jem and the Holograms it was the amazing speed at which everything happened. Jerrica is offered a record deal after one video of her singing gets a couple hundred thousand hits. Within a few days they have an act, they have a crowd of screaming adoring fans, they have one concert, then Jerrica’s being made to go solo. There appears to be no reasonable passage of time. No buildup. It’s what a child might envision sudden fame is like.
And that’s the other issue here. The movie is very childish. It’s geared towards a tween girl audience but the fan base for the cartoon, the people who will come see it on the title alone, are older. The youngest of them would be in their late 20’s early 30’s. They aren’t interested in movies like this.The age of these characters was a warning sign for many fans of the original Jem cartoon that this was going to end badly. It was the same death knell for the Fantastic Four. Granted, none of these actors are teenagers but they are all young and portraying teens fresh out of high school. By aging them down so significantly we diminish any possible accomplishments they can have and relegate them to gifted youngsters that need supervision. Dr. Doom is not a title of accomplishment – it’s a sarcastic nickname. It makes sense that the government wouldn’t allow them to be the first humans to try out inter dimensional travel. They’re children! They are called children several times and are treated as such until the plot calls for them not to be. This holds up for Jem and her Holograms too. These are teenagers. A corporate big wig can’t just come to their house and whisk them away. They are minors. They need a chaperon. And not a hunky guy a few years older than them – I mean, their aunt/mother. How are you negotiating contracts with a minor without their legal guardian?
In general, these were both well made movies with stories that left much to be desired. Were they worthy of the hatred they received online? Maybe. I think some of it was overblown. The effects and tone of the Fantastic Four showed a lot of promise, especially at the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately, it seemed to just give up once they actually had powers. There was also zero chemistry between any of the characters save for Reed and his friend Sam. Jem and the Holograms is a perfectly decent flick but it was on the wrong platform. This was not supposed to be a major motion picture. Change the name, make no reference to the Jem and the Holograms cartoon and make it a made for t.v Disney channel movie and it would have been just fine.
Valiant effort guys. It just didn’t work out this time around. But I thank you. I had no intention of seeing either of these films but the drinks and laughs were worth it.