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Reality Check: "Fantastic Four" is Even Worse Than You Thought


Reality Check: “Fantastic Four” is Even Worse Than You Thought

Looking for something to do this weekend? Don’t see Fantastic Four.

That’s probably an unnecessary warning, right? Considering the film was projected to make over $40 million in its opening weekend (not the best haul to begin with), but it could only muster somewhere around $26 million, I guess not many people are as masochistic as I am. And if you didn’t happen to see it when it was shiny and new, an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a Cinemascore grade of C- is probably enough to dull any interest.

But just in case you get any crazy ideas, let me tell you it’s not just the characterization, dialogue, effects, pacing, plot and climax that bring this movie down. The science is really, really bad, too.

And you know me. That’s not always a dealbreaker, but like when Matt Hawkins went out of his way to justify the fictional science of IXth Generation, the makers of Fantastic Four wanted everyone to be sure that, “Like, this could really happen, okay?”

“I liked how the science felt real,” producer Simon Kinberg said about the Ultimate Universe version of the Fantastic Four, in an interview with Comic Book Resources. Kinberg explained that too many other comics feel “supernatural,” but the Fantastic Four is often more grounded.

“It was a lot of that real science that we tried to bring to the film, and hopefully do,” Kinberg said.

Well, you know what they say, Simon. Hope in one hand and shit in the other ….

Reality Check: "Fantastic Four" is Even Worse Than You Thought
The guy made of rock is super realistic. I’m sure he sweats through his eyeballs.

A Long, Strange Trip

The film begins with young Reed Richards’ description of quantum teleportation. That is actually a real thing, so I’ll give them credit for that. But there’s an enormous gap between what it can actually do and where the FF end up. Quantum teleportation takes advantage of a weird phenomenon called “entanglement.” It’s one of those things that’s so counterintuitive, it made Einstein queasy, and he more or less refused to believe in it.

Here’s the basic idea. If you can “sync up” two atoms or photons in what’s called a quantum state, you can separate them by great distances and still change what’s happening with one by affecting the other. “Spin” is the property most commonly used as an example. If one atom in a quantum state is “spinning” in one direction, then the other has to be spinning in the opposite direction. If you change the spin of one atom, the spin of the other changes, too – even if those atoms have been moved apart and are now miles away from each other.

A crazy concept, but it’s been done! The record distance “teleportation” – if you can even call it that – is only about 60 feet for a particle, but a whopping 90 miles for a photon, as transmitted through fiber optic cable. That’s one of the problems. In quantum teleportation, you still need to send something to communicate the information. This could theoretically be done with lasers, rather than cables, but it hasn’t been accomplished yet.

Sound like what happens in the Fantastic Four movie? No? Because it isn’t! While quantum teleportation can be performed with atoms, many are doubtful it could work with molecules, the bonded combinations of atoms. That’s okay, there are only 7 billion billion BILLION molecules in the human body. And what about all the stuff going on in the synapses between brain neurons? You know, the things that make you you? We have very little understanding of how that works, so I’d be afraid that the guy who ends up on the other end wouldn’t be as much like me as I’d hope.

Let me reiterate that: the guy who is “teleported” isn’t really me. Remember that in quantum teleportation, only information is moved – not the particles themselves. So if you could somehow entangle 7 billion billion BILLION molecules with another 7 billion billion BILLION molecules, and set up a quantum teleporter between where I am and the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse, New York, the guy eating ribs with bikers would really just be a copy of me. I’d still be sitting here at my desk. And then I’d get jealous of the quantum clone. That’s no way to live.

Reality Check: "Fantastic Four" is Even Worse Than You Thought
Those other chambers must be full of organic molecules, just swimming around, waiting for someone to “come back.”
So if you need to set up all those entangled molecules at your intended destination before you even leave, how do you quantum teleport to a dimension you’ve never been to before? Simply put, you don’t. Sorry, space-suited wunderkinder.

Black Holes and Baby Universes

And what the hell do they mean by “dimension,” anyway? I know of four – time plus the three spatial ones. Are the Fantastic Four actually being shrunk down to see the tiny, curled up dimensions predicted by string theory? I thought they went to Planet Zero, not the Microverse.

Of course the characters really mean that they went to a different universe, not dimension. I might normally give the filmmakers a pass here, as it’s a common mistake, but my tolerance has been diminished by all the rest of the suck.

Speaking of sucking, why are there black holes everywhere?! Some characters were worried at the beginning of the movie that the quantum teleportation device would create a black hole, much like a few real people freaked out when the CERN supercollider was first turned on. It was thought possible that the instrument could indeed create micro black holes – it hasn’t happened, as far as we can tell – but they’d be so small they’d evaporate almost instantaneously, posing no danger to anyone.

Except maybe Reed Richards! 20th Century Fox leaned on this hard science stuff so much that they even tried to come up with sciencey-sounding explanations of the Four’s powers in a promotional video. Reed’s abilities are probably the hardest to seriously justify in all of comicdom, but I don’t think it has anything to do with “micro black hole energy,” guys. Did you mean mass, not energy? And what does it actually do? Are we supposed to imagine micro black holes moving around in Reed’s skin, stretching matter as they flit about? Don’t introduce a ridiculous idea and not go all the way with it, goddamnit!

Then there’s a black hole at the end of the film that looks more like a trash vortex in the East River. What do these people think a black hole is? Forget why this film is such a jumbled mess, that’s the question I really want answered.

Reality Check: "Fantastic Four" is Even Worse Than You Thought
That’s not what a black hole looks like? Hawking was wrong again!

Quick Hits

The newest Fantastic Four film really does seem like a deliberate attempt to do everything wrong that you possibly can in a movie, and that goes for the science, too. I can’t think of a single thing said or done that wasn’t at least fuzzy, if not exactly wrong.

While a probe is on Planet Zero, images are transmitted back for the scientists to view. Um, how? Did they leave a portal open for the signal to travel through? Or is it just raining down, ambient, from the air?

Reed says that ethanol kills brain cells. Think again, genius.

Doom says the energy on Planet Zero is “alive.” I doubt that means it respires and reproduces, but maybe he found the wellspring of chi! I’m now imagining acupuncturists performing transfusions of green goop to balance a person’s life force.

So yeah, to the brave few who’ve already endured the torture that is this new Fantastic Four film, take some small solace in the fact that it hurt me even more. To everyone who’s read reports like this and thought better of it – you’re welcome.

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