Fantastic Four (2015)
Directed by Josh Trank
When the first, big budget Fantastic Four was released in 2005, it became the benchmark for future comic movies. There aren't a lot of ways to go wrong with a comic adaptation: there are [usually] a lot of stories to choose from, the characters are well developed, there's a wealth of information provided, and they even have a fanbase already. Unfortunately, Tim Story's Fantastic Four had become the go-to guide on how not to adapt a comic book. It might be replaced by this reboot.
Josh Trank's portrayal of the foursome is a 100-minute origin story. Reed Richards (Miles Teller), as the central character, is a child prodigy and genius. He's recruited to help work on a transdimensional teleporter by Franklin Storm, the head of a research institute. After successful tests, the government wants to take over the device. In a fit of drunken rebelliousness, Reed, his best friend Ben (Jamie Bell), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and their genius colleague Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) decide to use the teleporter before they're cut out. Their decision sets in motion a disastrous chain of events, as all of them, along with Franklin's adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), are imbued with strange physical powers.
The story itself is nothing special, and comic fans will probably be annoyed by the retcon, changing Reed's experimental spaceship into an interdimensional teleporter. But that isn't such a bad thing. Comic movies frequently tweak things to fit more into a realm of reality, because traveling between dimensions that can give superpowers is more realistic than experimental rockets and space travel. I'm kidding; the change isn't the worst part of the movie, it's just one of many minor flaws.
Drama fans will be annoyed by the utterly mundane script. The dialogue is laughable, filled with asinine, faux-science blurbs like, "His bio-chemistry is off the charts!" and cliffhanger jokes like, "It's amazing... [Thank you.] ...amazing you didn't blow yourself up." They try to push a sense of importance, but the weight of it falls flat under bland writing and a boring story.
Action fans will be disappointed by the complete lack of anything exciting in the movie. Although the marketing campaign seemed to show colorful explosions and bright lights and dramatically foreboding dialogue, there actually is almost no action. M. Night Shyamalan has said that we've moved into an era of filmmaking where blockbusters seem like entirely 3rd act films; they have minimal exposition and sudden, exciting rising action, then the climax is a lengthy, extended conflict. If that's the case, then where is the third act in Fantastic Four? It doesn't seem to have one; rather, Trank has built a movie that has no change in tone or atmosphere, no buildup of tension. This is a 1st act film, devoid of excitement or thrills; it just drags us along.
Admittedly, the movie has a massive amount of promise. The CG is pretty, and the spritely cast are eager in their characters' portrayals. The movie moves along with this lingering feeling that something exciting is going to happen. We learn all about the foursome's powers, how they're trying so hard to control them, to accept them, and to find some ray of hope. But the excitement never actually comes. Just when the ball starts rolling and the fight is about to really get into gear the gear breaks and the fight ends without ever really starting.
If Trank had been trying to make a different kind of superhero movie then it might be acceptable. There are hints of a deeper story. Reed's guilt over turning his friend into a rock thing is fabulously earnest, and the 2 minutes we see it are probably the most well-acted of the film, but that points to a bigger problem. If Trank had some good ideas for character development, some subtext about the creation of interesting character relationships, why the fuck didn't they materialize? Well, it doesn't help that none of the cast members seem to have any kind of chemistry and that their roles seem forced.
You can tell that everyone tried so hard to make a good movie. Trank had some good ideas for character arcs, the producers created a gritty reality, CG artists perfected The Thing's look and design, Doctor Doom seemed crazy and subversive, but all that effort combines into a hodge-podge of a nonsensical story devoid of any heart. With almost chronically bleak, dark photography and a cast of unloveable characters, Fantastic Four is probably the most boring movie I've seen this year.
The movie is like Trank's guide to bad moviemaking. The premise at start was at least interesting because it didn't feel like a superhero movie. It was a science fiction adventure to another dimension with two geniuses at the helm. Then it changed in a weird, "How did they all get different powers if the three of them were literally 2 feet away from each other" sort of way. And Trank tries to build up their characters, but he does it by only showing us some montages of their abilities and some quips of government subterfuge and otherwise stripping them of their personalities. In fact, Ben Grimm only has a few lines of dialogue. There's so much beneath the surface, right there, literally a couple lines of dialogue or good scenes away, but we never get to see it, we just get hints that it exists. The movie can be summed up in a 3-minute scene, that closes the movie, in which the foursome try to think of a name for their team. Its a scene that tries to be funny, to create better character interaction and introduce fun dynamics, but just like the climactic fight scene, if it can be called that, it's too little too late, and mostly just boring drivel that progresses the characters in no way that matters.
Fantastic Four is a waste of effort, time, and millions of dollars. Would it have been so hard to create a character-driven story where the foursome become good friends and then fight amongst themselves as the main story? It would literally be the easiest story to write: the four help build a teleporter with Victor von Doom who creates divisions between the four before they even get powers; after acquiring powers and Doom is isolated or lost in another dimension, the foursome have a disagreement through their differing views about how they should proceed; their disagreement gets violent as Ben, the most obviously transformed, lashes out at the others, causing a four-way battle of explosive proportions; without enough control, they lose sight of the damage they're causing, and Franklin is caught between them as he tries to stop the fighting; his death is the catalyst for them to reconcile differences; they start working to rebuild the teleporter in order to save Doom, who's been isolated and alone, thinking he was left behind. There. I wrote a better movie in 5 minutes. Where's my $150 million?
TL;DR: Maybe any iteration of the Fantastic Four characters is doomed to failure but for what the movie is, it isn't terrible. But it's also not worth $120 million, let alone the cost of a movie ticket. Maybe its an attempt at a different kind of comic movie, a more character-driven one with drama and interesting dynamics... but then again it was marketed as an action blockbuster... In the end, it fails at both. Josh Trank's Fantastic Four is neither action-packed nor dramatic. Maybe wait until it's on Netflix and you need background noise.
- Acting – 6 / 20
- Story – 4 / 20
- Cinematography – 6 / 20
- Soundtrack – 3 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 3 / 10
- Science Fiction – 4 / 10
- Other – 0 / 10