Fantastic Four Review
AN UNFANTASTIC REBOOT
Hollywood loves rebooting movies and / or film franchises to the point where it’s almost consider commonplace. The idea is to revamp the movie’s identity (plot, characters, etc,) and make it more fitting to speak towards the current modern audience. While that’s the fundamental premise, some could argue that the film’s industry’s fixation on reboots is to simply “cash in” on today’s current trend, creating the reboot with similar overtones to what’s on the already on the market. Some have succeed in this endeavor (praised by both fans and critics), while others have faded into obscurity. Keeping up with the superhero comic book trend, 20th Century Fox releases the film Fantastic Four (a summer blockbuster reboot from 2005’s Fantastic Four). Will this updated reboot win moviegoers over or is it another failed “get rich quick” scheme by Hollywood?
As a gifted youth, Reed Richards, (Miles Teller) works to create the first teleportation device that could leap science forward, finding assistants from friend, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), who utilizes his family’s junkyard to help Reed assemble his revolutionary dream. Years, later after a troubling presentation at a school science fair, their invention intrigues Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey), introducing the pair to his gifted, but reckless son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), and his adopted genius daughter, Sue (Kate Mara). Together, the foursome perfects Reed’s device at the Baxter Institute with Reed overseeing the construction of his teleportation pods along with project coordinator, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebble). Volunteering to the test the machine, Reed, Ben, Victor, and Johnny are successfully transported to the desolate “Planet Zero”, a harsh alien world where, after an accident, the groups receives strange powers. Returning home from their inter-dimensional voyage, chaos erupts, forcing Reed and his friends to contend with their newfound powers and to stop Victor, whose twisted mind seeks destruction and revenge.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I said previously (in my posts for the teaser and trailers for the new Fantastic Four), I am little perplexed on why 20th Century Fox is rebooting this franchise. For better or worse, the 2005’s Fantastic Four and its follow-up sequel (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) were good for their time. Sure, they were a little bit corny (silly) and not as cinematically enthralling as today’s superhero movies, but they served as part of the foundation of superhero films, paving the way for genre to flourish onward and upward. So my initial feeling about the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot is muddled, feeling like this reboot is superfluous in nature and just a reason for studio heads at Fox to flex their muscles and stake their claim (or rather cash-in) at the superhero movies table. After viewing the movie, I found that Fantastic Four, while somewhat interesting, is a hallow feature that simply lacks a superhero punch of excitement and wonder.
Josh Trank helms this project as his sophomore directorial film. His first film Chronicle, a superhero origin story presented in “found footage” format, was minor box office success, but was praised by fans and critics alike. Unfortunately, Trank, ditching the “found footage” cinematic lens and upgrading to a bigger superhero playground, wasn’t prepared for tackling a summer blockbuster like Fantastic Four. The film’s screenplay (credited to Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater, and Trank himself) tells the tried and true superhero origin story that many have grown accustomed to. However, Fantastic Four tries to deviate from that, opening the film with an extensive first act that introduces its main characters before jumping into comic book frivolities. I actually did enjoy the first act (probably best part of the movie) as it shows each character (pre-fantastic four powers), laying some groundwork for some characterization for the four central heroes and villain. However, when they’re accidentally powers are bestowed upon them, the movie shifts oddly and becomes less interesting.
The second half of the movie (consisting of half of the second act and the dismal third act) is where the movie truly falters. The tone changes completely (I will go further into that below) and the narrative’s pacing becomes haphazard, including a time jump that skips the initial wonderment of the Fantastic Four discovering their newfound powers. There are also certain things that are not explained properly, plot holes are numerous, and certain characters motivations are idiotic and vague. As for the finale in the third act, it’s really anti-climatic and doesn’t feel at all impressive. Even when the Fantastic Four come together (as a team) to face off against Doom, it just doesn’t feel earned. The film’s ending is left with an open door to continue this rebooted saga, but, after this trainwreck of a movie, I think that door has closed.
Another glaring criticism in Fantastic Four is its overall tone. While the 2005 version (and its 2007 sequel) were more lighthearted and a little corny, this new iteration is more serious and edgy. It’s overtly clear that Trank and his team are trying way too hard to distant itself (and its identity) from those particular movies. This “darker tone” undertaking, however, ends up as more of an oddity than a celebrated one. This might’ve worked for a darker superhero film (The Dark Knight Trilogy comes to mind), but feels really awkward for a movie about a rubbery human, an invisible woman, a human torch, and rock humanoid behemoth. Additionally, because of this edgier motif, Fantastic Four loses its comic book fun, leaving out humor for a mostly stern and drab superhero flick. There’s are pockets of somewhat witty banner that’s disguise as humor, but those are few and far between and are not even remotely funny.
With Fantastic Four being a summer blockbuster and with a hefty production of $125 million, one would think that the movie (visually speaking) would be on-par with other superhero movies. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The effects shots for the film are bland and almost date in comparison to other blockbuster movies. Scene like the fire on Johnny Storm’s body look fake and Ben Grimm’s “Thing” body looks dated and unrealistic are prime examples of this. After seeing characters Rocket, Groot, and The Hulk come to life with believable styles (facial expressions, realism, body motion, etc), you would think that Trank or anyone at 20th Century Fox could come up with something better visual effect shots than shoddy that were displayed on-screen. The sets of the movie look okay. Certain scenes look detail with futuristic science tech and / or otherworld environment (Planet Zero), but it’s nothing to be “wowed” over (that’s kind of the understatement of the entire movie). Even the score for the film (which usually I do point out) is not impressive.
Earlier promotions for Fantastic Four were tagline the movie as Marvel’s first “superhero family”. What’s disappointing is that they hardly becoming a family at all. Sure some of them do share comraderie (mostly Reed and Ben), but some of them barely interact with one another. Even Sue and Johnny Storm barely even converse with one another as brother and adopted sister. There’s some bonding in a couple of moments, but not enough justify that they are a superhero family. In truth, while the 2005’s version might be laughed off by some, at least the characters seem to bond and grow into a team by the film’s end.
The actors in the movie are talented individuals and is one of the main points for me initial intriguing me to go see the movie. I like them all (Teller, Mara, Jordan, Bell, Kebbell, Cathey). However, their roles in this movie are generally flat. While they do get certain spotlight moments, it’s just not enough characterization for viewers to buy into or even like their on-screen character. They just come off as hollowed versions of the comic book character counterpoints. An example of this is Kebbell’s Victor von Doom. He has a little interesting premise in the beginning of the movie, but, reappearing again in the third act as the menacing Dr. Doom, becomes the shallow de-facto baddie, who never gets to fully explain how he got his powers and why he’s so destructively evil. Personally, despite what people might say, I actually liked the portrayals in the 2005 Fantastic Four better than the one found this movie.
I really tried my hardest to like new Fantastic Four movie. I really did. Though try as I might to push out my own personal doubts and early negative reviews, it’s hard not to agree with them. To put it simply, Fantastic Four is lackadaisical in all regards. Its story, while interesting for the first act, is both haphazard and vague, its serious and edgy tone doesn’t work well, its characters, while played by talented individuals, are generally flat, its visual effects were bland, and its final act is underwhelming. There just wasn’t any excitement to the movie, leaving a reboot movie that’s as cold and hollow as Kebell’s Dr. Doom. If at all remotely interested in seeing this movie, renting Fantastic Four will suffice, while skipping it entirely will be the best choice. With the film being critically panned, Josh Trank has gone on the record (the internet) and blames the heads at 20th Century Fox for ruining the movie. Whether that’s true or not remains elusive. What is truth is this…..there’s just nothing fantastic about the new Fantastic Four.