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Review: Fantastic Four (2015) — Fantastic Faux Pas: Defying the Odds to Become the Worst Fantastic Four Movie

Fantastic Four is back, and this time it’s serious. Luke Miksa reviews:

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Based on the popular Marvel Comics characters, Fantastic Four is another attempt at a big-screen adaptation for Marvel’s First Family. Directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), Fantastic Four (Fant4stic if you’re an idiot) is a more serious take at the origin story of the super-team and follows a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller, Whiplash), a hyper-intelligent young man who is recruited into the “Baxter Foundation” and joins a team including Sue Storm (Kate Mara, House of Cards), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station), and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, RocknRolla). The team develop a transporter capable of inter-dimensional travel, but when the team, including Reed’s childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell, Snowpiercer), encounter problems on “Planet Zero”, they return with their molecules altered, resulting in various powers and abilities which will change them forever.

Fantastic Four is a movie that has been plagued with well documented production problems. I shouldn’t be getting into on-set dramas while reviewing a film, but the squabbles between director Josh Trank and 20th Century Fox have unfortunately manifested into the finished film, which is a jumbled mess of ideas, tone, and plot. What we have with Fantastic Four is two movies. One being the directors vision: a serious scientific exploration into inter-dimensional travel combined with Cronenberg-esque body-horror. The second: an action based movie where the team gets together to stop a cataclysmic event. It’s obvious where the different visions intersect and the resulting mess is the worst-reviewed Marvel-based movie to date.*

A giant blue beam of light pointed skyward? How original.

A giant blue beam of light pointed skyward? How original.

In a reversal of previous incarnations, Fantastic Four is not a fun movie. It is actually so cold and dour that it is often boring. Long-winded techno babble spouted by characters more intelligent than you or I has the potential to be interesting, but Fantastic Four is also incredibly dumb. Why does Ben travel to another dimension when he’s not a scientist? Why was Sue left out? Why does it matter when Sue gets powers anyway? Why are we supposed to like characters that get drunk and get into strife? Why does Doom suddenly turn super-evil? What are his powers and motivations? This movie sets up way too many plots (Reed-Sue-Victor love triangle, Ben upset at Reed for turning him into a living boulder and abandoning him) and then leaves them hanging with no resolution.

It’s a real shame that Fantastic Four has such a talented cast, because each and every one of them is wasted. Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller have both shown incredible spark, and Kate Mara and Jamie Bell are both highly regarded, but their acting in this film is dry and none of the actors exhibit any charisma or charm. I can respect the filmmakers wanting to take the material in a serious direction, but the result is so lifeless and unbecoming of the very nature and spirit of the Fantastic Four. The script fades in and out of quality, and often is pure exposition and horrendously bad. It reeks of re-shoots and over-dubbing.

Doctor Doo-Doo.

Doctor Doo-Doo.

The biggest issue with this film is that it doesn’t have a point. 70% of the film is a slow moving origin story, which by itself wasn’t the worst thing I have ever seen despite being very clinical and lacking any thrills. Once we hit the moment where they gain their powers, the movie suddenly bustles to the finish line, which includes a ‘One Year Later’ time-jump and the most hideously rushed final act in recent memory. It basically means nothing, as the ideas that were established in the elongated first act are never followed through which leaves nothing but a shallow green-screen where plot-points go to die. This movie feels incomplete.

Another issue with Fantastic Four is that the character relationships don’t mean a damn thing. Sue and Johnny Storm have a seemingly interesting backstory — changed from being biological siblings to Sue being adopted, resulting in siblings of different races — and it is completely glossed over. In fact, I can’t think of a single scene where Sue and Johnny show any kind of chemistry you would expect from family. The only pair that show any real spark is between Reed and Ben, but their relationship hits the rocks (!) once they gain their powers.

As far as misappropriated characterisation is concerned, Doctor Doom suffers the most: this Doom is a whiny hipster, and gains unspecified powers while on Planet Zero. A true Doctor Doom is a brilliant tyrant with a scarred face (hence the mask), he is prone to monologuing, and is a brilliant scientist and sorcerer. A grounded depiction of Doctor Doom as a puppet-master would be amazing in a live-action film — think Darth Vader or Lex Luthor — but once again he is relegated to a simple villain with vague powers, abilities, and motivations.

"Yes it's true, this man has no dick."

“Yes it’s true, this man has no dick.”

The rest of the characters don’t fare any better: Johnny Storm has gone from cocky hothead to bland and boring. The Thing doesn’t wear pants, ruining a long-standing superhero secret. And let’s not get into Sue Storm, who as the film’s sole female character, doesn’t even travel to the other dimension when the boys get their abilities, and only gains hers through rudimentary deus ex machina. The only character that gets a fair shake is Reed Richards, and he’s okay at best.

Remember how awkward and stilted the abundance of green-screen was in the Star Wars prequels? Take the worst of those movies and amplify it to get an idea of what the final act of Fantastic Four is like. By this stage of production, it looks as if the actors had given up, as they half-heartedly yell exposition to and fro at Doctor Doom (who has apparently lost the ability to explode heads), while the mediocre CGI swirls around them. Kate Mara’s horrible re-shoot wig may distract you from the sub-par green-screen action long enough for you to make it to the end, where our new heroic team forget about all their past problems to instead partake in some cringe-worthy excuse for banter.

*If you’re wondering, yes that includes Howard the Duck.

Llama Score: 2Fantastic Four is the obvious result of a troubled production, with too many cooks in the kitchen ruining the broth of what may have been an interesting take on Marvel’s First Family. It lacks a clear vision and suffers for it. What a fantastic fart.

Award: The Dr. Ian MalcolmAward: RecycleAward: Cuba Gooding Jr

Highlights Banner

– It’s short. The pain doesn’t last long.

– Dr. Doom exploding heads was kind of cool.

– Potentially this failure means Marvel Studios may regain the film rights to their first superhero team.

Lowlights Banner

– Dr. Doom is wasted, again.

– No joy or humour.

– Obviously the result of multiple cooks in the kitchen.

– If you liked the trailer, most of that footage isn’t in the final cut.

Further Viewing Banner

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Man of Steel (2013)

Grab some fantastic ‘Fantastic Four’ merch from Amazon.

Directed by: Josh Trank Written by: Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater, Josh Trank Produced by: Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Robert Kulzar, Hutch Parker, Matthew Vaughn Starring: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson Distributed by: 20th Century Fox Run length: 100 minutes Australian Release: Out now in all major cinemas
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