Possible spoilers ahead!
In the all new and very different “Fantastic Four,” Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a young genius whose scientific know how is years ahead of his peers. Starting in middle school, Reed forms an unlikely friendship with classmate Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), the only person that has always encouraged Reed’s scientific pursuits.
For years the pair work together in the hopes of building a working teleportation device. Although truth be told, Ben is just there to hand Reed stuff. After demonstrating their prototype at a local science fair, Reed catches the eye of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who believes Reed’s invention is the key to cracking inter-dimensional travel. After some nerd talk, Dr. Storm recruits Reed to join the Baxter Foundation, a government-sponsored research institute for young prodigies.
At the foundation Reed joins Storm’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) and eccentric tech-prodigy Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) in creating a Quantum Gate, in hopes of using the device to travel to Planet Zero. No clue why they didn’t call it the Negative zone, but that’s the least of this film’s problems.
A preliminary test goes well, but when Reed and his fellow inventors decide to journey through the Quantum Gate ahead of schedule, an accident on Planet Zero leaves each of them with horrifying genetic mutations. And if you read comics, or saw the crappy movies from a decade ago, then you know what those powers are.
By now you know about this movie’s colossal failure. The sad thing is, you can see hints of what a good movie it could have been. At the end of the day, a more grounded Fantastic Four film with an emphasis on characters instead of comedy could have been a welcome change of pace, and would have worked wonderfully well.
The worst part is that the cast’s hard work will go unnoticed by general audiences. Despite the shenanigans during productions, the four leads managed to bring an authenticity to what until now have been cartoonish heroes. And let me be clear: The four leads were the best part of the movie. Without them, this movie is “Catwoman” or “Elektra.”
While Teller, Jordan, Mara, and Bell all delivered solid performances, the choppy editing did not help them one bit. To make matters worse, the 1 hour 45 minute runtime doesn’t leave the cast much room to breath or explore other aspects of their characters. In a longer cut of the film, where the narrative actually examined the group’s friendships, insecurities, and coping, the actors could have raised the bar for personal drama for all superhero movies.
Instead, Josh Trank gives the characters clichés, eye-rolling dialogue, bad supporting work from the miscast Tim Blake Nelson. And if that wasn’t enough, Trank does very little with Toby Kebbell’s Doctor Doom, (more on him on a bit).
There were a couple of things in the movie that I did like, such as: the Baxter Foundation,and that Sue was an accomplished scientist in her own right, and held her own against Reed and Doom. Another plus was that rather than putting Reed and Sue into a romance right away, “Fantastic Four” explored the pair’s friendship and shared thirst for scientific discovery.
One thing i would have liked more of would be more scenes between Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara as brother and sister. There are one or two scenes with just the two of them, but I would have liked to know more about their relationship. What was it like when they were kids? Why haven’t they seen each other in a while Stuff like that.
Anywho, the films falls off the rails once the accident occurs and the titular heroes discover their abilities. Actually, it comes off the rails just before that when Reed, johnny, Ben, and Doom travel to Planet Zero. And if you’re wondering where the heck Sue was, I was wondering the same thing too. Sue gets caught in the explosion when the guys return, and in a blink and you’ll miss it moment, she gets her powers.
By this point in the movie, all the hard work that had gone on in the first act is undone by a place card that reads “One Year Later.” This is followed by fast-moving training montages and convoluted character evolutions, many of which are quickly dropped. Action sequences are nonexistent until the final battle, which is so bad (and brief), that it makes the climactic battle in the 2005 movie look epic.
But easily the biggest disappointment of the film is Doctor Doom. “Fantastic Four” reduces one of Marvel’s best, and most intelligent villains, into an uninspired crazy person with simple motivations. There’s no back story to the guy, no explanation on how he survived on Planet Zero, or why he hates humanity so much. And I’m not even gonna mention Doom’s design or powers because I don’t want to waste anyones time.
While Fox deserves its share of blame, most of the blame has to go to director Josh Trank. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Josh Trank was not ready for a production this size. Maybe the studio was hoping the up an coming director would bring something fresh to the table, and he did to a degree: In just a couple of years he repeatedly angered the fan base “Fantastic Four” would need to thrive. Trank treated the cast and crew like crap, destroyed property, and even got fired from his next gig.
The result of all that chaos is a film that’s uneven in every way imaginable (character, story, editing, and special effects). And worst of all, “Fantastic Four” fails at the most basic goal of any comic book adaptation: entertaining the audience.
“Fantastic Four” final score: 4.5