A far cry from a fantastic origin story.
Josh Trank’s reboot of Fantastic Four begins by introducing the audience to a young Reed Richards played by Owen Judge. As a middle school student, Reed is constantly mocked by his classmates as well as his teacher for being such a science geek. Seven years later, Reed has successfully created a miniature teleportation machine which he entered into his high school science fair. The judges quickly write off Reed’s science project as a stupid magic act and immediately disqualify him from the contest. A few moments later, Reed is visited by Dr. Frankin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue (Kate Mara) who recruits him to come work for the Baxter Industries.
While adjusting to his new life at Baxter Industries, Reed is placed on a team with Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), Sue Storm, and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan). Together, the group must find a way to sucessfully build a machine that can teleport humans to another universe. It isn’t long after the gang finishes the machine that the US Government steps in and tries to take control of the machine. Determined not to let the Government take credit for their invention, Reed and his team members as well as Reed’s middle school friend Ben (Jamie Bell) test the machine to mark their place in history.
While visiting this unknown universe, the gang is met by a glowing green energy field that causes one of the members to be left behind while the others return to earth with unique powers. After seeing their unique powers, the government decides to bargain with the gang to use their powers as a way to perfect the military while the government attempts to rebuild the broken teleportation device and reverse their powers. Everything seems to be going according to plan until the government sends a new team into the alternate universe where they are met by the left behind team member who has somehow survived living in the alternative universe for over a year. Upset that his government and friends left him to die, Victor Von Doom will now stop at nothing to destroy Earth as we know it.
I think out of all the recent superhero films to be released over the past few years, this Fantastic Four reboot was one that most felt uncertain about. The Fantastic Four comic book series which I think many would agree with me, is well-written and features well-crafted characters that are likable, fun, and interesting. Most importantly, the Fantastic Four comics tell a really cool story that involve science fiction and humor. The three previous Fantastic Four films, for lack of a better term, weren’t so fantastic. I think knowing the background of this franchise, comic book fans as well as movie fans alike are all weary about this latest take on these beloved superheroes.
Sadly with all that being said, Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is mediocre at best. I honestly have never seen a film with so many cool elements to it that just didn’t go anywhere. There is so much build up that ultimately leads to nothing at all. The entire first half of the film is spent watching this group of friends bond and build this really cool machine together. The machine that they are building should be incredible but yet the script does nothing to captivate the audience. What makes it worse is that as the film keeps going, there should be this level of suspense that builds, however, that doesn’t happen either. Its pretty incredible that is so much going on yet none of it is remotely interesting. Don’t even get me started on the lack of screen time that Dr. Doom gets in the film. He’s such a critical character in the comic and is just completely wasted here.
With all the character backstory and story setup, I still feel as if I knew nothing about these characters and was never given a reason to care about them. One can easily blame the script for a lot of the film’s flaws but it isn’t just the script that doesn’t work here. It really is a combination of everything including the script, actors, and the director.
I have gone on record already that I truly believe Miles Teller is an incredible actor. The problem, however, is whenever he takes on these studio projects, he just doesn’t shine. While Teller is the strongest and most likable member of the cast, he still doesn’t have what it takes to make the audience care. Once you add in the other talented actors like Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara, you really have to start asking yourself, “where did this all go wrong?” I seriously couldn’t believe that I spend 100 minutes watching three of the strongest up and coming young actors in Hollywood and somehow, Josh Trank and this script couldn’t make me connect with any of them.
What made the performances even worse is that on top of being unable to connect with any of their characters, most of the cast was painful to watch at times. Out of the five main leads, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell are pretty neck in neck for the worst performance, however, it is Tim Blake Nelson who plays Dr. Nelson that was the absolute worst. Nelson, who has been in over 100 different films and television shows, is just so incredibly over the top and tries so hard to come off as menacing.
I absolutely loved Chronicle and felt it was a breath of fresh air to the superhero and shaky-cam genre. Whatever happened between Trank’s transition from Chronicle to Fantastic Four is really unknown. To be completely honest while watching this film it felt like Fox just paid Trank to direct a film that he knew nothing about and didn’t care about at all. Its like they gave him a budget and told him to pick some young actors who will sell tickets but won’t cost them a lot. I really don’t get the casting here and I don’t get direction here. All these people have talent yet it all goes to waste in this film.
All in all, even though this review comes off as super negative, I will admit that I didn’t hate sitting through Fantastic Four even though I wish I received some sort of payoff for spending 100 minutes with these characters. This was a film that would have worked better as a longer film with a really strong second half. It is almost as if the film’s runtime was setting up something great and then the studio stepped in and said, “Sorry, you are out of time and money.” Oh well, hopefully one day Marvel and film fans will get a Fantastic Four film that does the source material justice.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Fantastic Four is a 5 out of 10.