Another summer, another comic book movie that probably shouldn’t have been green lit. Fantastic Four strides into the midst of a so-so summer season attempting to compete against the likes of over-the-top action blockbusters whilst trying to not become yet another failed comic book adaptation. Unsurprisingly, the studio that so proudly brought you X-Men: Days of Future Past is unable to salvage an already tired franchise.
Leading this unneeded reboot is Simon Kinberg who is best known for producing most of the 20th Century Fox Marvel films. One would think his help with the screenplay could launch Fantastic Four into success as seen with the X-Men franchise, but this film ultimately finds no way out of its extreme boredom and slow narrative.
The internet buzz was that the only reason we have seen a continuation of this franchise was so 20th Century Fox would not lose the rights of this property to Disney, owner of Marvel, but the spotlight studio was also praying they could connect the Fantastic Four with the X-Men cinematic universe in the near future. Unfortunately for Fox, I don’t believe many are going to gravitate toward wanting more Fantastic Four standalone films.
Just as we saw with Ant-Man, this origins story is all buildup with no payoff. There is hope though. Perhaps audiences will want to see more now that we have the slow back-story drawn-out and concluded. Now new movies could be made with hopefully a worthwhile storyline. However, Fantastic Four suffers from a lengthy explanation how each character gains their special abilities in a film with nearly zero action until a final 10-minute blowout.
Gone from the 2000s franchise are the bright vivid colors and silly comic one-liners that made the kitschy first two favorable. Instead we are dealt an attempt at a darker, more grounded-to-reality film as if we are able to suspend our disbelief enough to believe four people could somehow mix with parts of another realm in a freak accident causing these elements to become part of bodies. It’s a stretch (pun intended) for sure, and as you can see by my last sentence, a bit hard to briefly describe. Somehow the film spends much of its time in this bleak and other worldly dimension that is never quite explained. The audience is just supposed to accept this hidden world apparently on Earth exist and is possible to visit with endless amounts of science nobody can understand, nor explain in a movie.
Okay, the writers tried to have it make sense, while farfetched, I guess we can let it slide, but that’s the least of the films worries.
This reboot focuses on what leads to the creation of each persons individual “super power” and how they formed into one team. The Fantastic Four is Marvel’s original superhero team, and that’s one thing we need to remember in all of this. Fantastic Four follows a group of the most unlikely of friends who must come together to help build a teleportation machine that leads to an unexplored alternate universe. The film centers around boy genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller) whose brilliance catches the eye of Dr. Frankin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara). After being taken under their wing at the Baxter Institute, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) gets wind and joins the project alongside Dr. Storms troublemaker-of-a-son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan).
Vague government agent Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) takes notice of their invention and plans to get others to take it for the inaugural test-drive. The team not pleased with Dr. Allen’s plan decide to test the teleporter without anyone else’s knowledge only to be met with surprises in the alternate dimensions landscape. Of course everything goes awry and the team is faced with life altering powers. Now bearing bizarro special abilities, the team find themselves with different aspirations and desires with their newly given “gifts”.
The plot is actually quite challenging to tell as the plot does not follow a general formula. It almost reads as television show as one thing leads to the next rather than the bulk of the movie relying on just one or two objectives. This is something that leads to a slow narrative that never takes off. The movie actually feels like it’s just about to get going when the credits roll. This can lead to a possible great sequel, but there is no reward to this one.
While there are plenty of elaborate CGI and unique effects for each of the Fantastic Four’s abilities throughout the entire film, there is rarely any adrenaline. The epic finale even feels a bit lackluster and short. The effects are mediocre and at times even a little hokey, but the star is creativity shown with each persons super power.
Richards stretch-armstrong effects are more elaborate and clever then before, while knowing elasticity always seems like a difficult effect to pull off, they did it well here. Sue’s invisibility shield and so forth works. Johnny’s fiery hell on a body is incredible. The Thing (Jamie Bell) rock-work is more believable and realistic then 2005s adaptation. And Dr. Dooms suit, well… his suit is more organic than its predecessor and believable than incarnations from the comics, but they may have taken it too far off the deep end for the comic book fans.
I myself, well, not very knowledgeable of comic story-lines nor the back stories. This is a look from opinion far from the comics. I personally wish we could see Dr. Dooms mouth move so we could get some emotion or character, but yes, I understand that’s not true to the comic.
As I have said in comic book movie reviews in the past, it’s a SUPER HERO movie! We must remember this as we try to forgive much of the ridiculousness, absurd dialogue and unbelievability. Fantastic Four leaves too many moments unanswered and rather just left for acceptance. For instance, are we just to accept that Dr. Doom was left on this mystery world for a year and ended up loving it there just because he is a loner? Am I supposed to accept that these 4 strangers were able to build this elaborate teleporter with little to no help from construction workers or professionals?
A little was too hard to forgive, but I did end up getting attached to the characters; even with a brief Fast and Furious style car race added clearly just for some excitement while getting to know the character of Johnny. Miles Teller, known for his stellar performance in Whiplash, is great even though some dialogue was cringeworthy. The other characters all… watchable. Kind of the theme of the film, watchable.
It’s easy to be harsh on this movie, but the fact of the matter is this will be a movie on repeat on FX that will probably play in the back of living rooms for years to come. It can get mundane, the predictability is getting old, and the group of super heroes who must ignite as one has become overly dispersed in an over-saturated market. It can all still be told just as most movies do every year, but it must have that something that sets it apart from the rest. Fantastic Four has everything we’ve seen before with even less adventure.
I don’t think we have seen the last of these characters yet, and the sequel is announced, but I sure would like another story than fighting the villain of the summer. We’ve reached our threshold for super hero movies. They are going to need to add something different to the mix here on out. There is no more forgiving for a movie like Fantastic Four.