Friday, August 7, 2015


20TH Century Fox’s latest version of one of Marvel Comic’s oldest properties, FANTASTIC FOUR, has not been without trouble. On one side of coin is director Josh Trank, who has been accusing the studio of hijacking the movie away from him and stomping on his original vision. On the other side are the reports of Trank’s erratic behavior on-set during production which allegedly led to the studio taking control. None of this bickering and finger-pointing means very much, for we can only react to what we see on the screen. 

Four young outsiders; Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Susan Storm (Kate Mara), Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), are transported to an alternate universe where they gain superhuman powers…and must band together to battle a former friend, Doctor Doom (Toby Kebbell), who poses a threat to Earth. 

FANTASTIC FOUR as a cinematic undertaking seems too corny and silly to be taken seriously, as we’re dealing with a stretchy-guy (Richards), a guy who bursts into flames (Johnny), an invisible woman (Susan), and a rock monster (Grimm). This version goes out of its own way to ground things by providing endless explanation of what’s going on, consisting of characters sitting around and telling us. It’s a weak attempt at sophistication, and it doesn’t take long for a tedious feeling to settle in. The film then spends the rest of its short running time moving characters from one place to another to prepare them for some sort of grand payoff; about three-quarters of FANTASTIC FOUR is spent placing the building blocks on the floor, ready for a grand construction…and here is where everything goes splat. After spending so much time explaining the origins of our supposed new heroes, the new team has exactly ONE fight sequence, ONE chance to use their powers, and the movie is over. All those building blocks are left on the floor without building anything. 

Despite some impressive visual effects (Ben Grimm’s rock-monster, nicknamed Thing, in particular), FANTASTIC FOUR is put together rather messily. Chunks of the film seem to be missing as characters begin scenes in mid-conversation, and the characters themselves are never given an opportunity to interact with each other or generate any sort of chemistry. The real sin in the editing in that the audience is robbed of the chance to watch our new heroes discover and master their new powers; an odd time-jump in the narrative takes them from the inception of their powers to a year later…and it feels like a lazy way out with zero thrill of discovery for the audience. 

Nobody in the cast seems to know what they’re supposed to be doing. Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan just spout out lines, and Kate Mara shows as much personality as a flat tire. Jamie Bell is also wooden, and is fortunate that his face vanishes into the rocks. Tim Blake Nelson shows up as a government man looking to build weapons and does all right in his limited time. The most annoying character is Reg E. Cathey, who as the wizened father figure of the movie doesn’t get to do much other than give big boring speeches about how everyone can do better with their lives. Toby Kebbell as the tragic Victor Von Doom is in the film so little he’s instantly forgotten. 

As stated, the finale and final fight comes around so quickly that it leaves very little of an impression in spectacle, and the characters are so paper-thin that it’s difficult to root for them, and that is its grand failure as a movie. It also doesn’t in the least feel like a superhero tale; it has no excitement, spirit of adventure, or sense of wonder. Whoever’s fault it is, FANTASTIC FOUR is a fantastic bore. 


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