Synopsis: Fantastic Four, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centers on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.
Release Date: August 7, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Fantasy, Action
Fantastic Four is a film that means well. It wants to offer an alternate take on the superhero origin story, which in this case features four unique comic book characters. Based on the title one would assume that the film pays equal screen time to its four main characters, but it barely lets us connect with even one, let alone all of them. Fantastic Four is a film without a point of view, but one that has some intriguing elements fueling its first half. By the second half, however, it devolves into the type of CG-heavy, ridiculous bad guy-driven showdown that we’ve seen countless times before. It’s goofy in all the worst ways, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But boy what promise the film shows in its first act.
As we get to know boy genius Reed Richards (eventually played by Whiplash‘s Miles Teller) and his loyal friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell from Snowpiercer), the film explores the concepts like interdimensional travel and alternate versions of Earth. It’s the type of fringe science that works well in a comic book storyline, and here the how of it all is explained just enough to make it feel slightly possible but still well out of reach. Eventually Richards teams up with Sue Storm (Transcendence‘s Kate Mara), her brother Johnny (Fruitvale Station‘s Michael B. Jordan), and Victor Von Doom (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes‘s Toby Kebbell) to take the theoretical and make it real. These young geniuses want to travel to another dimension, in the hopes that an alternate Earth will be able to solve our planet’s biggest problems.
During these moments you forget that Fantastic Four is a superhero film at all, which is a quality that should make for a great superhero flick. Then the film imbues each of the characters with their signature powers, and things become far less interesting, largely because it’s juggling too many ideas. On the one hand, the film wants to make some larger points about the psychological impact of these new powers, but not in an overly preachy way. For all intents and purposes, these individuals have been turned into weapons, and while they still feel like people, they start to see themselves as means to an end. Then there’s the fun comic book-y-ness of Fantastic Four, which wants to remind you how cool it would be to rocket around the sky as a Human Torch. On their own terms and part of individual movies, those set-ups would have likely been fine, but in the same film they’re constantly at odds with each other. The film has too many silly elements for it to be taken too seriously, and the stuff that’s fun is only marginally so.
Then Dr. Doom shows up, and Fantastic Four falls completely off the rails and into the Marvel ravine. Although most would say that the film relies too heavily on CG, its effects work is still very convincing. Jamie Bell looks far better as The Thing than Michael Chiklis ever did, and Michael B. Jordan’s Human Torch is a comic book fan’s dream. But Kebbell’s Dr. Doom is something else – a mix of practical makeup and a weird CG glow that’s appallingly bad. It’s unclear what approach the filmmakers were going for, but the character essentially looks like a man in a silver rubber suit, with no mouth and no room for expression. He’s the type of villain you would expect to see in a bad superhero movie, and that’s when you start to realize that Fantastic Four might actually be just that.
If there’s one compliment to be paid towards Fantastic Four, it’s that the film tries to do something different with the superhero origin story. It ditches the glossy sheen and the incessant comic relief, and puts the essential elements of the comic book in a real world context. Sure, it struggles to get us to care about any of its main characters, but the story is fascinating enough in the beginning that those are minor drawbacks. However, once the generic battle to save Earth begins and Dr. Doom enters the picture, you start to realize the film lacks stakes, a personality, and a point of view. All of its flaws become abundantly clear, and any excitement you might get from the final action sequence is overridden by a sense of how silly everything looks. Fantastic Four may have had some potential to start, but by the end it’s not worth anyones time.
It’s only worth highlighting the action in Fantastic Four because some will go in looking for the film to deliver summer excitement. Unfortunately, the one major action scene in the film is just a bunch of CGI nonsense. Fantastic Four‘s action is simply dull. It has no pulse, rhythm, or sense of style to it. Here are four distinct characters with some unique abilities, and the film struggles to make them seem powerful or useful. While Marvel Studios is consistently raising the bar when it comes to superhero action, Fantastic Four totally phones it in.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Josh Trank
- Screenwriter(s): Simon KinbergJeremy SlaterJosh Trank
- Cast: Miles Teller (Reed Richards)Michael B. Jordan (Johnny Storm)Kate Mara (Sue Storm) Jamie Bell (Ben Grimm / The Thing)Toby Kebbell (Victor Von Doom / Dr. Doom)
- Cinematographer: Matthew Jensen
- Production Designer(s): Chris Seagers
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Marco Beltrami
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA