Release Date: Aug. 7, 2015
Running Time: 106 minutes
The previous iteration of the Fantastic Four was bright, gaudy, cartoonish, and simpleminded. Director Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot is as far removed from its predecessor as it could possibly be. While it shows a deep interest in the science that results in the creation of the superheroes Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and The Thing, Trank’s Fantastic Four remains oddly subdued, inexplicably dour, and poorly structured and paced. There isn’t much action to speak of until the woefully conceived and realized climax, when the Fantastic Four confront the villainous Doctor Doom in the alternate dimension that is the point of origin of the energy that gave them their powers. It’s unfair to solely blame Trank for a reboot that makes Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man films seem positively essential. Trank co-wrote the script with, among others, X-Men overseer Simon Kinberg. The idea is sound: present a relatively grounded Fantastic Four, in the vein of Batman Begins, that takes it cue the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book, which re-imagines the team’s origin. But the execution is awful. The problems begin from the moment a young Reed Richards recruits future best pal Ben Grimm to help him build a transporter to another dimension. While the Reed in this Fantastic Four is the Reed we know—as played by Miles Tellers, he’s a slightly smug scientist who’s consumed by his work—the Ben of this Fantastic Four is quiet, introverted, and humorless to the point that he possesses zero personality. Fantastic Four fails on every level to convince us that Reed and Ben are friends or that Ben would put his life on the line to protect Reed. This is never more evident than after their transformation and Ben feels abandoned by Reed. Fantastic Four suffers without this core friendship defined in the way we know and understand it. Jamie Bell’s given absolutely nothing to do as Grimm so it’s hard to tell whether the British actor is miscast as the gentle giant from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He certainly doesn’t possess the deep, rich voice we think of when we think of The Thing. Like Reed, Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan seem suitably cast in their roles as, respectively, siblings Sue and Johnny Storm. Mara articulates Sue ‘s intelligence in a way Jessica Alba could not as Sue Storm in the previous Fantastic Four. Jordan downplays Johnny’s hotheadedness and flashy side, which drove Chris Evan’s performance as the Human Torch, but this is an origin story so presumably Jordan will discover his inner showman in the sequel, if there is one. This Fantastic Four also offers an ill-defined Doctor Doom (Tobey Kebbell), whose beef with both Reed and the Baxter Foundation that has hired them to build the transporter is explained away with the wave of a hand. Doom is bad for the sake of being bad, which means Kebbell can’t get to heart of what makes the Fantastic Four’s arch enemy tick. His battle with Fantastic Four feels forced, but it’s the only opportunity Trank gives himself to put his superheroes in action and to have them use their powers for the good of humanity. It’s sad that Trank and his co-screenwriters fail to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them to reboot this franchise. At least he has assembled a cast that another filmmaker can build around in the sequel that’s currently due in 2017. But there’s nothing in this Fantastic Four that suggests these superheroes want to become the celebrities that they are in the comic books or at least to embrace their popularity and position in New York City. This reboot isn’t an improvement upon the previous franchise—it’s worst in some ways because it simply isn’t fun—and it’s hard to see where it could go to win back our confidence. Not that this will happen but the only way to make the Fantastic Four a viable, sustainable franchise is for Fox to turn it over to Marvel to reboot, just as Sony did with Spider-Man.
Aired: Aug. 6, 2015
Web site: http://www.fantasticfourmovie.com/