ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Childhood friends Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) have been working on a prototype for teleportation since their childhood, and upon finally achieving their goal, they attract the attention of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), director of the Baxter Foundation which is a government-sponsored institute for young gifted minds. Reed is partnered with Storm’s children, scientist Sue (Kate Mara) and technician Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), to complete a “Quantum Gate” designed by Storm’s wayward protege Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who hesitantly rejoins the project only ’cause of his feelings for Sue.

After the experiment turns out to be a success, the facility’s supervisor Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) plans to assemble a group of NASA astronauts to venture into the parallel dimension known as “Planet Zero”. Disappointed at being turned down for the mission, Reed, Johnny and Victor recruit Ben to help them embark on an unsanctioned trip to Planet Zero. When the mission goes awry, the four, along with Sue who tries to bring them back safely, are transformed on a molecular-genetic level and given super-human abilities beyond their control.

I can’t recall the last time a comic book film has drawn the ire of fanboys months before the film’s release. Sure, it ain’t exactly the most impossible of all impossibilities to piss off a fanboy; the online comments don’t lie. It goes to another level, though, when you’re reading head in the sand ignorance like, “I don’t care how good it ends up being, I’m still not gonna see it and it’s gonna suck!”

I guess if you plug your ears and go “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-laaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!” long enough then this film and all its problems will go away, and the world will be a better place ’cause of it.

Anyway, coming from someone who isn’t one of those head in the sand fanboys, or even a fanboy in general, this film sucks.

Now, online rage from comic book geekdom aside, Fantastic Four suffered through some major production issues. So many second rounds of filming had to be done that there are actually end credits listed for both “Phase One” and “Phase Two”. Tim Blake Nelson, who was originally meant to be Mole Man, had his role changed to something completely different, and it’s also reported that director Josh Trank’s behavior may have been the reason he’s no longer attached to directing one of the future Star Wars films. Red flags abound here, but none are more desperate than the last minute review embargo placed by Fox.

Not to mention, Trank cowardly distancing himself from this film, and placing the blame on Fox in light of all the negative press. Don’t be a bitch, Trank. Own up to your failure.

Yep, red flags, Woody… Red flags, everywhere!

It’s not that production issues automatically damn a film to failure. Most recently, in fact, Ant-Man was able to overcome its pre-release troubles. But every trouble that Fantastic Four had gone through is so evident onscreen. This is such a terribly incomplete film that I feel like I sat through a 90-100 first-act that’s missing its second and third acts. The unintentionally laughable sequel setup may be there at the end, and it’s already been green lit for 2017 (Fox, Seinfeld called to tell you, “Well… good luck with allllllll that.”), but this is such a chore to sit through – one that, oddly enough, is 30 minutes shorter than most comic book films today – it’s safe to say most moviegoers will be too exhausted to drum up any enthusiasm for a second endurance beatdown at the theaters.

Once again, we get another origin story, this being the third incarnation of Team Fantastic following the two Tim Story films (starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis) and the infamously unreleased Roger Corman version from 1994 (which has many bootleg recordings that are available on the internet). I’ll admit that the character introductions were decent, but once they get their powers – you know, the point where you expect the film to really takeoff – the film drowns in its dull, humorless, lifeless self.

‘Cause a film revolving around a life-size Stretch Armstrong and a six-foot talking pile of rocks needs to be dark and brooding.

From the moment Reed and the gang get their new powers, Fantastic Four half-asses its way through its narrative, jumping a full year after their transformation without giving their reactions to what should be a life-altering event enough time to breathe. Reed runs off to South America, and both Ben and Johnny cut deals with the military, yet nothing is done with their story threads. They’re just shoehorned in there as filler before the even more half-assed climactic fight.

It’s one thing for a film to start out strong or even just decent, and then gradually lose steam come the second half. It’s also one thing to have a film that derails at the end. This film goes off the tracks like a boss, traveling down a decent path and then swerving off the road, slamming on the gas and gunning it right off a cliff.

Really, just sloppy storytelling.

Even worse, director Josh Trank and his team of co-writers (Jeremy Slater and X-Men: Days of Future Past’s Simon Kinberg) waste one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, villains in Marvel Comics history, Victor von Doom, aka Dr. Doom (iconic enough to get a ride named after him at Universal Studios… suck on that, Loki). Maybe Fox, in a fit of jealousy, wants to prove to Marvel Studios that they can make a villain just as forgettable as they can? All I know is that Dr. Doom is not only a favorite of the Marvel devotees, but one of the most recognizable villains to casual fans, yet for whatever reason he’s still unable to get a decent film treatment.

Giving Doom no more motivation and menace than a pissed off hornet is a crime.

Placing such a throwaway role in the hands of a talent like Toby Kebbell, who was great as the villain Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is an unforgivable sin.

Ultimately, this is a shame ’cause there’s absolutely no reason why this couldn’t have been a good film. Fox has been on a roll with X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past. Josh Trank’s strong debut was the similarly-themed Chronicle. And then there’s the cast which consists of Miles Teller (Whiplash), Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Fruitvale Station), Kate Mara (House of Cards) and Jamie Bell (Snowpiercer, Nymphomaniac). Aside from Mara’s House of Cards co-star Reg E. Cathey, who brings some desperately needed gravitas to the proceedings as Sue and Johnny’s father, this is a talented cast that couldn’t look any more lost.

Hey, what else do you expect when it’s blatantly obvious that this film’s sole reason for existing is so Fox can hold on to the franchise rights?

Shockingly dull and dour for a Fantastic Four film, this second reboot of the Stan Lee foursome has a decent start but only gets progressively worse and worse and worse as it stumbles through co-writers Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and director Josh Trank’s giant, incomplete mess of a story. Perhaps some other filmmaker will eventually come along and deliver a Fantastic Four that hits it out of the park – or at this point, at least just manage to scrape by – when it’s inevitably rebooted again in another 5-10 years. But for now, between the sloppy direction and a talented cast put to waste, the third time’s definitely not the charm.

I give Fantastic Four a D (★).

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