Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell
Runtime: 106 minutes
Marvel's original superhero superteam are back on the big screen with a fresh lick of paint and an even fresher faced cast; helmed by Chronicle's Josh Trank, this reboot of the Fantastic Four is amazingly bad, especially considering we've been here before.
Cast your mind back to the summer of 2005; as odd as it might seem today, superhero films were still struggling to establish themselves at this point, with only the occasional gem opening to rave reviews (Batman Begins, Spider-man 2, X2: X-Men United). Big name heroes like Daredevil, the Hulk and Catwoman had all bombed, but none had bombed as hard as Fantastic Four; with toxic reviews and a less than stellar box-office run, Marvel's first family struggled to replicate the success enjoyed by Batman and the X-Men, with a worser still sequel in 2007 putting a stop to their half-arsed franchise.
Fast-forward to 2015, and I'm sat at my laptop feeling a huge wave of deja vu crash over me. Trank's Fantastic Four isn't just bad; it's perplexingly bad. I'm struggling to get my head around how this has now happened twice, and how Fox has somehow taken two different approaches to one of Marvel's best properties in a decade and churned out a turd each time.
Anyway, onto the cast for this thing; Miles Teller (of Whiplash fame) plays Reed Richards, whilst Kate Mara (House of Cards) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) play half-brother and sister Sue and Johnny Storm. Completing the quartet is Jaime Bell (Snowpiercer) as Ben Grimm. Now, I like this cast; Teller is talented, Mara is gorgeous and was brilliant on House of Cards whilst Michael B. Jordan is already earmarked as a future star.
Unfortunately, they're given nothing to work with. The screenplay to Fantastic Four is simply awful; it's a 100-minute slab of grey concrete with almost zero in the way of charm and narrative coherence. Firstly, it commits the cardinal sin of a 2015 superhero reboot; it acts as an origin story and nothing else. It's like The Amazing Spider-man, but worse. Much worse. The first 75% of this film is spent working towards our lead quartet becoming heroes, after which we're treated to a brief CGI smackdown, a quick recap that tees a sequel and then BAM, cut to black, cue the music. Thanks for the $14 sucker, come back in 2017 to see the real movie. It's so frustrating, and frankly, insulting. I sat in the theatre thinking, "Is that it? What happened to the rest of the movie?"
Seriously, there are whole chunks of the story that Trank decides to skip over; at one point, somewhere in the middle of the film, we're given a brief '1 year later' card where several story strands that could've been quite interesting to see play out are skimmed over and resolved with some flat exposition. One year later? Really? Nothing of note happened in that WHOLE YEAR?!
It isn't long after this time jump that the film dispenses with its attempt at character growth by plunging into a big, overblown ending where the quartet face off with Toby Kebbell's villainous Doctor Doom. Not only is Doom completely wasted in this film, but he's handed a random assortment of powers and motivations that make no sense. His arc is rushed, and lazy. Oh, he wants to destroy the world? Don't ask why, just watch how he can randomly explode people's heads by staring at them!
Miles Teller is also wasted as Reed Richards. He's just so boring! I can't remember the last time a film thrust such a flat and uninteresting character into the fore. Don't even get me started on Jaime Bell as Ben Grimm. If you think Hawkeye is given very little to do in the original Avengers film, just wait until you see this.
Don't get me wrong, Fantastic Four isn't a total disaster. It's really frustrating to paint this film in such a negative light, because there are faint glimmers of hope; Kate Mara makes an excellent Invisible Woman, and is an immeasurable improvement on Jessica Alba's dumb bimbo. Michael B. Jordan is also great as her half-brother Johnny Storm; he brings some wit and charm that is sorely missing elsewhere.
Not only that, but I liked the aesthetic; it might be grim at times, but the VFX are pretty good. The new suits look awesome, and I much prefer this incarnation of The Thing (even if he's given nothing to do prior to becoming The Thing). There are also some genuinely great scenes too; the part where Johnny wakes up screaming, already ablaze and surrounded by flame is awesome and kinda chilling.
Other than that, I'm struggling to find things to applaud with Fantastic Four. Regular readers will know that I'm a sucker for superhero films, and tend to go easy on those that have quite obvious flaws (we're looking at you, Age of Ultron). But Trank's Fantastic Four is a mess. A dull, bland mess that feels like the first act of a film you'll have to wait another two years to see completed.
Don't see this film. It's 2015, and mediocre crap like this belongs in the 90's.
The Verdict: 2/10
It's not a stretch to say Fantastic Four is a crushing disappointment. It's all origin, and no story, with its shambolic plot grinding to a halt just when it should be kicking into another gear. Not only that, but some clunky dialogue and unimaginative action make this a strong contender for the worst film of 2015.
Fantastic Four is in cinemas across Australia from today (August 6)