Fantastic Four movie full length review - I Really Want to See Josh Trank's Original Vision for the Film
Oh, man. The Fantastic Four just can't catch a break. First there was the legendary unreleased Roger Corman film hastily thrown together to retain the comic's rights for the studio.
Then there were the two regrettable Tim Story films. Now we've got director Josh Trank's vision, and I really hate to say this but those Tim Story movies were somehow more entertaining. I can't remember the last time I've followed a production as problematic and miserable as that of 2015's FANTASTIC FOUR. Sadly, the filmmakers weren't able to pull the nose up on this one before dumping it into theaters with a gut-wrenching score of 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. I knew the news wasn't good with this one, but I did my best to sit down and watch it with an open mind. I want to say I might've even enjoyed it just a tad the first time I watched it but, no, a second viewing rubbed any positive vibes right out. This movie is just depressing. What's it about this time around? The origins of the Fantastic Four. Again. Though slightly different. Reed Richards (Miles Teller, whom I'm sure regrets this whole ordeal following his critical acclaim in WHIPLASH) is a high school genius who has been working with his longtime friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) in perfecting a teleportation device. His project earns some attention at the school science fair from Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue (Kate Mara). Storm realizes that Reed hasn't achieved teleportation but instead inter-dimensional travel, and he brings him aboard his government-funded project where they're developing the same technology. Reed works with Sue, her hot-headed brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordon), and moody young genius Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to complete a functioning inter-dimensional pod. When the pod is complete and the government moves in to take control, Reed leads a rushed (drunken?) expedition to another dimension, calling in his best bud Ben to join them. One thing leads to another, there's a massive unexplained energy surge and there you go: the Fantastic Four. You surely know them by now.
I wanted so badly for this movie to be good. I really dig Josh Trank's CHRONICLE and, while I was a little annoyed at the Fantastic Four being cast so young, I figured this was in Trank's wheelhouse and he'd knock it out of the park. Maybe he would have if the studio hadn't gotten so involved. I don't know. All I know is that the finished product is gloomy, dull, and a real wasted chance. Let's start with the gloom. Everyone in this movie is miserable. Reed is probably the most bright-eyed and hopeful of them all at the start of the movie but that all changes once he leads his mission to the mystery planet. Doom is left for dead and his friends have all developed these life-altering powers, and Reed takes it pretty heavily. Ben Grimm has harbored resentment for his new rocky condition as the Thing in all incarnations of the character but here he's just a big mopey monster. He even turns his back on Reed, his best friend, when Reed escapes from the government facility where they'd been quarantined on return. He spends a good chunk of the movie slouching around with a frown and going on missions for the United States to use his new physique to slaughter enemy soldiers. Sue just seemed to hate everyone from the start and prefers to work alone, listening to music in her earbuds while?searching for patterns in things? I guess that's her specialty. Johnny isn't so much depressed as he is rebellious, acting out against his father and throwing a fit when he's assigned to work on the pod device as punishment for street racing. Just as with the Human Torch from previous movies, he's also the only character to embrace his new powers. Finally, there's Doom. He's just an angry loner, aggravated that he has to work with anyone on his big project. Everyone sort of becomes friendly over the course of the project but not by much. It's still just a bunch of moody not-quite-teenagers and none of them ever really seem to click.
Well, the characters are hardly likable. And the plot? Barely exists. It's not until almost an hour into this movie that pod is complete and we can move on to the meat of the film. We wait so long for the Fantastic Four and for what? I swear, nothing interesting happens in that first hour. It's all character establishment (introducing us to each character's individual brand of moodiness). Once it finally kicks in, I get a little hopeful. The reveals for each character's power is pretty cool. As with the tone of the movie, it's a pretty dark sequence. These kids are pulled from the rubble of the pod, warped and nearly dead. When they awake in quarantine, they're terrified and confused. If there's anything positive of note in this whole movie, it's this sequence right here. It's far from fitting with the light-hearted tone we expect from the Fantastic Four, but I liked it. Then the second half of the movie is rebuilding the pod for the government, the discovery of Doom alive on the mystery planet, and the big bombastic battle sequence. It's slightly interesting, visually, but not enough to make it enjoyable. Doom's motivation seems purely to be vengeance for vengeance's sake. I'm not entirely sure how long he was alone on that planet or how he physically survived (I believe he made mention that the planet kept him alive, whatever that means), but now he's determined to draw Earth's energy across the dimensional barrier for whatever reason. It just gives the Fantastic Four a chance to use their powers and beat him as a team. But it's hard to find the will to care about these gloomy characters. Sorry, Fantastic Four. Better luck next time, I guess.