Fantastic Four 2015 Film Reboot Review
Spoiler free sum up:
The Fantastic Four is an overly gritty, patchwork mess of a film. It is the two hundred minute version of a 15 minute origin story that builds to nothing. It has no real action, or climax, and is almost entirely made of exposition. The mostly overqualified cast can not make this overly stretched thing work. The monochrome joyless film put in front of us is completely devoid of anything resembling it’s campy comic origins. That said, anything betraying originality is squashed. It waits for the tail end to suddenly turn into an action film- where we have the one sequence that is actually rushed within the glacial pace of this movie.
If Batman Begins had been two hours of that scene where Bruce sees all those bats, and then in its final moments the film ends with the statement “So I am batman now,” you get the general structure of the Fantastic Four.
Read below for full recap and spoilers.
Spoilers, Recap and Review:
Beware: Here there be spoilers, which should be of no concern to you because you should not for any reason see this movie.
Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four pulls from the Ultimate line of Fantastic Four comics- a somewhat updated retelling of the team’s origin. From the trailer and indeed from where this movie spends its time-in the lab- you may be expecting a highly sci-fi version of the story. However, this patchwork of a film never does decide what it wants to be, and consequently, in the Fantastic Four’s eternal 1:46 runtime nothing happens.
We open on kid Reed Richards explaining to his class on career day he wants to be the first person to build a teleportation device and use it. We get a little bit of kid Ben Grimm’s backstory after this-The Thing’s cheesy battle cry “it’s clobbering time” is first uttered by his abusive older brother about to beat the shit out of him. After a brief junkyard meeting the mini 2/4 of the FF try out the mini teleportation device Reed has built in his garage, cause a blackout, and we have our first time jump in the movie.
Seven years later Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) are showing their updated mini device at their high school science fair. Inexplicably Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue Storm (Kate Mara), are at this fair and recruit Reed to the Baxter Institute- a science academy/think tank place.
This is followed by the recruitment of the original project creator Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who trusts no one and who no one likes for unknown reasons. Franklin’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) who is brilliant but irresponsible is brought in too. These one dimensional character traits remain one dimensional despite endless exposition.
After a lot of staring at computer screens, and some half-hearted attempts at showing our core cast bonding- Reed’s scientific breakthroughs allows Storm’s team to finally complete Doom’s early try at inter-dimensional travel.
In what should have only been 15 minutes tops, we pass the half hour mark without any sign of the Fantastic Four.
Leaving Sue behind, Johnny, Victor and Reed-who calls Ben (but still no Sue), take an unlicensed ill-fated trip to the other dimension, named Planet Zero, because that is oh so much better than Negative Zone.
After being attacked by green goo and leaving behind a seemingly dead Doom-which from the trailer audiences already know to expect a face off with, so it’s not as huge a deal as the movie wants it to be-the three plus Sue (who is caught in their explosive return to the lab) get superpowers.
It’s here we reach the one genuinely, fleetingly, interesting moment of the film. The moment of horror for each at the changes to their bodies- Reed unable to move his freakish limbs, Johnny unable to understand why he is engulfed in flames, Sue unconscious and fading in out of the visible spectrum as her terrified father looks on, and of course a petrified Ben who calling for help struggles painfully to move-suggests what Trank may have wanted the film to be.
And it’s gone. There is an uneventful escape for Reed from classified government Area 57 (no, it’s not Area 51, it’s 57). We’ve now reached about the hour mark and the second time jump: one year.
We still have not heard again from Victor. What Reed was doing in this year long lapse is only suggested-somehow trying to cure his friends on his own in the middle of nowhere. Why Johnny and Ben have become over eager government weapons is unclear. How Sue came to be so against the same thing is not mentioned.
A second trip to Planet Zero sees the return of Doom we get the first and last action sequence of the film. In what is once again a very horror-movie like sequence, setting the same tone as the body-horror scene, Doom displays his awesome power in the lab and for very shaky reasoning decides to end the world.
Doom’s powers like this movie’s special effects fluctuate in effectiveness. Doom goes from godlike to beatable, ‘because-we-teamed-up’, in a few minutes.
Shoehorning this sequence into the last minutes- it is not a grand finale. It’s not even anticlimactic because that would suggest we were building to this moment. We weren’t. Doom-the Fantastic Four’s main antagonist and one of comic’s biggest villains wasn’t even in the film for the last hour. The swelling Marco Beltrami and Philip Glass score is the only thing that cues the audience to the fact anything momentous is even happening. Then it’s over.
The bones of what this movie was maybe supposed to be shine through briefly. A heavy scifi film about the wonder of invention and exploration shown in young Reed and Ben’s tinkering followed by their awe at achieving their goal. The horror that can come with achieving the impossible- and maybe even the joy of discovery are all so briefly hinted at but never actually become the movie.
In what is an effort to keep this film in the confines of “gritty superhero genre”, those flashes of originality are effectively squashed.
Instead, we get cheesy lines so out of place in this dour mess like “there is no Victor only Doom.” We get a miscast Reed yelling about why exactly they need to stop Doom. We get about 80 minutes of exposition with no actual character development. The word fantastic is never uttered next to the word four, because somehow in the scheme of this mess that would be a bad idea. What we are left with is a whole lot of buildup for no payoff and a lifeless film about…well not about the Fantastic Four.
Tags: Fantastic Four, Fox, Marvel, review