UK Release Date: 6th August 2015
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Josh Trank
Writer: Josh Trank, Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Michael B Jordan, Toby Kebbell
Synopsis: A team of young scientists accidentally give themselves a series of strange super powers when they travel to another dimension.
In the midst of the superhero boom, the absence of a Fantastic Four movie has felt rather strange. Few look back fondly on the two Tim Story movies from the mid-noughties and studio Fox had long since shifted its focus to the more reliable X-Men franchise. However, better late than never, Chronicle director Josh Trank has delivered a Fantastic Four for the superhero boom – but it’s a little bit rubbish.
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has been inventing since he was a child, with the help of friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). He is recruited by Dr Storm (Reg E Cathey) to work with his children – work-focused Sue (Kate Mara) and tearaway Johnny (Michael B Jordan) – and sinister genius Victor (Toby Kebbell) on a teleporter. One night, they decide to use the teleporter, but disaster strikes and they find themselves with strange powers back on Earth.
Fantastic Four is a bizarre beast of a film. Issues with production were widely publicised, including last-minute reshoots around the film’s climax. The resulting product is an utter mess, which feels like an overlong first act with a hasty finale tacked onto the end. Even the simple continuity matter of keeping Kate Mara’s hair one length, style and colour proves impossible.
| "Human beings have an immeasurable desire to discover, to invent, to build."
It’s a shame that the film lacks focus because the cast is largely rather interesting. The relationship between Miles Teller and Mara gets almost no development and we’re never quite sure what it is that makes Toby Kebbell’s Doom tick, despite Kebbell bringing along some of the menace that made him such a good antagonist in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. By the time Doom arrives, dressed as a pound shop Power Ranger, the film has become a thoroughly frustrating watch.
In fact, all of the characters in Fantastic Four suffer from a lack of basic storytelling logic. Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm flits in and out of the story, only appearing when he needs to in order to assemble the team. Despite playing arguably the most interesting of the foursome, Grimm often feels like an entirely spare part in the film.
Trank seems like he wants to position the tone of his film somewhere between the comic book colour of Marvel and the gritty darkness of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Unfortunately, the result is a Fantastic Four that lacks any real story depth but is also entirely free of the kind of levity that allows Marvel to get away with that sort of thing. Fantastic Four is dull, humourless and frankly a bit of a chore to watch at times.
| "He knows answers to questions we don’t even know to ask."
However, Fantastic Four is not at all the complete disaster that it has been painted as by some reviewers. There are some strokes of genius, such as the portrayal of the four’s powers as a kind of Cronenbergian horror transformation rather than wish-fulfilment. This gives the film such much-needed edge at its midpoint, but that is soon dumped in favour of a bizarre flash forward in time that cuts out a lot of interesting material.
There’s definitely a good film trying to escape from the Frankenstein’s monster that is Fantastic Four. Unfortunately, a director out of his depth and a studio that was far too eager to interfere have left this finished product as an entirely forgettable failure.
Pop or Poop?
Squandering a decent cast full of rising stars and a director with intriguing credentials, this cut of Trank’s Fantastic Four is a film no one wanted.
Marvel’s first family certainly deserves a successful movie, but it seems unlikely that this will kick-start a new life for the franchise. It’s more likely to remain dormant for another decade.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.