Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox, PG-13)

fantastic-four 75While Fantastic Four is an engaging and aesthetically pleasing film, it is not good, does not live up to the hype, and as a re-boot, it is not an improvement.




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Fantastic Four brings us the characters we know and love in a different setting. The first major difference: our heroes are much younger, in their early 20s. I like this change. It’s a fresh idea, and Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards) makes it work by telling us the new generation is going to save the world. However, we are not given enough backstory on any of the characters to really be able to accept that the government just handed all these resources to a group of alleged geniuses who are barely out of college. We do get to see Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and Ben Grimm (The Thing) as children, but only to show us the beginning of their friendship, not how Reed became so smart, and we’re never led to believe that Ben has any scientific knowledge at all, but it’s totally cool for him to hang around this top secret research facility.

Tonally, this is very different from the comedic 2005 Fantastic Four, where this film is much darker and more serious. However, it is severely lacking in story. Fantastic Four was written by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Jeremy Slater (The Lazarus Effect), and Josh Trank (Chronicle), and I’m not sure if this was intentional, but the film feels like a prequel. It’s like there will be another movie that follows the typical “bad guy with diabolical plan tries to take over the world and the heroes stop him” plot, and then we will go back and watch this film to learn the origin of our hero team.

The entire film is spent on this group of kids travelling to another dimension where they get powers, where they could have done that in the first 15 minutes, followed by a little time learning to use their powers, and then some kick-ass crime fighting. I can’t even say that this film is really about the superheroes, so much as it is about the government having too much power and making bad decisions.

Tim Blake Nelson (Kill the Messenger), who plays Dr. Allen, one of the scientists who works with Dr. Storm, seems to have the most screen time, and he isn’t even one of the Fantastic Four; he merely exists to hand them over to the government.

Now, this is director Josh Trank’s second film (Chronicle was the first), and it looks like he has no idea what he is doing. A superhero film is supposed to show us superheroes fighting bad guys, but instead, Trank focused his time on showing us really cool effects. Michael B. Jordan looks like he’s actually on fire, and it’s hard to tell that any effects were used on Miles Teller while he unnaturally stretches his limbs because it looks so real, but do we really need to watch them burn and stretch for 5 minute scenes apiece? They have powers. We get it.

Remember Dr. Doom, the villain in Fantastic Four? He is probably in this film for a total of 10 minutes. When the big “fight” finally happens, it’s very anticlimactic. We’ve seen so little of Dr. Doom before this fight that we don’t even recognize him as a villain. He’s not terrorizing anyone; in fact, the big showdown takes place in another dimension so there is no one around but Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four to witness it. Is Earth really saved if no one knew it was in danger? Are you really a superhero if no one witnesses your heroics or knows you exist?

It’s sad because this film has such a great group of young actors—Miles Teller (Whiplash), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), and Kate Mara (House of Cards)—but they don’t get to do anything because of this awful script making them leads in a film that isn’t really about them. | Samantha LaBat

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