‘Fantastic Four’ Review: Yes, It’s That Bad

Posted in The Screening Room by - August 10, 2015

Oh boy. I had planned on skipping the dreary reboot of Fantastic Four, as I figured it would be another gritty re-telling of a fantastical comic book premise. I didn’t figure that the film would be one of the lowest rated films of 2015, and one of the worst comic book movies ever made. While yes, there are films like Elektra and Catwoman that are bad in a fun way, Fantastic Four is bad because it takes itself deathly serious in the vein of joyless Nolan Batman trilogy. One wouldn’t think it possible to create a Fantastic Four film worse than the original two, or even worse than the unreleased Roger Corman film, but the impossible has been achieved in stunningly disappointing fashion. 

The film follows child genius Reed Richards as he creates an inter-dimensional shuttle to another planet. Mind you, he creates that shuttle as a a child,  not an adult, because get it, he’s a genius. His work garners the attention of Franklin Storm and the Baxter Foundation, who have been working on the same thing but with military funding. Dr. Storm, along with his son Johnny and adopted daughter Sue, give Reed a scholarship so that he can help them create the shuttle on a larger scale. Along with computer whiz Victor Von Doom, a name that is laughable when trying to be taken seriously, they create the shuttle and are then disregarded from the project by the military. Before they are taken off the project, Reed, Victor, Johnny, and Reed’s childhood friend Ben, take a trip to Planet X with disastrous consequences. Sue Storm doesn’t go with them, but she still gets super powers when they do. What follows is a barely intelligible retelling of the well-known origin story of the superhero squad that feels straight by the numbers.

With a cast of talented actors, its truly disappointing to see  how little they are given to do in the film. Miles Teller as Reed Richards, on the surface, is a great choice, as his work in Whiplash last year was of one of the breakout performances of the season, but he is given so little to do that he feels bland. He is the leader of the group, and with that designation comes some truly terrible dialogue. It’s as if the writers of the film saw other comic book movies and tried to ape them. The other members of the Four are given even less screen time. Michael B. Jordan spouts off one liners as he is the “cool guy” Johnny Storm, Jamie Bell as the Thing is on-screen so little that it’s astounding he is billed in the film at all, and Kate Mara is practically forgotten as Sue. Toby Kebbell as Victor Von Doom is possibly the biggest disappointment in the film, not because of his performance, but because the film all but forgets about him after forty minutes. I don’t blame the actors for their performance, I accredit it to the absolute abysmal writing talents of Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, and director Josh Trank. 

The film fails to do even the most minuscule things right. It’s as if the writers of the film/studio heads failed to take into account the last eight years of superhero movies. It commits all of the sins of pre-MCU movies: underdeveloped villain, rushed climax, and a sense that those involved with the conception of the film had never picked up the source comic. The fact that Doom doesn’t show up until the last twenty minutes of the film is simply insane, this is no exaggeration, the ending of the film is beyond rushed. It should also be noted that they somehow managed to make Doom look goofy with a space suit fused to his body as opposed to his traditional metal armor. With all the rumblings about problems with Trank as director, the climax feels like Fox attempted to stop the hemorrhaging of money by the film. Fox seemingly gave up on the film, re-shot the ending to cut costs, and then slapped it together to make some semblance of sense.

The real question that plagued the film however, is whether or not Kinberg, Trank, or Slater had ever taken time while they were writing the script to read any of the source material. The Fantastic Four is a comic about the interactions between four people who have had extraordinary circumstances thrust upon them. They learn to cope with their powers, all while fighting memorable villains, not just Victor Von Doom. The writers took the “because it worked for Nolan, it’ll work for us” stance, and decided to tell a realistic, gritty version of the story. In multiple interviews, Trank mentioned Cronenberg body horror as a huge influence for the film, which is such a misguided direction that it’s surprising the studio allowed it to happen. The gritty tone may have worked for a superhero that fights gangsters in a metropolitan city, but it seems silly for a group of heroes that includes a giant orange rock man. This might finally be the death knell for the gritty versions of superheroes, at least for Marvel. 

Fantastic Four is quite possibly the biggest misstep in recent comic book film history. It attempts to put a realistic spin on a fantastical story with disastrous results. The film is rushed, poorly written, and a total waste of such talented actors’ time. While they have a sequel planned and slated to be released in 2017, there are rumblings that it will be canceled due to the underwhelming performance of the film. One can only hope that Fox pulls a Sony, and yields the rights to the Fantastic Four back to Marvel Studios so that a proper film may be made. Until then, Fox will most likely do their best to stem the tide of bad publicity for the film, and quietly sweep it under the rug.

Final Say: Skip It

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Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He's a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You'll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.
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