Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fantastic Four (2015)

Director: Josh Trank
Notable Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson

It takes a lot of faith and execution to bring the Fantastic Four to the live action screen. It requires a lot of special effects, there has to be impeccable chemistry, and the story has to be one that will appease fans of the cosmic comic values, but be mainstream enough to sell to a bigger audience. This latest incarnation of Fantastic Four has essentially none of these things. The film’s horrific behind the scenes issues and the subsequent box office failure are both well documented in the logs of cinema history at this point, but it didn’t stop me from taking a gander at just what went wrong with this summer blockbuster. To be honest, it’s probably more precise to talk about what went…okay, more than just what went wrong, but needless to say Fantastic Four is a massive fantastic flop and worthy of a lot of the hate sent its way despite some intriguing concepts.

Reed Richards (Teller) and his buddy Ben (Bell) have been working hard on a teleporter since the 5th grade. Now high school students, they seem to have some of the kinks worked out and it catches the attention of the Baxter company and its developmental lead Mr. Storm. Storm’s two kids Sue (Mara) and Johnny (Jordan) are both hard at work on a similar project and with the help of the reclusive Victor (Kebble) they just need a few things worked out that Reed can help with. When things go awry in their testing process though, the five of these young scientists will be left with a new slate of powers…and ones that they may not be able to control.

First step for mankind, first giant leap back into the rights of Marvel.
At first, I really enjoy what director Josh Trank seems to want to accomplish here. The idea of taking the Fantastic Four into a more science fiction geared realm with its origin story isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s easy to see why Fox would have been sold on this idea to begin with. The dark and gritty reboots are still fairly popular and distancing themselves from the previous Fantastic Four films is not ultimately a bad choice because there is a lot of potential in many of the foundational ideas at play in the film. It’s just too bad the execution is as off the mark as possible. Fantastic Four has a fantastic cast that all seem devoid of emotion, the tone seems to waver between deadly serious to semi-comic in random intervals, and even build of characters in the cinematic world is patchy. The four main titular characters, their handlers, and even Doom seem to be acting completely separate from one another and it makes for a frustrating watch as the audience tries to piece it all together with little or no help from the film itself. It's like watching a film that knew the idea of what it wanted, but had no clue how to get there. It just randomly threw plot ideas, characters bits, and science fiction mumbo jumbo in a blender and hit the power button for half speed.

That’s just the first half of the film. The second half of Fantastic Four might even be worse. The issues that arise with character chemistry are exponentially expanded as the film shifts from science fiction concept to full on super hero mode as our four heroes finally come together. Not only are the lacking performances still an issue, but the story shifts so quickly that it feels horrifically rushed. The narrative goes haywire, they add in a random villain for shits and giggles to give the team something to battle against to get that superhero movie vibe, and the film abandons some interesting concepts along the way – including its anti-government stance about how to handle “people with powers.” Even the final action set piece, where our heroes somehow don’t require suits to fight Doom on a foreign planet in a foreign dimension, seems like it’s an after thought that's placed on a generic fuzzy CGI back drop with half-assed motivations that leave the audience cold about the actual outcome.

"Girl, nobody is hotter than me."
Fantastic Four has received its fair share of harsh criticism and hate from fans, critics, and even the parties who made it. It deserves as much. It’s a goddman mess. There is a lot of potential in some of the ideas presented by its script, but it never latches onto any of them and the execution is sporadic at best and train wreck terrible at worst. Oddly enough it makes the previous two Fantastic Four films look like champions of cinematic feats. Those were at least dumb fun. This Fantastic Four is just dumb.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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