Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four (2015)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: August 7th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13

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

 


 

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t’s a shame that Amy Schumer released a movie called “Trainwreck” just three weeks back, because that title would have been so much more appropriate for this newest take on Marvel’s popular comic book entity. What starts as a prime example of how not to construct an origins feature quickly turns into the perfect formula to avoid when making motion pictures in general. It’s almost unbelievable how wrong “Fantastic Four” turns out; considering that the previous theatrical adaptations are often regarded as poor comic book movies, it’s particularly discouraging that this latest vision couldn’t even stand up to the very low bar already set.

The first mistake is in the initial setting: 2007 (in Oyster Bay, New York). Starting off with children who will grow into the main characters proves to be a slow, tedious introduction, devoid of excitement or poignancy. It feels like a setup for a transition into adult roles, which actually never arrive. The chief interpretation of this Fantastic Four story is that of teenaged tinkerers looking for an opportunity to make a name and experience adventure, as if they’re all adolescent geniuses defying supervision and discipline. It’s so insipid that Johnny is given an unrelated street-racing scene merely to spice up the interim activities (in a superhero flick!).

During a career day presentation, little Reed Richards declares that, when he grows up, he wishes to be the first man to teleport himself – using the bio-matter shuttle he’s been designing in his garage. A young Ben Grimm, who regularly endures bullying from his abusive older brother, teams up with the aspiring junior scientist to perfect the device. Over the next seven years, they design a cymatic matter transporter that debuts at their high school science fair; though the experiment is eventually disqualified, their ingenuity catches the eye of Baxter Foundation board member Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey).

Thanks to a full scholarship to the Baxter Institute, Richards (Miles Teller) is able to begin construction on a much larger transportation vessel – one that can teleport matter into another dimension. With the help of Franklin’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), as well as a disgruntled dropout from Latveria called Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and Reed’s best pal Ben (Jamie Bell), the stage is set for experimentation in an otherworldly realm. But when a rebellious voyage into the vast unknown (dubbed Planet Zero) goes awry, each crewmember returns to the laboratory with specific, chaotic superpowers, including invisibility and spontaneous combustion.

The Quantum Gate project itself, augmented by talk of opening black holes or ripping the fabric of the space-time continuum, is ultimately just a pitiful excuse to throw jargon at a plot device that shouldn’t have existed. Visiting alternate dimensions of Earth is a concept so foreign (and generically sci-fi) that it hardly matters what else happens during their journey; it’s all utterly unbelievable and confusingly abstract. Most audiences might miss the silliness of a trial run with a monkey (why didn’t they start with a mouse?), or the need for special spacesuits (which the monkey never even had), or the fact that the transporter itself was built to fit humans – even though the constructors had no idea whether or not the monkey would make it back alive.

Easily less agreeable than the flawed science of the film is the terrible dialogue. And the lifeless performances. And the total lack of chemistry between the characters. Even when several of the core members get drunk together, they exhibit a startling incompatibility. At best, their interactions are uncomfortable. “I gotta say, it’s kinda fun having you here,” comments Sue to her brother, even though they don’t seem to have anything remotely related to fun whilst together. Viewers are likely to also pick up on the monotonousness of their teamwork, which never culminates in an action sequence worthy of their iconic superpowers.

The structuring of “Fantastic Four” is just as shoddy. Halfway through, an intertitle daringly pops up to say that one year has passed – an inexcusable way to jump ahead in time when the movie is already this far along. Coupled with countless fades to black, it’s evident that the story needed to leap straight into the weaponizing/militarization subplot for the sake of action, but couldn’t figure out a sensible segueing method. By the film’s final conversation, which is so dreadfully lame that it ends in a line that couldn’t (and rightfully shouldn’t) be spoken out loud by the characters, it’s apparent that this uninspired incarnation of the Fantastic Four more closely resembles an ashcan copy (a production released solely for copyright purposes) than an actual work of art.

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10