Published on August 15th, 2015 | by Damien Straker
Fantastic Four – Film Review
Reviewed by Damien Straker on August 15th, 2015
Fox presents a film directed by Josh Trank
Produced by Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn, Hutch Parker, Robert Kulzar and Gregory Goodman
Screenplay by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank, based on Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Starring: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey and Tim Blake Nelson
Music by Marco Beltrami and Philip Glass
Cinematography Matthew Jensen
Edited by Elliot Greenberg and Stephen E. Rivkin
Running Time: 100 minutes
Release Date: August 6th, 2015
Fantastic Four is a terrible film, a $100 million dollar piñata, deserving of its critical and commercial mauling. It’s so dire it could become a case study for the contemporary studio system’s flaws. But feel for the film’s director Josh Trank, whose only other feature was the mildly effective superhero film Chronicle, starring Michael B. Jordon. It cost $12 million dollars and earned over $100 million dollars—a massive return, which would have contributed significantly to Fox’s decision to hire Trank to adapt the Marvel comic and reboot the franchise after the two previously dismal films. At a conceptual stage, the negative press was already building. Racist comic book fans rallied against the casting of Jordon as one of the film’s superheroes because the character in the comics is white. The Hollywood Reporter site also has insider comments about Trank being uncommunicative on the set, describing him with words like “erratic” and “indecisive”. Furthermore, the film underwent reshoots, which is always troubling when this sort of money is involved. Most damagingly, Trank attacked the film and the studio on Twitter, arguing his version of the film that will never be seen. But is any of this rumour and innuendo relevant? Hollywood now hires inexperienced directors and throws big money at them because they believe they’ll be obliging. But isn’t granting a relatively novice filmmaker top dollars and not expecting trouble playing with fire? No other industry in the world throws money around as carelessly as Hollywood. On this occasion, it’s burnt a lot of people and potentially ended a career that’s barely started.
A better cut of the film wouldn’t dispel what unconvincing tripe this is. The technology in this film is ridiculous and treated a bit like that Internet joke “because science”—starting with a boy genius building a mini teleporter in his garage. As grownups, Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) showcase an improved teleporter at a science fair. Reed is invited to join a research group in the city to help build a new teleporter. Half of this dreck is dedicated to building the machine before anyone receives their superpowers. Can the machine forward us an act or two? It’s rare to criticise a superhero movie for not having enough action but given how underdeveloped, nondescript the characters are and how boring and lacking in tension the film is, any heat would have been a reprieve. The other characters include Professor Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who has a hilariously deep voice, his son Johnny (Jordon) who drag races so we know he’s a rebellious, Storm’s adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) who talks like a computer and has one look on her face and Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who leaves the blinds closed because he’s dark and moody—nothing sinister there—and whose original theory has been completed by Reed. Once the real teleporter is constructed, the film becomes monumentally stupid. After a few drinks, Reed, Ben, Johnny and Victor decide the very night the teleporter is completed they’ll test it themselves. Let that resonate with you for a moment. And if you were teleported to a mysterious alien plant—while intoxicated no less—would you touch some mysterious green goo? An explosion leaves the kids with superpowers, except Von Doom who is left for dead on the planet.
The way the film collapses from this point is both sad and unintentionally hilarious. The film’s disjointed shape—a result of those reshoots—is painfully evident in the gaping plot holes, time lapses and incoherent story threads. For example, the film forwards a year to when the characters are under military supervision and only then does Johnny’s father—slow on the uptake—tell his son he’s worried what the military will do to him. Trying to make this film dark and serious in tone also falters horribly, not only because there’s a talking rock monster but because von Doom makes for a laughable villain. This cut of the film tries hiding him as long as possible. In his short appearance, the bad von Doom stares at people until their faces explode—except the heroes—and he sneaks in clunkers like: “there is no Victor anymore, only Doom!” His showdown is appallingly rushed, perhaps mercifully for the audience. However, it’s meaningless to throw anymore fuel onto this disaster. It’s an awful movie but it’s important to remember that inexperienced directors like Josh Trank are made the scapegoats for big studios and corporations that gleefully overspend with the wrong people at the helm and then cast the first stone when the project fails. It just can’t continue this way.
Summary: Fantastic Four is a terrible film, a $100 million dollar piñata, deserving of its critical and commercial mauling.