Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Black Nelson
Directed By: Josh Trank
There Will Be Spoilers. I can’t actually review this film without discussing some of the points. That being said, there’s nothing surprising in this plot at all.
I was holding out hope that everyone who said Fantastic Four was going to suck was wrong. I was hoping that they were just exaggerating Josh Trank’s antics. But, everyone was right. Fantastic Four feels like everyone just gave up. There’s no Stan Lee cameo, which is odd. There’s no credits sequence, which is odd. It’s almost as if someone was like “this is the best cut I can make from the pile of crap Josh gave me”, and they released it. As is. That’s why there was a review embargo. It really isn’t any good.
The film opens with young Reed discussing how he wants to develop a teleportation machine, and his teacher brushes him off. He eventually befriends Ben Grimm, and together they work on the machine. I was disappointed with the actor picked to play Ben Grimm. He walked with a limp, but there was never any explanation as to why he was limping. I thought they were going to do something with it, like show us that Ben’s leg was in a brace or something. You know, make the weak kid strong?
We flash forward to a science fair where Miles Teller and Jamie Bell, who are the oldest fucking high school students in the world. Their competition is in middle school or something. I don’t even understand that scene. I stopped having science fairs in elementary school. Did Reed Richards, as a grown ass man, enter an elementary school science fair? Never mind the fact that the teachers blow it off as “magic”. You just saw a blue ball of electricity, and he created a sound so loud it shattered the backboard of a basketball goal. And you’re going to seriously award the science fair ribbon to anyone but him? It just so happens that Dr. Storm and his daughter Sue are at this random science fair, and they’ve been trying to do the same thing Reed’s been trying to do.
So, Reed goes to “college”, leaving Ben behind (which is really just awful storytelling). He spends his time working on this machine (no mention of any actual classes), with a guy named Victor Von Doom. Now, I know they can’t do anything about the name Marvel saddled him with. Toby Kebbell, who plays Doom, plays him with the kind of morose enthusiasm you’d expect from someone who lost their entire family in a tragic fire. He’s by far the least interested person in the cast, which says a lot. Reed, Sue, Victor, and Johnny build this machine. Then it works. Then, so they can be the first ones, they decide to use it themselves. This is where the story takes another huge leap, and Reed finally brings Ben in. Everyone just seems immediately cool with Ben, a guy they’ve never met, and the fact that he’s going to travel to another dimension with them. Ben, who was left behind, is basically OK with this too… because he lives in a junkyard and his life is basically meaningless without Reed. Basically, Reed forgets about Ben, texting him only once that we know of, and then finally tries to make it up by bringing him in at the last minute.
So they travel to the other world, and when they get there, Victor wants to explore. Of course this leads to a disaster, and they barely make it back… but have to leave Victor behind. Then the government performs experiments on the Fantastic Four. Ben works with the government when they need him. Johnny is training to work with them. Sue is reluctant. Reed is on the lam. The government obviously wants to reopen the portal, and they need Reed to do it,so they capture Reed who fixes it in just a few minutes of hacking, and then they go back to the other world where they find DOOM. Doom is limping, injured, barely alive. Yet somehow, back on earth, he’s able to heal and thrive. He was left there for a LONG TIME. Like, a year or so. He’d either be dead, or his injuries would have healed (and healed over). He’d still have a limp. You can’t just put and IV in Doom when he’s near death, and then suddenly he’s in God Mode. If he was in God Mode all along, he could have just killed the soldiers that helped him come back, and then taken the device himself. He’s a fucking scientist. He knows how this works.
The film ends with Doom going back to his world, and trying to suck earth into a black hole. But, the Fantastic Four follow him back and stop him. Obviously. Then they make a deal with the government, get their own facility, and SEQUEL!
The film has so much damn exposition, that by the time it gets to the good stuff, it’s over. The Fantastic Four have zero chemistry. From person-to-person, these four people don’t seem to get along. There’s no brother/sister bond between Mara and Jordan, there’s barely a blossoming romance between Teller/Mara, and Jamie Bell sleepwalks through all his “Pre-Thing” stuff. Granted, the film shoves him aside and takes a massive shit on him, but still… cheer up.
Josh Trank is trying to distance himself from this movie, saying that he had a better cut. A cut, maybe. But that’s about all. The scene where Thing drops in, and Reed is counting down for him, that’s not in the film. So I can definitely buy that there are more scenes that were left on the cutting room floor. Maybe it would have made the film just a tiny bit better. Most of the problems with the film are core problems with the script and the cast. You can’t fix zero chemistry through editing, you can’t fix the marginalization of Ben Grimm by adding scenes that never exist. The fundamental core problem was the script was awful to begin with, and no one did anything about it.
I don’t directly blame Trank for this failure, as there are a lot of people who should have noticed this film sucked long before it reached theatres. Blaming Josh Trank is just a weak power play at this point. Honestly, you can’t blame the director for being hired to direct a film that never should have been made.
Fantastic Four isn’t the worst film of the year, but it might just be the most disappointing. A few glimmering moments of hope showed me that if they had just reworked the script, and brought in someone who knew what they were doing, Fantastic Four could have at least been above average. At least it looks cool.
FINAL GRADE: C-