Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
A few months ago, this ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot had me very excited. I wasn’t really into the whole superhero genre back in 2005 – I was focussed pretty much solely on Batman at that point – and so the awful version from that year kind of evaded me. But the cast and director for this version had my approval, and the trailer certainly promised much. Those pesky trailers though, it seemed, had deceived us again, after early critical reception absolutely shit all over this. I refused to listen though, I like to make my own mind up.
This time round, we have the same concept and villain. But this is a film very much rooted in the origin story – they love pushing those over at Marvel – and is more concerned with the science behind the transformation of the protagonists from nerds and tough guys to heroes and villains. Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has always dreamed of making a difference, and more specifically, teleportation. With the help of his only friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), his early teleportation device is picked up by Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue (Kate Mara), leading to a scholarship aimed at developing a more advanced machine capable of human teleportation. With the help of Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), the gang manage to travel to a fourth dimension, with disastrous results.
An impressive young cast are undoubtedly let down by a weak script. Miles Teller was absolutely fantastic (mind the pun) in one of my favourite films of all time, ‘Whiplash’, but as the leader of the pack here, it saddens me to say he is the one most guilty of poor acting. A worrying amount of the things he says appears to be uttered with great difficulty and awkwardness, like he’s being held at gunpoint. Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara will escape rather unscathed in this review; they weren’t exceptional, but they weren’t awful either. Jamie Bell is pretty good, until he’s turned into rock, at which point it’s hardly fair to judge. And the villain, Dr Doom, in his human form is a rather interesting, enigmatic character, but his reign as the bad guy is sadly short-lived.
And that is just the problem with the film. From the 100 minute runtime, you get about 10 minutes of actual superhero action; enough time for one very rushed, very mild battle scene, and then it’s done. Director Josh Trank responded to negative reviews last week by tweeting: “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though”. This deleted tweet is quite clearly a dig at the way the film was edited and managed by the powers that be. If that is the case, and it is this kind of decision-making which left the film with such little focus on the fight scenes and action we expected, then I feel for Trank and the way his project was arguably ruined. Nevertheless, he has to take some of the flack for his involvement, as this was a shadow of a superhero movie, with a lamentable, hurried conclusion.
That said, visually the film was exciting, and more than capable of matching up to the likes of ‘X-Men’ and even the ‘Avengers’ films in that sense. The use of ominous music also added to the experience nicely, I just wish there was a greater range of ominous events to bring the film into darker territory. I think you’re always going to struggle with the ‘Fantastic Four’ franchise, especially with their leader being nothing more than a glorified Stretch-Armstrong with a brain. This may be the oldest superhero team in Marvel’s vast catalogue, something of an institution, but it’s a story that should have perhaps remained in the comic books all along.
The critical reception this film has received is unfair, most definitely. The bandwagon has gotten a little crowded, full of people trying to drive this films rating down as much as possible. An article from Filmoria accurately describes this as critics “out-doing each other in how vitriolic they can be”. But this film entertained me and kept me watching. I wasn’t sat there thinking “when will this end?”, I was actually looking at my watch begging for more time, to allow for something a bit more epic to come along. That isn’t the sign of a bad film, that’s the sign of a badly edited film, with restrictions and creative differences. Give this a chance and ignore the negativity. Because a sequel is coming, whether it be from Fox, or Marvel. And I for one am looking forward to seeing this team return to correct their mistakes.