Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan
Spoilers Within: No
Originally posted 17th April 2016 on Letterboxd.
I’ll first start out by saying that this review is essentially a wearisome echo of every bit of criticism that was geared toward Josh Trank’s troubled reboot of a series of films that no-one particularly liked in the first place. I’ll also say that whilstFantastic Four is not as terrible as Tim Story’s double-entry of trash, it’s also completely worthless despite its repeatedly desperate attempts at claiming a unique voice.
It starts out subtle enough to be interesting, but Slater, Kinberg and Trank’s script drops this intrigue rapidly in favour of logic-defying choices made by inessential characters. One of the biggest discoveries of all time (Planet Zero) is in the hands of an inexperienced selection of teenage scientists (the eponymous Four), and only once their experiment is successful at entering this distant planet are the higher-ups brought in. The believability of these teens pioneering a new discovery at such an age of inexperience – let alone operate the experimental first mission – (which, by the way, goes by with very little fanfare for such a landmark moment in science) is stretched far beyond breaking point, so much so that it’s impossible to really get behind. Their subsequent drunken defiance at the threat of NASA being the first people to venture into this known unknown is defensible, but the following accident elicits little more that a ‘told-you-so’ mentality that’s hard to ignore. Their disfigurements are less the result of a scientific disaster, but more the result of their adolescent contempt for authority. What a hangover that must’ve been.
But this is a surprisingly lesser flaw in comparison to one of the most glaringly obvious and jarring moments of the film: the post-accident time-leap. Reed Richards/Stretch Armstrong (Miles Teller) is on the run for reasons that are never fleshed out; Ben Grimm/Rockman (Jamie Bell) has been weaponised by the military as a rock that throws smaller rocks at things; and the other two – Johnny/The Fireman and Sue Storm/Inivisgirl (Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara) – are splitting hairs about the morality of their new abilities. None of these characters are fully realised enough to care, but rather serve as a sequence of flashy, effects-laden scenes in lieu of plot development or worthy character arcs. With this one-year narrative leap, they missed an opportunity to delve into the immediate effects of their horrific mutations on their personal and family lives, and when a film becomes more boring once the characters achieve their titular status, you know the remainder of the film is going to be in trouble.
Another huge issue with the narrative – and further evidence that the film was either haphazardly created or edited (or likely, both) – is the revelation of the main antagonist with 20 minutes left of the total running time (credits excluded). Doctor Victor von Doom Doctor (Toby Kebbell) resurfaces with such little chance of making much of an impression on the overall film; hidden on Planet Zero with nary a look-in nor reference, and after a few surprisingly neat and promising (not to mention violent) minutes during a quarantine escape, he simply returns to the opposing planet. With such Earth-shattering consequences at the hands of Doom’s elemental and telekinetic powers, and considering these dual-planets, the film has absolutely no scope whatsoever. Fantastic Four exists purely within the confines of a laboratory, a medical ward, and the mundane, grey tundra of the distant planet.
There’s little more to be said for it and regardless of everyone’s best efforts and some quite brilliant sparks of grotesque body horror, it’s all just an imbalanced, poorly-conceived and logic-defying waste of some decent talent.