By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
I’m not quite sure what it is about the Fantastic Four that seems to confuse filmmakers. The comics are pretty straightforward, but it seems that with every attempt to make it more modern and inventive, the movies get screwed up in the process. The last two FF movies by Tim Story have the right tone, but have some witless writing, especially in the humor. Story and his writers also had some silly ideas when it comes to their version of the villain, Dr. Doom. Flash forward to today and 20th Century Fox is releasing a Fantastic Four reboot. It is a film that they hope will lead to sequels, and will ultimately connect with the X-Men films to form their own cinematic universe. The problem is, they have made a mess of their new Fantastic Four movie, especially with this new incarnation of Dr. Doom. If they hope to salvage this new franchise, they are going to need a major overhaul if they manage to get a sequel made.
This version attempts to give audiences a more detailed origin story of Reed Richards and his life’s work that leads to the formation of the superhero team. Miles Teller stars as Richards, a genius scientist, who as a child, begins working on a teleportation device. What begins as a school science project for Reed and his buddy Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) gets the attention of scientist Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey). Storm recruits Reed to continue his work, but on a larger scale. Working with Storm’s daughter Sue (Kate Mara), another brilliant scientist named Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), and Storm’s wild son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). When Reed and his team finish the project, enabling humanity to achieve interstellar travel via teleportation, they decide to test the equipment on themselves. A freak accident occurs, effecting them profoundly, and their lives will never be the same.
Written by Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater, and Josh Trank who also directs, this new Fantastic Four adaptation starts off promisingly with some sweet and entertaining moments regarding the origin behind Reed Richards’ work and his friendship with Ben Grimm. The movie then spends a little too much time exploring the origins of everyone involved and takes too long to get to their transformation. The film also takes even longer to portray Victor Von Doom’s transformation into a monster. So much time is spent getting to this point, that there’s barely any time for him in the film. For approximately five minutes, Dr. Doom attacks humanity and galvanizes the four heroes to team up and fight him. On one hand, I found it ludicrous that the villain of the movie barely exists in the story. On the other hand, I truly despised the filmmakers’ concept of Dr. Doom that I’m glad his screen time is so short.
The movie is just so unbalanced. It is way too heavy on origin story that even the heroes don’t have that much time to embrace their destiny. The development of the characters from lab accidents to superheroes is attempted in a few minutes and the writing “announcing” this evolution is so ham-fisted and corny that I had to groan in my seat as I watched it. The filmmakers decide to go with a much more serious tone, but forgot to show that having superpowers can be fun. At least in the previous films, the characters and the actors portraying them seem to have a good time.
The cast members perform well, but the writing makes their characters rather bland that it really was difficult to root for them. Miles Teller, who I think is one of Hollywood’s great new talents does his best as Reed Richards, and actually has some charming moments, but I feel the writing is to blame for making his character not so fantastic. He does have a couple of adorable scenes with love interest Sue (played by Kate Mara) and the two share a believable chemistry. However, even her character just isn’t all that interesting. Typically, the two more fascinating heroes of the team are the fiery Johnny Storm and the team’s rock Ben Grimm.
In the previous film’s both Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis nailed these roles beautifully. Evans portrayed Johnny as wild and brash and Chiklis portrayed The Thing as a gruff and grumpy curmudgeon. In this new movie Michael B. Jordan brings the attitude, but the writing does restrain him a bit much. As for Jamie Bell, the actor puts his heart into the role, but Thing, here, is envisioned as a mopey and depressed monster. As for Toby Kebell who stars as Victor Von Doom, I actually like his scenes as pre-villainous Victor, but his talent gets wasted in what I feel is an abomination of the Dr. Doom character.
While this new Fantastic Four movie is not a total abomination, it is utterly disappointing. Should Fox move forward with a sequel, I hope they remember that comic book movies can be fun and thrilling. The classic Fantastic Four comics had a fun and slightly campy approach. Perhaps they should study what makes a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy awesome and approach their sequels that way. I know they eventually want to link FF to the X-Men movies, but if they want this franchise to stand on its own, they are literally going to have to do something fantastic.