By Adam Garcia
The 1-4-0: Josh Trank fails spectacularly to reboot Marvel’s first family in a grossly ill-conceived film.
The Gist: Drawing inspiration from Marvel’s Ultimate Fantastic Four comic series—perhaps best known for Greg Land’s liberal tracing of porn stars and Topher Grace —Fantastic Four follows a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and his adopted sister Sue Storm’s (Kate Mara) exploration into another dimension, before facing off against the erstwhile colleague, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell).
What Works: The meeting of young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm (Owen Judge and Evan Hannemann, respectively) in elementary school is at once sweet and charming. Conversely, a later scene between the two recently transformed men is particularly chilling, hinting at an exploration of the property’s darker themes, but upon which the film ultimately never delivers.
What Doesn’t Work: Top to bottom Fantastic Four fails not only as an adaptation of Marvel Comic’s seminal series, but more importantly, as a standalone film. The mistakes in this film are legion. Beginning with a grim tone that actively ignores the source material’s inherent sense of joy, to head-slapping decisions made by its “genius” protagonists, to a sudden time-jump that almost entirely skips over the characters’ discovery of their powers.
Teller’s Reed Richards comes off a coward. Mara is aptly cast the Invisible Woman as she barely registers as a character. Jordan somehow loses all his charisma once he gains his abilities. Bell’s Thing is morose and resigned, and oddly naked for entirety of his screen time. And Kebbell’s Dr. Doom, though given a genuinely disturbing revenge sequence that feels like its from a different film, has exactly zero motivation while simultaneously missing what has made the villain so memorable in the comics. It’s almost as though Trank and company seemed intent on robbing the film of any sense of wonder or personality. They’ve created a protracted origin story that, over the course of 100 very long minutes, ultimately goes nowhere, skipping over everything we came to see and rushing to an ending that is as boring as it is unearned.
Pay or Nay: Nay. Nay. A thousand times, nay. It’s hard to overstate the level of failure that is Fantastic Four, somehow surpassing even the lowest of expectations becoming what may be one of the worst superhero films yet put to screen. If you’re looking for a decent adaption of the Fantastic Four, (and I honestly cannot believe I’m saying this), watch the 2005 Tim Story film and its sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer, or better yet, check out the unreleased low-budget Roger Corman film. All of these films have a better understanding of what makes the source material special, though Pixar’s The Incredibles, remains perhaps the best interpretation of the Fantastic Four to date. One can only hope that Marvel Studios will now get the rights back in time for their post-Avengers (and perhaps now incredibly appropriate) Phase 4.
Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language
Release Date: August 7, 2015
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater
Director(s): Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson, Reg E. Cathey, Lance E. Nichols, Mary Rachel Dudley, Tim Bell, Ronnie Hooks, Jodi Lyn Brockton, Chet Hanks, Shauna Rappold
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Film Genre: Action/Sci-Fi