From the moment it was announced, it seems that fans were ready to hate the newest Fantastic Four film. Everything from casting a black actor as Johnny Storm to the early description of Dr Doom’s character seemed to cause people all around the internet to call this movie an inevitable disaster. There were also rumors that relatively inexperienced director Josh Trank was having difficulty directing the film’s more complex scenes. There were even some reports that Trank was very difficult to work with and argued with producers and the cast on set. Those rumors became a little more believable when Trank declined to direct one of the upcoming Star Wars films due to apparently almost suffering a nervous breakdown while filming Fantastic Four. All in all, Fantastic Four had everything going against it before it came out, and while we may never know if all the behind the scenes chaos is actually true, the end result certainly shows that something went horribly, horribly wrong.
The movie opens with Reed Richards (Miles Teller), a brilliant young scientist who has discovered a method to transport matter across dimensional plains. Reed’s invention catches the attention of Dr. Franklin Storm, (Reg E. Cathey) who recruits Reed into a special government funded program designed to foster young geniuses like Reed. There, Reed is teamed up with Franklin’s children Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), as well as Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) the guy who first attempted perfecting inter-dimensional travel and is mad that Reed beat him to the punch. After a night of drinking, Reed, Johnny, Victor and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Reed’s childhood friend, use the finished machine to become the first humans to travel to a different dimension. Once there, things go awry and they, as well as Sue who was nearby trying to bring the boys travel back to earth, end up with superpowers. Now, Reed, Ben, Sue and Johnny must join together to use their powers to protect the world against Victor, who has decided to use his powers to erase all of humanity.
I honestly don’t even know where to begin describing the total train wreck that is Fantastic Four. I could start with the uneven script that’s filled with plot holes and bad dialogue, or I could start with the jumbled editing that allowed scenes to go on for way too long. To put it bluntly, it makes the 2005 Fantastic Four look like a masterpiece. The film feels as if it was made by someone who doesn’t know anything about the Fantastic Four and has never seen a superhero film in their life. For example, we have gotten used to the fact that an average superhero movie should have at least three action scenes. Fantastic Four barely has two. When I first saw the trailers for the film, I was intrigued by the fact that they wanted to make this a more serious take on the characters, and I’m sure that in better hands, a serious Fantastic Four could be a potentially great movie. Unfortunately here, that kind of tone culminates in a film that is completely devoid of any fun, charisma or emotionality, all things you need to make a Fantastic Four film. Even Johnny Storm, who is supposed to be the most energetic and light-hearted member of the group, is just too damn serious and dour to lighten the mood. The only laughs I got from the film were unintentional ones.
To properly explain the film’s biggest mistake, I’ll have to give a minor spoiler. The whole first half of the movie focuses on the characters before they get their powers, and as such, I accepted its slow pace and was willing to give it a pass as long as the movie hit high gear once they got their powers. Astoundingly, once they get their powers, the movie falls off a cliff entirely and just becomes one of the most boring and unimaginative superhero movies you will ever see. The film decides to skip a year right after the four get their powers. That in itself isn’t a bad idea, except for the fact that the four heroes are separated for that duration, meaning that for an entire year, the Fantastic Four weren’t even the Fantastic Four. That idiotic decision speaks to the movie’s larger problem: It isn’t a Fantastic Four film. Part of what makes the Fantastic Four cool is that they are a close group of friends that fight evil together. There is no sense of comradery between the four leads, and the movie doesn’t even make the effort to show almost any of the dynamics between the core four aside from the relationship between Reed and Ben. That’s why the film’s opening ten minutes are its best, because it focuses on the childhood friendship between the two. Ben Grimm meets Johnny Storm only minutes before getting his powers and doesn’t see him again until the final battle. He never even properly meets Sue and doesn’t say a single thing to her the entire film. That’s what this film is telling us, that two members of The Fantastic Four never interact with each other. There’s barely any interaction between Sue and Johnny and they’re siblings. The only reason they even team up towards the end of the movie is because they have to defeat the villain, not because of any sense of friendship or loyalty.
Even on a basic cinematic level, Fantastic Four is a complete and utter mess. Despite having a budget of close to 125 million dollars, the film looks really cheap. It feels like the movie tried its hardest to make the Fantastic Four use their powers as little as possible. The majority of the effects work was done on The Thing who does look pretty decent, but Johnny Storm just looks like a burning mannequin. Sue Storm barely ever turns invisible, as the film decides to put all the focus on her force field power. Reed only uses his stretching ability to punch far away foes, and not in any creative or amusing way. The stretch ability looks laughably bad, as if someone put Miles Teller through a medieval torture device. Another thing that made the film look cheap is the fact that there are only about 3 locations used for ninety percent of the movie, two of them being secret science facilities and one of which is a badly green screened alternate dimension. I have no clue where that 125 million went, but it was either horribly mismanaged or it went into someone’s pocket because this film looks worse than an episode of The Flash.
All these negative elements could have been tolerable if the film would have at least delivered a satisfying climax, but even that is absent. Instead, the entire third act feels way too rushed, trying to fit almost an entire movie’s worth of story into 30 minutes. The final big battle (which is the only action scene in the entire film) is one of the laziest, most non sensual fight scenes I have ever seen on film. A lot of that has to do with the fact that, aside from looking pretty cool, Dr. Doom was rushed into the story and given a very lazy motivation for being evil. The whole third act feels so rushed that, even though the movie’s hour and forty minute runtime felt long as it is, I would have preferred they add a few minutes to the climax to more adequately pace it. Like I said before, the Fantastic Four only team up because they have to in order to stop Doom, and their strategy to defeat him is to basically all attack at once. I still have no idea how they finally managed to defeat him (too obvious to be a spoiler), that’s how confusing and poorly filmed the fight is.
I feel bad for all the actors in the film, because each and every one of them is incredibly talented but they are given nothing to do here, and it’s sad to see. Michael B. Jordan would have been a perfect Johnny Storm, unfortunately here he is playing a character that is nothing like Johnny Storm. The most rebellious thing we see Johnny do here is participate in one badly filmed street race. He’s not a womanizer and barely says anything sarcastic. Kate Mara just looks like she’s sleepwalking through the film. The romantic chemistry between Sue and Reed is so nonexistent that you would think that they were siblings too. The Thing could have easily been played by any gravelly voiced actor, which makes Jamie Bell’s presence completely irrelevant. If there is a single silver lining to be found here, it’s Reg E. Cathy as Franklin Storm. The scenes he shares with Johnny and Sue are the only ones that come close to being emotional and his reaction to seeing his son on fire for the first time is genuinely haunting. In fact, the scene where we see all four heroes waking up to discover their powers for the first time is the film’s best. It leads you to think that the film will actually address the realistic aftermath of getting freakish powers, but it doesn’t and instead focuses on a plotline in which the government tries to use the four as weapons, a plotline that’s really started to get trite (cough Jurassic World cough).
I could go on forever on the many, many ways Fantastic Four failed on every single level, but to do so would be as tedious as the film itself. It looks cheap, fails at capturing the spirit of the comics and delivers one of the worst climaxes in recent memory. I feel bad for the actors who thought this movie would elevate their careers, and hope that every producer involved never works in the business again. I gave the movie countless chances to improve, but all it did was dig a deeper grave for itself. Needless to say, this is one of the worst movies to be released this year, and one of the most bafflingly awful blockbuster films I have seen in a while. There is almost nothing redeemable about Fantastic Four, skip it at all cost.
Final Grade: 2/10