Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

DF-05150 Johnny Storm's (Michael B. Jordan) new powers have scientists searching for answers. Photo credit: Ben Rothstein.

The Fantastic Four are one of Marvel’s most revered comics book characters and have had a long and complicated history in film. Back in 1994 an independently made film adaptation by Roger Corman was filmed but never released in cinemas and now endures cult status from bootlegged versions online. And almost everyone remembers watching the 2005 Fantastic Four version with Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evan and Michael Chiklis, that racked up $330 million from the box office, but, frankly, wasn’t particularly great.

Unfortunately this is not the reboot of Fantastic Four that the original 1961 comic book series deserves. Making the same mistake as The Amazing Spider-Man and lowering the ages of its characters in an attempt to be more modern and contemporary, Fant4stic (as it’s been remarketed) lacks the thrill, charisma and chemistry necessary for a superhero film to succeed, definitely falling short other super films of late (Ant-Man, The Avengers: Age of Ultron,Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

Opening with boy genius Reed (Owen Judge), who takes down the electricity in his neighbourhood when he teleports a small toy through space with new friend Ben (Evan Hannermann), the story moves forward seven years where Reed and Ben (now Miles Teller and Jamie Bell, respectively) go from high school science fair to working at the innovative Baxter Building. Meeting Dr Franklin Storm (Reg E Cathey), his adoptive daughter Sue (Kate Mara), his son Johnny (Michael B Jordan) and past protégé Victor (Toby Kebbell), eventually they develop the ability to travel to other dimensions. But after a drunken visit via teleporter, their lives are all changed when they return with superpowers.

The first half an hour of Fant4stic is entertaining, and there are many allusions to interesting ideas and personal conflicts. But as more and more characters are introduced and the plot becomes more intricate, the film loses is strength and it becomes easy to lose interest in missing interpersonal relationships, drama and boring storytelling. Easily on the same level as the tedious Man of Steel, Fant4stic fails because it reduces each of its characters to cliches and simply isn’t interesting or fun.

Its cluttered and undeveloped plot switches between being a fun and feisty occasion, to faux “cutting-edge” grit with earnestness beyond its capabilities. This inconsistency in tone isn’t aided by the dreadful dialogue and irritatingly common montages, which are badly placed and could have been more interesting than the scenes that we are privy too.

Something the film especially misses is a sense of camaraderie – the Four are nowhere near as friendly or team-like as the quartet from the former films. This is primarily influenced by the absence of chemistry between Teller, Bell, Mara and Jordan in major scenes (of which there are few). It also seems as if the script doesn’t want to try too hard to make each of the Four friends, as dialogue between them is scarce and are given way to overdramatic scenes towards the end of the film.

While Fant4stic works as an origin story, albeit a dreary one, we aren’t given much of an idea of the vision of the series (Fox have already green-lit a sequel). Indeed the film doesn’t build on very many character arcs or development either individually or collectively. This changes momentarily in the third act, but doesn’t feel organic, and makes one wonder if these superhero bunch should even be in a group together.

On top of everything, the – what can only be deemed as – failed CGI on the film is more distracting than enhancing. Each superpower lacks gravitas that should make an audience member go “wow”, and it’s honestly concerning to think where the $122 million budget went, considering so much of the film is CGI. The effects are better and sleeker than the 2005 version, but doesn’t fit in with the brooding solemnity the film is trying to evoke so convincingly.

This version of Fantastic Four is different to past adaptations, but sadly it cannot be applauded simply for taking a chance. The bad script, dull tone, little to no chemistry between its stars and wearisome story progression overshadow the reasonable acting and political commentary behind the action. Sure, it’s a predecessor to a supposed Fantastic Four series, but it’s pointless to watch an interesting follow-up when the first instalment is just so bland.

1.5/5 stars

Originally published on CelebrityOz, 6 August, 2015.

Watch the trailer for F4ntastic below:

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