In 2005, the first big-budget blockbuster film for Marvel’s first superhero family, the Fantastic Four, was released and it was bad. Really bad. It was about as campy as Batman and Robin (minus the bat-nipples). Fast forward ten years and the franchise has gotten the gritty superhero reboot treatment. And yet somehow the 2005 version was better. Much better.
If you’ve seen the ’05 version, you know just how bad it was. It has horrible acting, cheesy dialog, a copy and paste villain and Michael Chiklis in a full-body styrofoam rock suit. While both the old and new movies are bad, the ’05 film managed to make it at least somewhat fun to watch. Josh Trank‘s reboot takes the film in a much grittier direction and sucks all fun out of the equation. And that is, at the core, the film’s biggest problem.
Fantastic Four is a franchise that should not be taken too seriously.
Marvel Studios knows this and takes advantage of it in their own films. They make their films fun with a hint of seriousness that works great. That is why anything they personally produce is number one in the box office for at least two weeks straight. A perfect example is last month’s Ant-Man. Marvel Studios took a ridiculous concept that is less popular than the already established franchise that is the Fantastic Four, and they made it a good, fun movie that topped the box office.
20th Century Fox, who owns the film rights to FF, wanted to go in the opposite direction and it has already backfired on them. The film has received terrible reviews and opened up second in the box office.
With that being said, not all of the blame can be put on 20th Century. The film’s script and plot are extremely bland. The film’s pacing is absolutely bizarre. The first 45-50 minutes of the film are spent on the four main characters working on making a teleportation device to get them into Planet Zero, where they all receive their powers. It feels very drawn out…and then the film’s climax lasts about ten minutes. That would be acceptable if that first hour of the film made me feel something for the characters, but it doesn’t. Instead, we get an hour wasted on montages of them building the device.
There isn’t an iota of chemistry between the FF. Reed and Susan speak, but they seem too socially awkward to actually hold a conversation. Johnny is solely shown as an angry and rude punk and Ben Grimm is seen for a total of about ten minutes. They spend the entire film focusing on the building of the machine and when they finally get their powers they are at odds with each other. Then, in the last ten minutes of the film, Reed gives a five-second speech and we are expected to believe that this motivates them to work together. By the way, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm literally speak to each other once…at the tail end of the film. It just makes no sense.
All four actors, Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell are well established and have impressive portfolios of work. There is no reason that they should have performed so poorly. The direction, writing, and studio interference unfortunately made this film a complete mess.
The Bottom Line:
There is one scene in the film in which Doctor Doom, played by Toby Kebbell, wakes up in a lab on Earth after being rescued from Planet Zero and murders all of the scientists in the room. He walks down the hallway stopping any and all bullets fired at him and simply obliterates anyone in his way, as well as in his vicinity. And it was amazing. This one scene made me very hopeful for the final act of the film. But it fell flat and went completely cliche and about as campy as the ’05 film. If the rest of the film would have kept the same tone and atmosphere of that one scene, I would be writing a different review. Sadly, 20th Century Fox has another superhero mess on their hands. A sequel is planned for 2017, but hopefully Fox will do what everyone wants them to and revert the film rights back to Marvel Studios. Until then, just stay away.