FANTASTIC FOUR (USA/12A/100mins)
Directed by Josh Trank. Starring Kate Mara, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Tim Blake Nelson.
THE PLOT: Four young scientists find a way to teleport to another dimension, and find themselves altered in shocking and new ways when they return. The four must come to terms with their new powers and band together as friends to stop a former friend from destroying the Earth.
THE VERDICT: The central four are made up of Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm. Added to these four – who never really have a chance to show off their collective acting chops – is Toby Kebbel as Victor Von Doom, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson and Dan Castellaneta. Truthfully, it is hard to say whether any of the cast are good or bad at their roles as they are completely vanilla and, although time is given to develop them into real people, this never seems to quite happen.
The story, written for the screen by Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank focuses on the origins of this merry band of superheroes, through their scientific experiments. The scenes with the characters as children are oddly anachronistic, with 2007 feeling like 1987 on screen. That said, the first half of the film is actually watchable, with the characters bonding and getting to know one another, but this is soon lost as soon as the action – such as it is – kicks in. Much of the development of the teleporting device is shown through montage, which doesn’t give the characters a chance to grow and develop. Add to this the fact that the most interesting year of the characters’ lives is cut out of the film, and some huge potholes and the film goes from gritty sciencey superhero movie to a fantastic mess.
As director, Josh Trank gives loving focus to the start of FANTASTIC FOUR, but as the film progresses, it seems that he lost interest. Plot holes abound and some of the dramatic choices made seem unfathomable. Add to this some messy pacing, actors who are never given a chance to truly act, and a final act that takes place in another dimension – meaning there is never a true sense of danger – and FANTASTIC FOUR loses its shine.
In all, FANTASTIC FOUR is a fantastic mess. The first half of the film does its job, and there are some nice touches throughout, but the pacing, vanilla characters and lack of true danger let the film down badly. Marvel fatigue may be setting in, but this film could have benefitted from some of the formula used over at Marvel Studios – fight, fight, quip – as FANTASTIC FOUR tries to be something new and exciting, but ends up being nothing much at all.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Fantastic Four
Review by Brogen Hayes
2.0A fantastic mess
  • filmbuff2011

    Released in 2005 and 2007, the previous attempts at Marvel’s superhero team Fantastic Four were fun, family-friendly outings, but didn’t have the impact or longevity that both audiences and 20th Century Fox had hoped for. Just like the reboot of Spider-Man (and there’s another re-boot on the way), it’s time to try again with a new take from a different team. 2015’s Fantastic Four is solely an origin story, beginning even earlier than anticipated with Reed Richards as a precocious child who invents a teleportation device to another dimension. Years later, the now adult Reed (Miles Teller) and buddy Ben (Jamie Bell) have refined their experiment in school. It’s at this point that Dr Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue (Kate Mara) approach them with an offer to collaborate on a large-scale teleportation device. Joining them will be Sue’s brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and the brooding, troubled genius Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). During an unauthorised experiment, the group are transported to the other dimension and return suffering from physical transformations, superpowers that they reluctantly accept. Initially hostile to each other, they’ll have to find a way to work together and with Government operatives to find a solution… This new take on Fantastic Four sheds much of the family-friendly aspects of its predecessors to instead concentrate on a more real-world take on superpowers. In that sense, director Josh Trank is the perfect choice. His only other film to date is sleeper hit Chronicle, which came out of nowhere to be one of the more interesting superhero films of recent years. Tasked with re-inventing the Fantastic Four, he goes for a darker, more mature edge. When Reed and his team come back from their first trip with their new superpowers, they’re not exactly in the best of moods. It takes a while for the characters to actually work together in the third act, so what we have is two long acts of build-up before the pay-off (which is worth the wait). The character development here is a bit on the light side, as if Trank was anxious to get to the main thrust of the story (it’s relatively tight for a superhero film at 100 minutes). For example, Johnny is sketched as just enjoying his superpowers and being the reckless one. He needed a bit more than that – perhaps having three writers on board meant that characterisation took a backseat. However, the performances are all good with Teller and Kebbell being the stand-outs (Trank was lucky to get young actors of that calibre). The visual effects are atmospheric and thankfully a pointless 3D conversion hasn’t been slapped onto it. Fantastic Four is decent and enjoyable for what it is, but isn’t as fantastic as we had hoped for. In going dark, it often forgets to have fun. If there’s to be a sequel, then more work needs to be done on the story. There’s potential though. In case you’re wondering about end credit teasers… As this isn’t one of Marvel’s independently-produced features, there aren’t any (boo). ***

  • Sarah

    The movie started off well but declined so terribly midway and ended abruptly. I have two major negative points: *SPOILERS AHEAD*
    1. There was only one big fight scene. Usually when heroes first attain their super abilities there is a ‘practice’ fight scene when the hero(es) exercise their powers and discovers strengths, weaknesses, limits, etc. and also struggle to function properly as a team. After the battle the team should bond and/or come to terms with their powers better. Then there should be a second fight scene when the heroes exhibit new confidence and strength as a whole.
    None of this happened in the movie. In fact there was very little bonding and character development fullstop. Yes there was a bit of struggle but any strife between characters was forgotten entirely by the end without much resolution.
    2. Susan Storm’s wig. Her hair seemed to change colour every scene and varied throughout the film from blond dyed hair to a wig. I have a huge problem with this not only because I found her wig(s) distracting but the fact that it was necessary for her character to have blond hair at all made me angry. The male characters in the film don’t seem dependent on any physical features – black hair, red hair, tall, short, black, white – none of it seems to matter. But it is inconceivable to recreate a Susan Storm sans blond hair. It seems to me that producers think the audience simply won’t be able to recognise her unless they paint her exactly as she was originally created… like as if female characters are never to be listened to or understood. They’re just there to be looked at.