fantastic_four_3Year: 2015
Director: Josh Trank
Writer(s): Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
Digital, Color, 100 mins

Synopsis: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. (Source)

Amidst the crazy production drama, funny character names and a plot that’s all build up with little payoff, Fantastic Four is mostly an unmitigated disaster. It’s a shame then, because the first act is filled with genuinely great character moments, exciting performances and lots of promise for a fun adventure – it’s the film’s tail end that’s a train wreck, making it obvious that both the studio and filmmakers couldn’t decide which approach would be most beneficial for the film.

Science prodigy Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is working on a teleportation device with the assistance of lifelong friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). The pair end up catching the eye of a Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue (Kate Mara), who enlist the help of his rebellious son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and protege Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). After completing the device, the group drunkenly teleport themselves into a strange dimension but fail to make it back safely. A freak accident compromises each passenger’s pod on the device (crushed by rocks, fire, shockwave, etc.) sending each person back changed on a molecular level. Fundamentally transformed, the group must face the tragedy of their new conditions all while learning to use them against a new threat.

What this film sorely lacks (besides noteworthy stylistic direction) is the satisfying exploration of family relationships which made the original FF comics so great. The cast is easily the film’s strongest element but even when they’re all together, their perfunctory dynamic never gets a chance to flourish. It’s this fundamental failure that keeps the film in shackles, especially since the first twenty to thirty minutes are so good. As we’re introduced to the characters and their world for the first time, there are a number of great moments, which, sadly are all too quickly forgotten once the troublesome final act begins.

fantastic_four_4Really, once the group gains its powers, the film shifts tone so drastically it almost feels like we’re watching a completely new movie. It’s dark and colorless. Characters and performances become drowned out by incoherent and nonsensical plot developments. It’s so choppy and obviously edited down that the the appearance of the film’s villain in the final fifteen minutes feels tacked on. It’s here when the legendary Doom appears and goes on a killing spree for the worst reasons. The conflict between the first half’s awe and wonder and seemingly out-of-the-blue violence is jarring and holds almost no weight.

Whatever the original vision of Fantastic Four was, it’s clear the film’s been lost to studio politics and lack of foresight. Saved mostly by the cast and a shimmering, exciting score by master composers Marco Beltrami and legendary Phillip Glass, the film stands as a monument of painful missed opportunity. Ignoring anything that makes its comic book counterpart worth reading, it’s just not fun and is missing a clear purpose. If an FF sequel does happen, here’s hoping they revisit these characters and try to understand what makes the colorful property work in the first place.