Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four 2015 poster.jpg
It's Critiquing Time

Director: Josh Trank
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathy, Tim Blake Nelson

There's no denying this film was controversial even before filming had begun. As various aspects leaked, it was clear this would be a radicalised take on the classic Marvel characters, with changes to characters race, age and occupation. It was certain to be a departure from the previous Fantastic Four films in tone, but unfortunately, not in quality.

Since childhood, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has worked on creating a teleportation device with his friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). After being recruited by Professor Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), Reed is tasked with applying his work to building an interdimensional transporter. A test run takes Ben, Reed, Franklin's son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) - the initial creator of the transporter - to another dimension. But tragedy strikes during, and the journey back, which Johnny's Sister - Susan Storm (Kate Mara) - gets caught in, results in the four survivors being drastically changed with unique abilities.

One gets the feeling Michael B. Jordan could have been the films breakout character, as though there's a spirited performance wanting to come onto the screen. However, faults with script and direction held him back from doing so, and it's not just him affected by this. Kate Mara fails to leave an impression due to her bland performance, while Jamie Bell's left overshadowed by the distracting effects and a jarring voice modulation. Toby Kebbell's unable to elevate his uninteresting character, who'll probably be best remembered for the ridiculous design.

Of the cast, Miles Teller comes off the best. His drive for science is evident, especially in the early scenes, but as things goes on, his looks of boredom make it evident his heart isn't into it. This is most likely due by the material he's got to work with, and it's understandable. It's hard to sympathise for the characters in regards to their accident, when it's come about due to a foolish decision made thanks to them getting drunk.

Ben took Rock, Paper, Scissors a bit too literally.

At the heart of the characters, the Fantastic Four have always been about family. This has always been an important part of their DNA, right down to their label as Marvel's "First Family". So how come this aspect remains left out? You do feel the bond between character pairings, such as Reed & Ben's long friendship, but these aren't given enough screen-time, leaving arcs which lack a satisfying resolution. But even more noticeable is how characters disappear off-screen for large amounts of time, with the titular group not even all being together until the finale, where they must enact the cliché of coming together to defeat the villain.

By the time the final fight come, it's clear how uneven things are. The previous scenes had settled on the dour, serious tone, which was accentuated by scenes largely being set inside the bland indoors scenery. The finale is dreadfully dull, as the characters escape the dreary indoors to stand before a greenscreen backdrop. But while the first part of the film felt dragged out, spending more than enough time building the device, the finale hits fast forward and rushes through plot to an unsatisfying degree.

The sad thing is, within the meat of an uneven mess, the skeleton of a good film lies dormant. Perhaps if Josh Trank applied it to an original film, unburdened by the baggage of fans expectations and studio interference, there could have been something special here. Maybe then we wouldn't have so many forced references, feeling as though Trank was ashamed to include them.

The worst one involves The Thing's famous catchphrase. "It's Clobbering Time" remains an important part of Ben Grimm, in the same way "Hulk Smash" is a big part of Marvel's green rage monster. So how's such an integral part of the character brought to life? It's uttered by Ben's older brother, before he inflicts abuse on him. This isn't the only time it's uttered, as The Thing declares it during the final battle. Not only is it a woeful misuse of a well-known phrase associated with the character, but his repeat of it shows he's not over the abuse. What an unnecessarily dark addition, which shows how mishandled things were.

In an avalanche of superhero adaptations, Fantastic Four manages to stand out due to its poor quality. After four lacklustre attempts at bringing these characters to the big screen, perhaps it's clear what the next option should be. Sell the characters to Marvel, where they'll hopefully receive the same redemption Daredevil was granted.