********* 5 out of 10 *********
Director: Josh Trank
Actors: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
Some heroes deserve better! That is what the folks at 20th Century Fox would have concluded after the rather mediocre attempts at a Fantastic Four movie in 2005 and 2007. Also, the movie rights to the comic book characters would have slipped back to Marvel if Fox hadn’t produced the next one soon. So in 2015 we got the rebooted version. After seeing it, I feel that some comic book heroes do not need a movie adaptation! It does nothing but disservice to the hours and hours spent over many years by the comic book writers and artists to create something memorable for the fans. The latest Fantastic Four movie promised so much early on, but when the final product found its way to the screen, after a very open tussle between the director and the studio, it turned out to be one of the most mediocre superhero films you would have seen over the past decade.
Fantastic Four is the origins story of the superhero group. Richard Reed (Miles Teller), a young genius, has successfully built a teleporter with the help of his friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). Reed gets a scholarship to work at a research institute along side Susan Storm (Kate Mara), Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan). The teleporter appears to be sending matter to another dimension, and when the group is able to send organic matter to the other place and bring it back, they decide to go for themselves through the teleporter. Things are not going to go ahead without a mishap or two, and the decision of Richard Reed and his friends will lead to grave consequences.
Fantastic Four has a different origins story then the previous film version, and the alteration would not have bothered us had it not been such a poorly paced film. The screenplay for the movie, credited to Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg and Josh Trank, lacks imagination and boldness, moving in a predictable manner without any sort of drama or excitement that a superhero movie should have. In the beginning, there seems to be a lot of potential to build on various elements, like the brilliant mind of Reed, the friendship of Reed and Grimm, the science behind the teleporter, but everything is just hinted at before the screen moves to the next shot, leaving us with a kind of empty feeling while watching the movie.
Josh Trank came on the back of the well received Chronicle, and so there had been a lot of expectations with Fantastic Four. Trank has complained that his version of the movie was not accepted by the studio; it was truncated and many scenes re-shot. At only 100 minutes of run-time, Fantastic Four definitely is one of the shorter superhero films of modern times. But I have a feeling, the version was truncated to avoid the boredom of the audience to elongate. Trank cannot completely walk away from the film, no matter how much he wishes he could. The film’s lack of quality becomes evident from very early on, with hardly any excitement, action, or even humour. There seems a lack of cohesion with some events rushed, and some moving too slow, that may have arisen because of the re-shooting. Nonetheless, Fantastic Four is dull and dry for most parts of its run-time, and to make matters worse, it seems to have no background music at all. But it does, with music from Marco Beltrami and Philip Glass, which is quite uninspiring and as insipid as the storyline. The visual effects though aren’t bad, with Reed’s stretching ability especially looking impressively real-like. There is a finale which brings forth some action sequences, that are otherwise lacking in the movie, but a more complicated fight scene might at least have given the movie a better finish.
The actors can do little to save the day in such a film. Miles Teller does play the part well of a geeky lad, restrained in his approach, but still carrying a certain charm. Teller is a terrific budding actor, and I wish more could have been asked of him in the movie. The other three – Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Michael B. Jordan – are unable to add much splendour to the film, though due to no fault of theirs. The movie’s story does not make any proper attempt to show them as a team, and so their camaraderie isn’t sold to the audience, as the case maybe with an X-Men or Avengers movie. Bell’s alternate version as The Thing does look visually impressive on screen, adding something more exciting to the film, but we see too little action from this character, which is another disappointment. And as for the villain, Dr Doom, it’s quite terribly written; the writers did not look hard enough to give him a strong reason for his dislike of our planet, and so his actions seem arbitrary. Toby Kebbell does try his best, though there is hardly any menace in his character to give us the chills. Reg E. Cathy plays the father of Johnny Storm and Susan Storm (the latter is adopted), and his imposing voice and strong personality brings some charisma to the film which is otherwise desperately lacking. Tim Blake Nelson is the Government official who is making things difficult for the team, and all I can say about him is that he is really annoying on screen.
Fantastic Four is not the worst film you will see in the cinema hall, though the disappointment with it is greater because it was meant to be so much more. It had some really cool superheroes to work with, but all it could manage was a messy attempt at a dark-themed film. Fox seems to be still looking at a sequel, which will truly astound me, after the disastrous reviews and box-office performance seen by this one. If it does proceed with a sequel, I hope the studio gets more serious about the writing, because in this age where Marvel and DC are about to be locked in a fierce battle, there is no room for mediocrity in the superhero world.