There is absolutely no excuse for the new film Fantastic Four to be as abysmally boring, narratively bland and just plain cheap-looking as this 100-minute long travesty reveals itself to be. Yet somehow, after two previous big screen efforts; 2005’s “Fantastic Four” and it’s 2007 sequel, “Rise of the Silver Surfer” ( not to mention Roger’s Corman’s infamously legendary effort that makes the bootleg DVD rounds at every comic con on Earth ); director Josh Trank astoundingly manages to learn absolutely nothing from the mistakes of these massive big screen misfires that preceded his current misbegotten vision.
The Fantastic Four as comic book characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby literally heralded the Silver Age of Marvel comics that later gave generations of fans countless thrilling adventures featuring Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Avengers and so much more. Moreover, the comic gave us arguably one of the most charismatically evil and larger than life villains in comic book lore, Dr. Victor Von Doom.
Certainly given this pedigree, as well as three sub-par previous films as a cautionary blueprint on what to do; or better yet, what not to do once again, director Trank learns nothing. Instead, he falls on what is now becoming an annoyingly repetitive trope in Hollywood with established, well remembered characters and films; and decides that rebooting the story with a Millenial-friendly cast of fresh faced young-uns and messing with the source material in a so-called update; all will be shiny, new and improved.
Sadly, Trank tries to reinvent the wheel and comes up with a round ponderous unimpressive rock.
Much of Fantastic Four is weighted down by being essentially two main tiresome acts. Two-thirds of the film is a tediously told origin story that the original comic book told fairly succinctly, and more entertainingly, in just a few pages. However, Trank discards this origin altogether, though that’s not a major sin except to the most devout fanboy/fangirl in the audience. The story should begin once they’ve achieved their powers whatever the road taken; as well as the repercussions.
In the film, Reed Richards, a brainy young teenage nerd outcast befriends classmate Ben Grimm, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Together, they manage to build a machine in Richards’ family garage that transports matter to another dimension. Despite some pitfalls, Richards ( Miles Teller ) and Grimm ( Jamie Bell ) are years later discovered by a benevolent think tank scientist, Dr. Franklin Storm ( Reg E. Cathey ) and his analytically minded adopted daughter, Sue Storm ( a relentlessly dour Kate Mara ). Dr. Storm believes Richards holds the key to completing the gateway to this new dimension that his people have only reached superficially on their own.
Dr. Storm also brings a troubled but implicitly highly intelligent young protege, Victor Von Doom ( Toby Kebbell ) into the group to help add his prior expertise to the mix; creating a horribly under-developed “rivalry” between Doom and Richards. It’s a contrivance that figures into the plot, but makes no sense because there’s no real foundation established for the animus from Doom beyond petty jealousy.
Director Trank throws an inconsequential bone referencing Victor Von Doom’s fictional Latverian home origins that’s lost in the blink of an eye to even the most informed audience; not to mention the fact Kebbell plays the otherwise legendary villain as a Russell Brand wannabe, look alike.
Eventually, Richards, Storm and Doom manage to, along with the help of Sue Storm’s impulsive brother, Johnny, successfully build and test the mechanical portal to the otherworldly dimension. After a bout of drinking in celebration, Richards invites his friend Grimm to join him, Doom and Johnny on a unscheduled trip to the dimension via the portal to claim the glory of getting there first before anyone else.
Alas, all goes badly as the three embark on what can generously be called the stupidest scientific joy ride to another world ever; where upon arrival, common sense leaves the room and they do the most ill-advised things imaginable to bring havoc upon themselves. During the resulting self initiated chaos, Doom is accidentally left behind; while the out of control events leave Richards, Johnny and, somehow inexplicably, Sue back in the Earth-bound lab with extraordinary powers.
As a result, Richards can stretch his limbs and body like elastic. Johnny literally becomes a human torch. Sue can turn invisible and create force fields. Poor Ben gets the short end of the stick with both super strength and a body made of rocks and boulders.
From here, the story becomes a typical, well worn story of the military wanting to figure out to use their powers as weaponry. The trio goes back into the portal to try and rescue Doom and find a way to reverse their super “maladies”, only to discover Doom has not only survived in the harsh dimension environment; but also, he’s become a bit testy, annoyed and physically, literally overcooked.
To elaborate on this threadbare plot any further would be to give the story more meat than the actual screenplay that was used to make this piece of cinematic crap. The characters have no chemistry and no reason for any foundation to their becoming a team of heroes, let alone friends. Despite the acting pedigree of Mara, Teller and Jordan; only Jordan seems invested in bringing some life to his character. Mara sleepwalks through her role as if on Valium and Teller is just trying to get through it all unscathed.
Doom, one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic villains is, once again, relegated to minimized status, cartoonish dialogue and a deeply disappointing physical depiction, despite his immense potential for greatness on screen.
Despite it’s roughly 125-million dollar budget, Fantastic Four’s cheesy special effects could easily be topped by any smart twenty-something with a well-equipped laptop and a decent effects program for a fraction of the price.
The final climactic battle is a mammoth disappointment that’s over within the film’s roughly final 15-minutes where all of the so-called Fantastic Four members barely even use their much vaunted, new found super-powers at all to vanquish Doom and save the Earth from destruction.
Fantastic Four is just an unbelievable mess that has no spectacle, no excitement, no character development, no Stan Lee cameo, no post credits teaser, no anything; save for the fact it feels like a giant black, water soaked blanket hangs over the entire somber proceedings and, by extension, the audience.
Jessica Alba, all is forgiven.