The new silver screen reboot of the ‘Fantastic Four’ series explores the origins of how the famous quad came to be. However, what sounds intriguing as a script idea does not always translate well to the silver screen, particularly when the ‘Fantastic Four’ property is a causality in the ongoing war of who-owns-what in the Marvel universe.
In a world where Disney owns almost every Marvel character for cinematic development, only two franchises are currently retained elsewhere by 20th Century Fox: the cash cow ‘X-Men’ series and ‘Fantastic Four.’ Seemingly, Fox has hastened the development of the new ‘Fantastic Four’ in a likely attempt to re-capitalize on the profitability of the first two films (the latter of which last appeared on the screen in 2007 in ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’) during an ‘Avengers’ and ‘Ant-Man’ high-profile, superhero summer.
But, Disney-owned Marvel seemed less than excited about the powerful foursome’s return, and in a move some industry experts saw as a direct reaction to Fox, unexpectedly cancelled the ‘Fantastic Four’s’ long running comic book series in an announcement made at last year’s New York Comic-Con. The move cut tons of free publicity Fox might have had from Marvel, itself. And, to add insult to virtual injury, Marvel Comics decided to literally blow up Hollywood actors, who looked oddly just like the actors who perform in the current ‘Fantastic Four,’ in last November’s edition of the ‘Fantastic Four.’ (Coincidence? You be the judge here.)
And, so now, audiences have a Marvel property in theaters, not officially supported by the Disney-owned Marvel, although 20th Century Fox technically has the rights to bring it to the screen. And, it’s a mess.
The film ostensibly tries to tell the coherent back-story of this group of superheroes, beginning with a geeky teen Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and his blue-collar friend, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). Reed’s science fair project appears to allow inter-dimensional travel, drawing the attention of Dr. Franklin Storm (gravely voiced Reg E. Cathey) and his super smart daughter, Sue Storm (Kate Mara). Dr. Storm recruits the supposedly talented young Reed to study and work at New York’s, government-associated research and development institute, The Baxter Foundation.
There, Reed and Sue appear to work diligently to help crack the transportation of organic matter between the earth and its alternate dimension (‘Planet Zero’) with the help of aloof, self-involved, hyper-intellectual fellow teen Victor Von Doom and super-fabricating genius, Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan). But, when the controlling powers of the Baxter Foundation won’t let the teens travel between the dimensions without intervention from NASA (What? Say it ain’t so.), Reed, Ben, and Johnny take sips from Victor’s flask and drunkenly decide it’s a great idea to initiate their own little side trip to Planet Zero. Needless, to say, things don’t go as planned (and actually go terrible awry), and Ben and Sue get mixed up in the resultant effects. The now funky four now have to cope with have some unexpected powers and the guy named Doom is nowhere (yet) to be found.
There is virtually nothing redeeming about this film. The entire tone of the film is odd, almost depressing, with slow, near boring, pacing. ‘Fantastic Four’ is far from the energizing, ‘pump-you-up’ attitude that accompanies many a superhero film. In fact, you may find yourself often thinking about unfinished tasks you left at home or groceries you need to buy as your mind aimlessly wanders while watching the less-than-enthused cast go through the sad paces of the poorly scripted film.
Thematically, the film indirectly deals more with individual PTSD and its after-effects rather than showing how a group was galvanized by a traumatic experience. In fact, no character feels particularly fleshed out or fully relevant to another in the film. There is no clear love story, there is no buddy story, there is no true friendship story, and there is no engaging baddie. Truly, it seems that the characters are just sadly thrown together and care only minimally (if at all) for one another. Although (minor spoiler alert) Doom attempts to throw a monkey wrench in the ‘Fantastic Four’s’ complacency, he is too toothless and provides little other than a few moments of a bloody rampage mess, making this parade of doldrums suddenly (and briefly) inappropriate for its youngest viewers.
So, there you have it folks, ‘Fantastic Four’ is, truly, a fantastic bore. There is nothing here for kids and no interesting payoff for its older fans. Stay away and flame off, Johnny Storm. ‘Fantastic Four’ is rated 1 of 5 stars.