FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)
Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson
MPAA Rating: (for sci-fi action violence, and language)
Running Time: 1:40
Release Date: 8/7/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | August 6, 2015
To call the screenplay for Fantastic Four generic would be giving it too much credit. To say it's rudimentary would also be too generous. The best way to describe this attempt to rekindle the adventures of a team of four superheroes is to dub it as incomplete.
The movie is yet another origin story, although that description is only accurate on a superficial level. Yes, it explains to us how four ordinary people become a man whose cellular structure has the quality of rubber, a woman who can become invisible, a man whose body is engulfed in flames, and a massive creature made of rock. It's not until about halfway through the movie, though, that these transformations occur.
Up until that point, we learn that, well, these are four ordinary people whose defining characteristics can be summed up with a couple of words. For two of those characters, the words are "really smart." The third character is kind of reckless, and the fourth is poor.
Theoretically, these characters don't need to be that interesting until they obtain their superpowers, but the screenplay by Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater, and director Jonathan Trank certainly spends plenty of time with them before a completely avoidable act of drunkenness and pride turns them into their superhero forms. Most of the time we spend with them is hearing them talk about or watching them build the machine that will transform them. We start to wonder if this is the origin story of a team of superheroes or of a trans-dimensional teleportation device. The machine, at least, has a couple of excuses for being dull, since it is 1.) an inanimate object and 2.) made of unsharpened metal.
The heroes—and even that term is being charitable—are Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). Reed is a whiz kid at quantum mechanics who creates a makeshift teleporter in his garage with the help of loyal assistant Ben. Sue and her adoptive father Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who work for a multi-billion-dollar company/school called the Baxter Institute, just happen to be looking for world-changing inventions at the local school's science fair, where Reed is showing off his machine.
Dr. Storm offers him a scholarship and invites him to become part of the build team for the company's own trans-dimensional teleporter. The team later includes Dr. Storm's rebellious son Johnny and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who invented a failed prototype of the device and whose surname is about as close to a self-fulfilling prophecy as names can get.
Then the characters talk about the machine, and we see them building it in a montage, before we hear them talk about and build it some more. Lots of conversing about and building of the machine are in store, and there's apparently no time available in the 45 minutes or so of all this talking and building to allow the characters to reveal anything about themselves beyond trivia (Sue was born in Kosovo, you say?). There's not even a sense of camaraderie between these characters, apart from a couple of shots of the group laughing together in the middle of a montage.
Once the construction of the device is completed, the company's CEO (Tim Blake Nelson) wants NASA to do the exploring of the alien world where the teleporter leads. The boys go off on their own. There's a complication, and it results in the characters' transformations.
Somehow, the movie finds a way to make the bland human characters even less interesting once they gain their superpowers. The second act is a relative blip here, as Sue (invisibility), Johnny (flames), and Ben (rock thing) become tools of the military. Reed (rubber) escapes the initial tests and is promptly captured to rebuild the device so that the military can create more super-powered soldiers. That, of course, goes wrong when Victor, who was lost on the first mission, returns to Earth.
If this sounds like just the beginning of an actual story, you may be shocked to learn that it is essentially the end of this movie's story. We get no sense of these characters as people, and we get even less of a sense of them as superheroes. Just when it starts to provide some glimmer of interest, Fantastic Four roughly heaves its heroes into an Earth-saving battle, which means little in the context of having seen this sort of conflict done so many times in similar movies and absolutely nothing in the context of this specific tale. Basically, what we have here is a long, tedious road to nowhere special.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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