8 ago. 2015

Fantastic Four (4/10): There is nothing fantastic about this.

"With every new discovery, there is risk, there is sacrifice... and there are consequences."

I was surprised that critics and audiences were ripping this film apart because in my mind there was no way the producers could go wrong with this young and talented cast, so I was prepared to enjoy and defend this movie. I had heard about the production problems, but something similar had happened with Ant-Man and that movie turned out to be surprisingly fun. At least the director, Josh Trank, had decided to stay on board for this film despite reports of disputes with his producers. His first feature film, Chronicle, was a very entertaining and unique low budget found-footage sci-fi movie, so I thought that with a bigger budget he could deliver an even better film. Evidently I was wrong because Fantastic Four is a gigantic mess. There were several concerns over the film being rushed so that Fox wouldn't lose the rights to the franchise and the movie definitely felt that way. I don’t know how much blame could be put on Trank, because it seems that the producers took control over the film, so before you discard him as a terrible director I’d recommend you to check out Chronicle. See that film instead of this comic adaptation reboot. I’d even go as far as saying that the 2005 version was better.  

Fantastic Four is basically an origin story that ends up being so long that by the time the villain shows up it feels more like a cameo than anything else. The final climax of the film is one of the worst I've seen in a superhero movie. I wouldn't mind this as much if the origin story would've been interesting, but none of these characters were engaging and the dialogue was quite terrible. Every one of them seemed to have daddy issues or some sort of cliche that characters in this genre usually have. Even Toby Kebbell who played Victor Domashev in this movie shared all the basic stereotypical traits foreshadowing who he would later become, Dr. Doom. Superhero films always tend to follow the same basic formula, but the successful ones manage to stand out for some unique quality, either benefitting from a great central performance, its funny upbeat light tone, or its spectacular action scenes. Fantastic Four uses the same formula, but doesn't do anything unique with it. There is no chemistry between the cast and the delivery of some of their lines are overly dramatic at times. There isn’t a single strong performance here, there is no comedy whatsoever, and the action scenes (or should I say scene?) are underwhelming (especially if you compare it to other action Summer films like Mission Impossible and Mad Max). Unfortunately the film is a huge mess because it fails at setting up interesting characters and later rushes the final climatic action scene, completely changing gears on the slow and drawn out pacing that the movie had during its long introduction.

The main character in this film is Reed Richards of course, so we follow him from childhood. He dreams of creating a device that can teleport people into an alternate place. In school he befriends a tough boy named Ben who becomes his assistant. Reed is a genius and working from his garage he comes up with an impressive mechanism in which he manages to teleport some objects, but in the process he leaves the entire town without electricity. Several years pass and now Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) are in a High School science fair showing off their invention. Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue (Kate Mara) are impressed with Reed so they offer him an opportunity to work with them in their advanced state of the art laboratory. Victor (Toby Kebbell) had been working on a very similar project, but had unsuccessfully been able to teleport the objects back so the two begin working together to make their dream a reality. Dr. Storm’s other son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) also joins the project and when they succeed at teleporting a group of chimps to an alternate universe they decide its time for them to take the trip as well. Of course something goes terribly wrong and they each go through a unique physical transformation. They will have to learn to deal with their new acquired abilities, which the military takes a keen interest in, but Reed is focused on fixing them instead.

Miles Teller had been on a roll with strong performances in films like Whiplash and The Spectacular Now. He was even great in his supporting role in Insurgent, a film I didn’t like. But here he simply didn’t have the charm to tackle this super hero. Perhaps the blame can be put on the screenwriters, but he couldn’t do anything to make Reed an interesting character (not prior to his transformation nor after). Michael B. Jordan’s career seemed to be taking off after his impressive performances in Chronicle and Fruitvale Station, but he wasn’t able to do much with the small role that was given to him here. Reg. E. Cathey was perhaps the weakest link thanks to his overly dramatic delivery of each line with his deeply serious voice. Toby Kebbell came in a close second, but I really do have to blame the screenwriters here for making his character such a cliche. Villains have always been a problem in super hero films and it couldn’t be more true than it is here. I’ve heard a couple defenses claiming that this is more of a sci-fi centering on human transformation (with comparisons to Cronenberg’s The Fly), but that couldn’t be further from the truth because when these heroes acquire their new abilities the film inexplicably leaps forward in time showing these characters already adapted to their transformation and coming to terms with it. All the psychological trauma is ignored in order to prepare for the final climactic action scene which was to put in nicely, underwhelming.       

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