Let me paint the picture for you: You’re taking a written test. You don’t study, because you think you know the subject pretty well. Then you fail miserably and you feel like an idiot for being so overconfident. So then, you buckle down and study hard. You go into the next exam feeling both confident and prepared, because you think you have a good idea of what the professor is looking for. But, what happens if you fail again? Do you find a tutor? Drop the class altogether? This folks… is 20th Century Fox’s journey with rebooting Fantastic Four.
2005’s Fantastic Four and its sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer are two of the worst superhero movies ever created. This latest, much more grounded and serious iteration follows a younger, more talented, cast. Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a prodigy who develops inter-dimensional travel in the 5th grade with his not so brainy, but loyal best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). Sue Storm (Kate Mare) is a genius whose adoptive father (Reg E. Cathey) runs a school for geniuses. Her brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) is a mechanic who spends his time rebelling against his father due to an inferiority complex with his sister. And Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) is yet another genius who eventually becomes the villain because he hates government control. Together they travel to another dimension and are given superpowers when things go haywire.
You first need to understand that this movie is not even remotely the disaster that the media will have you to believe it is. It’s actually a movie dead on arrival thanks to pre-production chaos and sabotage by its own parent company (Marvel cancelled Fantastic Four comics since 20th Century Fox wouldn’t sell back the film rights). Then there are the morons who rose hell when an African American was casted as Johnny Storm. But no film deserves to be judged on the merits of how it was made or even preconceived notion. A movie deserves to be judged on its story, actors, and execution.
And what this new Fantastic Four truly is… is unfortunately one of the most dull superhero films since Superman Returns. It appears that the writers and Director Josh Trank were trying so hard to avoid the campy tone of the original films, that they created something completely opposite, but still not enjoyable. The story, which is 80% set up and 20% action, is almost void of humor or even heart. There’s a ton of build up, and yet too many of the characters, mainly Jaime Bell’s Ben Grimm, aren’t fleshed out.
And it’s a shame, because the visuals are solid and most of the cast is actually fantastic. Miles Teller is a good, humble leading man and believable as a young Mr. Fantastic. Michael B. Jordan is a perfect Johnny Storm, albeit he doesn’t get enough to do other than have childish spats with his father. And even though the design of Dr. Doom looks dumb, Kebbel’s take on the character is an intellectual one. It is ten times better than that garbage Julian McMahon but on screen back in ’05 and ’07. The weakest link is clearly Kate Mara, whose stoic performance provides zero chemistry with her co-stars and virtually sucks the joy out of every scene she is in.
The movie, though boring for a superhero/science fiction film, maintains its dignity and that alone makes it way better than its predecessors. At barely over an hour and a half, it’s strange that more wasn’t added. It almost feels like another action sequence and some scenes with character interaction were cut. There’s clearly potential here and it’ll be a shame if bad direction and a meager script keeps us from experiencing a good Fantastic Four movie. Who knows, a box office bomb might force Fox to go the Sony/Spider-Man route and give Marvel’s first family back to Marvel. If that happens, at least Fox still has X-Men on the right track.
FINAL GRADE: C-