Review: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Review: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

This so-called dark and gritty re-imagining of the beloved Marvel property is a fantastic flop.

At the first glance, the long-awaited reboot of FANTASTIC FOUR seems like in the good hands of Josh Trank. After all, he's an up-and-coming young director whose debut in CHRONICLE (2012) was a unique blend of found footage and superhero genres. Then came the infamous bad buzz surrounding the production of the movie. From casting controversy to (strangely) last-minute marketing campaign, everything about the new FANTASTIC FOUR looks destined to be a box office fiasco-in-the-writing. Sadly, Josh Trank's version is as murky as the movie itself.


First discovered by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg. E. Cathey) after Reed Richards' (Miles Teller) creation of a teleporter impresses him at a science fair, he is immediately offered a scholarship to study at the Baxter Institute. From there, he meets Storm's adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) and her rebellious brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). When Franklin has finally recruits his former protege Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to be part of a team, their goal is to design a teleporter that able to transport them into another dimension to find new resources. Then, an accident happens when the group decides to explore the dimension on their own without Franklin's authorisation. Reed ends up with a superpower that enables him to stretch his body anywhere he wants; Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), who is called upon to join Reed for the ill-fated expedition, becomes a rock creature; Johnny can burst himself into flame and able to fly; and Sue is granted with invisible power.


FANTASTIC FOUR does get off to a promising start, with Trank and his two screenwriters Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg establishing Reed Richards' fondness for science in teleportation from his junior to teenage years at school. For a while there, Trank's unhurried direction of introducing the four main characters -- Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm -- prior to their newfound superpowers absorbed from another dimension, is a nice character-driven setup.

Likewise, all four actors (yes, that includes the controversial casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch) actually deliver decent performances earlier in the movie. In fact, there's even a strong potential for a romantic subplot involving Reed and Sue's brief flirtation during their encounter in the library.


Since there is nothing fantastic about this movie, I can hardly find any scene worth remembering for.


While it's completely understandable that a superhero origin story needs ample time to develop the character(s), Trank is completely lost once the four character finally get their superpowers. Instead of a dramatic payoff, the movie just settles with a couple of brief montage showing The Thing fighting the enemy for the US government and the Human Torch destroying a drone in the sky within minutes.

Then there's Reed, who subsequently escaped from the facility and hide somewhere in South America. I would expect there's an ongoing story development to see Reed devising a plan to help his friends. After all, he already has a stretching ability that allows him to infiltrate the facility with little difficulty. Unfortunately, Trank and his screenwriters fail to make good use of his character and put him on the sideline. Even when The Thing and the army eventually locates Reed's whereabouts, their subsequent encounter is disappointingly brief. There isn't enough heated tension between Reed and The Thing, especially after Reed failed his promise to help him find the cure. Although there's a fight between them, the scene is surprisingly kept to a minimum. It would have been a great money shot if Trank expanded the scene to show how angry The Thing can be against the stretchy Reed Richards.

But the biggest disappointment of all is the movie takes such a long time to introduce Doom as the Fantastic Four's main nemesis. Doom is supposed to be an iconic villain in the Fantastic Four universe, but Trank made a mistake of underestimating him as a character. If that's not insulting enough, Trank's radical approach redefining Doom's origin from an arrogant hotshot who joins Dr. Franklin Storm to create history for a better future to an eventual villain after obtaining power from another dimension, is hardly intriguing. Problem is, there isn't enough conflict or solid justification that made him turned into an evil planning to destroy the world.

With a bigger budget than Trank used to have in CHRONICLE, it's really baffling to see there's little effect-laden action sequence found in this movie. The staging of the action alone is almost devoid of creativity, let alone a satisfying amount of elaboration. The scene involving Doom's subsequent encounter with the Fantastic Four when they finally unite together to defeat him, is such a letdown that the final showdown between the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom in Tim Story's first FANTASTIC FOUR (2005) fares so much better by comparison. Special effects are also shockingly dated and feels as if they are made for a television series. For instance, the computer-generated appearance of The Thing doesn't look convincing enough. I hate to say this, but the previous incarnation of The Thing in the first two FANTASTIC FOUR movies looks more groundbreaking compared to this turd. On top of that, it looks completely off-putting witnessing the new version of The Thing without his pants.


Following the excruciatingly long wait after the dismal result of 2007's FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER and now this, I don't see any prospect of a proposed sequel which already set for a 2017 release date. The reboot itself is such a failure that I hope Fox would revert, or at least shared the copyright with Marvel Studios to relaunch the franchise all over again.

* This review is written courtesy from 20th Century Fox Malaysia press screening *

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