The FANTASTIC FOUR is a film that falls short of a mind blowing journey of science and exploration despite its best intentions. Ignoring all production rumors and hearsay, Fox has a safe movie on its hands and while that may not be utterly horrible, I can’t say this film is anything I’ll remember by next week. It starts off as a good representation of the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic books and has some higher level ideas than the two previous attempts. However, this fantastic voyage suffers from a weak villain and finishes quicker than any teenage boy watching this for Kate Mara. In the end, FANTASTIC FOUR is a film that I can’t recommend anyone watch in cinemas, but is the most tolerable movie I’ve yet to see with Miles Teller as an actor. Save your time and money for something else this summer and cross your fingers that Marvel gets their family back sooner than later.
The following review contains minor SPOILERS for the film. Although they may not be large, please be cautious when reading below.
To best break down the newest FANTASTIC FOUR movie, I’ve decided to give you a compliment ‘Big Mac’ rather than a plain old sandwich only because there are tons of layers and not all of them are good for you. First up, I’ll compliment the film for being something more than just scientists in space. Although this may have been their origin in the 60’s, it doesn’t translate well (i.e. Fantastic Four 2005). So by using the Ultimate Fantastic Four, the studio is already a step in the right direction and that should excite anyone, right?!
Wrong. This movie has some of the worst character motivations in the history of superhero films. EVER. This is saying a lot as we now have tons of superhero movies in the past 10 years, some we’d like to forget just as quickly. But in this golden age of the superhero cinema, we have this blemish that is only smearing itself all over the trophy case, rather than being displayed proudly inside with the others. Just listen to the dialog in the film. It is the most juvenile, non-inspiring, laughable mess of a script that could ever be devised. Honestly, improvisation on the spot could and would have been better than this.
The strongest instance of this weak character dilemma is definitely Doctor Doom. Abolishing all rumors that he would be Victor Domashev, he starts with the surname Von Doom and seems to be anything but. From the moment he arrives and his last scene in the film, it becomes apparent that no screenwriter will ever be able to translate a comic book accurate version of Doctor Doom to the big screen. Not that any different version of a villain or character is wrong, its that he comes off as a jealous, petty rival to Reed Richards and falls short of the greatness he could achieve as the best foil to any superhero group. For this, I hang my head in shame. (Side note, his powers are mind boggling as well. He goes from telepathy and kinesis that can headshot people at close range, but then can only throw rocks in another dimension? Weak sauce.)
Another weak point in the film occurs as the story progresses and attempts to show how Marvel’s First Family came to be. The Human Torch and Invisible Woman being adopted siblings works, its the relationship of Reed and Ben Grimm that confuses the most. This all occurs due to a 1 year jump in the film’s story. Characters are now military operatives, others are still learning their abilities, and Reed Richards is nowhere to be found. While a montage could alleviate this sudden gap, there was probably no easier way to show the characters with abilities later on.
Which bring me to the last bad point of the film, in which it is over too soon. By the time the Fantastic Four get their powers and are becoming used to them, the film is over. The pacing of the film in the first two acts is great! Phenomenal even, but when the third one hits…the credits are rolling. This is no compliment either, as the main conflict is over and done after just a few seconds. It makes the movie’s climactic moments feel rushed and lazy, neither are what we asked for.
The third act also relies heavily on stunts that come from Marvel’s two largest films, Avengers and Age of Ultron. Theres a large portal in the sky to another, foreign place full of death and destruction, while also leaving a huge crater in a mountainous area covered in forest. It goes so far as to even steal the Age of Ultron finale by NOT saying 95% of a sentence leading up to the team’s name, but cutting black before hand. Unoriginal on all accounts.
To close out the FANTASTIC FOUR, I have to applaud the film for taking a different approach to the story, in the fact it is almost a horror film. The foreign world attacking the characters, the bodily ‘mutations’ that affect everyone in different ways, and just the general pacing. This could very well be The Fly but with superhero abilities instead, but seems to be bogged down by the above layers. The best part of the film is nearly destroyed by Doom himself.
In the end, FANTASTIC FOUR isn’t the worst to me, but it also falls very short of being great. This doesn’t deserve a second watch in theaters, nor a sequel if at all possible. I left the theater feeling neutral about the film and have since found more negative vibes than initially thought. This doesn’t signal a downward trend for superhero films either, but rather an instance where a studio, despite repeat attempts, does not understand the property at hand and should ultimately hand it back to the rightful owners, Marvel Studios, before anyone else gets hurt.