Fantastic 4 Review: “As Soon as it Gets Exciting, it’s Over”

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After reading the reviews, and the low ratings, I almost didn’t want to see the new Fantastic 4. But I decided to have a go, mainly because I was pleasantly surprised watching films like The Lone Ranger and John Carter that received equally savage critical beat-downs. Sometimes, of course, the critics do have a point.

The Good

Let’s take some small victories – at 90 minutes, it doesn’t overstep it’s mark on the clock. Factor in 15 minutes for the final fight scene and you’ve got 75 minutes of space for build-up. Origins stories are always honey pots for extended build-up, and as such there’s a lot to enjoy in the beginning of this film. It was an interesting and engaging take on the story in its own right, so much so that you nearly forget it’s an already established franchise. If they had changed the name of the characters, then you could happily watch 90% of the film, and not realise it was a Fantastic 4 reboot – something that may have worked in its favour.

The Bad

The casting had some ill-advised choices too: I’d always imagined Doctor Doom to be a big guy, a domineering presence looming over the Fantastic 4. So seeing him as a lean kid helping Reed Richards with his equations does make you double take – Tony Kebbell is a fine actor, but he is no Doc Doom. Someone like Jason Isaacs, or Madds Mikkelsen would maybe have the size and bravado to play this character well.

As for the 4 themselves were, Kate Mara seems to have very little emotion through the film, and yet during interviews I’ve seen her have it by the bucket load. So I can only surmise that writing or directing had made her go in the direction of an emotionless hero. Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller all played their parts fine but two-dimensionally: Jamie the protective best friend, Michael the “hot head”, and Miles playing the misunderstood brainiac.

Everyone else, for whatever lines they had, performed reasonably well but were forgotten in the next scene: there are probably 7 or 8 characters you’ll remember walking out of the cinema.

CGI is another point to bring up. Fantastic 4 got a lot of stuff so right, and somehow had other things so wrong. The design and look of the Human Torch and The Thing is spectacular- a far cry from Michael Chiklis in a rubber suit. One element they got so wrong was the obvious Doc Doom design, reminiscient of a Sci-Fy channel special and less like a high-budget film. There’s also a scene where Reed changes the look of his face to look like someone else – a painful scene that looked like a recreation of Dwayne Johnson as the scorpion king.

There were far too many plot holes for a film that went through 4 re-writes and 100 million dollars. You’re left asking a lot of questions, and not the good kind; the kind that make you feel slightly cheated. They go to a new planet with space-style suits on, then go back without suits. You assume it’s because they have powers, but it’s never explained. Why did Doctor Storm adopt Sue? No idea. Why did Doom leave the project in the first place? Not a clue. These are not satisfying questions.

The Verdict

There is a slow paced start to the film, then a slow pace to the middle of the film, and just when things start getting exciting, it’s all over. Where previous films had already-established characters and went straight into the superpowers in the first 30 mins, this film took almost double that time to get to that point – Ang Lee’s Hulk got there quicker! Staying out of spoiler territory, there’s more background then you need on some characters, and yet no background on why Dr Storm adopted Susan and the relationship with Doom. A lot of hearsay and sideways glances, and left ultimately asking why these facts were left out.

Josh Trank hasn’t taken the reactions well, and you can’t even defend him by saying “it’s too soon these one shot directors to be bought into big budget films”. Look at Colin Trevorrow with Jurassic World, the Russo brothers with Winter Solider and even Mr Trank’s Chronicle writing partner Max Landis with American Ultra. These folks have all started small(ish) and grown to be huge directors and writers with big budget breakouts. Some people just don’t like authority and Josh Trank is just one of those people.

It’s not awful; it’s not the pile of mess I was lead to believe. It does feel a bit cut and pasted and rushed out. Even by the end there’s not a hint of nostalgia, nothing to take away. No soundtrack, no super-memorable scene, just a film you can’t quite remember.

5/10

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