After what seems like an eternity of speculation and conjecture about the misguided choices leading up to its completion, the moment has finally arrived: Fantastic Four is here! Quite some time ago, the internet collectively decided Josh Trank’s modern vision of the Marvel comic was already ‘The Worst Movie Ever!’ before a single frame was shot. They concluded Trank’s version was going to be too dark, veered too far from the source material, and it was just never going to work. Basically, the internet was doing what it does best: Destroying something before it even began.
I have consistently tried to be a proponent of good will for Fantastic Four 2015. Why? Because I hadn’t seen it, and I genuinely thought the trailer looked sharp. I also believe we, as a society, have become absurd with how rashly we decide some forms of entertainment are abysmal, all with no real reason or justification at all. As someone with no vested interest in the comic from which it’s based, I had zero concerns about the choices Trank & Co. made – shoot it in Seattle and make the film as gritty as you want, oh and interracial siblings are kind of an actual thing so that’s fine too – just as long as it resulted in a solidly entertaining film. Now that it’s here, who picked the correct side? Am I finally vindicated for my resolve, or could this vocal minority that lives to tear things down like a bully storming a paper mache exhibit, could they actually be right for once? It turns out the sun DOES shine on a dog’s ass some days.
Fantastic Four is what happens when you let drunken monkeys play with the cameras. It tries, dear lord it tries, but not once throughout its rather short 100-minute running time does it figure out what the hell it wants to do or be. There are so many clever ideas at play here, ideas that almost make me want to rewrite the script and show Trank the movie he was trying to make before he let Caesar take over, because this slop-fest can’t possibly be it. Could it? Rarely have I stumbled out of a film seeing so much potential wasted on every front. If this was your vision, Trank, I would get your eyes checked.
In case you know nothing about the Fantastic Four here is the basic concept: Reed Richards (Miles Teller, fantastically bland) is a genius scientist who develops a teleporter to another dimension with his fellow brainiac scientists: Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, fantastically ominous), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan, fantastically cocky), and Johnny’s sister, Sue (Kate Mara, fantastically animatronic). After being denied the opportunity to be the first humans through the portal, our mildly inebriated group – along with Reed’s best friend Ben (Jamie Bell, fantastically surly) – do what brilliant minds often do, they say ‘Screw further testing! Let’s just go through this random portal to a world we have yet to understand or fully comprehend ourselves!’ Essentially what the filmmakers did with this movie.
Of course, everything goes wrong and all of our heroes are overrun by unexplainable energy that gifts them each with extraordinary abilities. Reed can stretch and conform his body, Johnny spontaneously bursts into flames which leads to flight, Sue can render herself invisible as well as move matter with her mind, and Ben gains overwhelming strength…and a body that is literally rock solid. Doom gets the worst of it, as he harnesses the energy force through every pore for his own nefarious means. In case you can’t tell three minutes into his performance, which consists almost solely of stoic stare-downs, Doom is the one character who probably shouldn’t have overwhelming power.
Then the movie ends. That’s right, I couldn’t spoil Fantastic Four for you if I wanted to because Josh Trank has crafted the longest origin story in film history. By the time these yahoos are finally “Fantastic,” it’s time to head home. Barely any conflict, barely any semblance of ‘Family’ or forward momentum, just a very long series of motifs that lead us to that final shot of our young quartet finding their place in the world. The entire film plays like buildup to the movie they were going to make, then lost the last 20 pages of the script.
It’s so frustrating, seeing so many genuinely intriguing ideas – Ben’s struggle to adapt to his horrifying transformation, the government manipulating the group as weapons for their own bidding, Doom’s enormous growth of power – and watching as they are swallowed up in mediocrity over and over again. When you know at least three or four middle-school kids who could craft a better script with this material, you know this is not destined to end well.
If you are one of those fans who will need someone to blame, you’re going to need a pen and paper. From the complete miscasting of every single character, to the overwhelmingly pedestrian score, to a script that appears to have been written in crayon, to design choices as rudimentary as the Nevada desert – nothing works here. Absolutely nothing. I have not walked out of a film this disappointed since “The Counselor” eschewed great actors for mind-numbing plot twists. Fantastic Four is a cinematic garbage disposal.
Jessica Alba, you can rest easy. No one is replacing the memory of your 2005 effort anytime soon. Hell, that looks like The Avengers compared to this nonsense. At least Chris Evans knew he was there to entertain us. In case I’m not being clear enough for you and you are looking to replicate this experience without throwing your money away, just find a wall and slam your head against it. Repeatedly. It feels roughly the same.
The only thing “Fantastic” here was the speed at which I left the theater.