Quite honestly there shouldn’t be that much pressure on Fox Studios to. All three “Fantastic Four” iterations have been well below sub-par and quite frankly at this point I’d take at the very least a semi-decent “Fantastic Four” movie. With the era of comic book movies we are in we actually( more often than not) get more good films than bad ones. This newly rebooted “Fantastic Four” starts off decent but falls off the deep end rather quickly. Messy and without an identity “Fantastic Four” is a missed opportunity from Fox Studios. While “Fantastic Four” sports a strong and well rounded cast, interesting ideas and concepts, this has little more to offer then an example of a film that doesn’t execute well upon its potential. Thankfully in this era of comic book movies this a rare example now of a misfire.
Brought together straight out of high school, Franklin Storm recruits the young top minds in the scientific field. Reed Richards, Sue and Johnny Storm and Victor Von Doom make up a group attempting to crack inter-dimensional travel (something Reed has been working on since he was a kid). When the military threatens to send their team of scientists first to this new dimension, Reed, Johnny, Victor and Reed’s high school friend Ben all sneak into the lab and teleport themselves to place called Planet Zero. There though they encounter a problem. An accident occurs (that includes Sue trying to get them back home) which gives them powers and abilities. The Government takes them in and wants to use them as weapons. But soon they discover a threat dangerous enough to wipe all of humanity out.
This is a movie of two halves. The first half of the film is for the most part pretty well done. It’s not high class storytelling by any means but I was enjoying myself. The filmmakers do a decent job of introducing the characters and bringing them into the story in a cohesive manner. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg manages to keep the focus around the plot at hand and never diverts too far away to juggle the growing list of characters. The cast is excellent and all do a pretty good job with the material at hand. The trouble that becomes apparent later on in the film is the lack of interaction between the characters.
Towards the end of the film when the group begin to come together to fight against Dr. Doom (but more on this whole situation in a second), everything feels awkward and stilted. There is no camaraderie between the characters and the actors lack the chemistry that should have all been developed in the first act of the film. There are plenty of scenes of them separate but not enough of them interacting and growing together as relationships. The ones they begin to develop are forgotten about and abandoned. At first glance the relationship between Reed Richards and Sue Storm is written pretty well and they have a nice back and forth. Then the movie starts off the relationship between Reed and Ben, and that was a bit interesting as well.
But none of that goes anywhere. It’s almost as if there are complete scenes missing from the final product. All of which were meant for developing not only the collective group but them as individual characters. There are little things introduced here and there which you think, oh that must be going somewhere but instead become useless character traits. There isn’t a whole lot to these characters which we know from the comics have plenty of dimension
However I like what the filmmakers were going for. At times this felt like a very unique super hero film. This was more science fiction than anything else seen in the super hero film world. Before the film’s release director Josh Trank mentioned a David Cronenberg influence (director of the “Fly” remake in 1986) and at times you really do feel that. When the group first returns from Planet Zero and the horrible accident just occurs there is an honest heavy horrorish weight to it. This is the film’s highest point because effectively the director truly is able to run the gambit of making us focus on the humanity of these characters and the horrific accident that occurs to them. Reed looks over and see Johnny just laying there burning alive and stuff like that impacts you.
In that short 5-10 minutes the true potential of the film is shown. You realize there is some rich material someone in this mess. Had they carried through this tone and made this very character driven this could have been a special comic book film. Perhaps not everyone would have loved it because it’d be so different then what we’re use too but damn you could give Trank and Fox credit for trying to go in a whole different direction.
I say all of that because after those rich and incredible scenes the movie really begins to unravel and fall apart. What little character development that was set up in the first act was quickly forgotten and the whole theme of the group being monsters and needing to adjust to their powers is thrown aside. The movie jumps ahead a year and everyone is pretty well and good and has control of their powers. Then it feels like it wants to be a standard superhero movie. It’s no longer the same tone we started off with.
Then the real unforgiveable thing about this film is the ending. I was hard on “Tomorrowland” for its lackluster ending or “Maggie” for its abrupt finale. Both of them are brilliant compared to this one. This movie falls completely off the rails in the final act with a cheesy quick and rushed together end fight that feels completely out of place. Poorly executed on nearly every level this is one of the worst action set pieces from a big budget film I’ve seen in a long time.
Dr. Doom himself as a villain is also wasted. While Toby Kebbell is fine in the role he isn’t given much to do. Like the rest of the group he is poorly defined but unlike the rest he disappears from the action for nearly the entire movie. He comes back at the very end with his powers and lays waste to a government facility (which goes back to the horror sci-fi tone I loved so much; a great scene) but why is the character so power hungry? He is given no motivation for his actions. Again there feels like there is complete missing scenes to his development. Where are there?
On a side note I actually kind of liked how he looked in the film. I know many hardcore fans were upset with the design but it made sense to me within the film’s story and thought it was pretty unique looking.
We all know about the rumored behind the scenes trouble with this film. Allegedly Fox forced Trank to take out three big set pieces; Trank had bad behavior on set, he was locked out of the editing bay, the finale was completely changed on him, reshoots, unfinished effects and so much more. At this point we don’t know how much of this is true however if this is true it really shows on the final product of the film. The potential, the ideas, the concepts, the cast, the crew are all there in place for something not just good…but special. This is a messy film to say the least and I am surprised that Fox (who has a great track record recently in “X-Men” and “Apes” universe) actually produced this. This feels rushed, not fully thought out and perhaps ill fated. Either way this is a fantastically wasted opportunity which makes me believe this property is doomed (no matter which studio takes it on).