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Fantastic Four Written by a Not-So-Fantastic Three

  • Susan Ellingburg Contributing Writer
  • 2015 6 Aug
<i>Fantastic Four</i> Written by a Not-So-Fantastic Three

DVD Release Date: December 15, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: August 7, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (sci-fi action violence, and language)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Run Time: 100 minutes
Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson, Reg E. Cathey

In a word, Fantastic Four... isn't. But I suppose you want something to back that up, so here goes:

Unlike the Marvel Avengers movies we've grown to know and love, Fantastic Four (a reboot of the series that ended with 2007's Rise of the Silver Surfer) is surprisingly dull, achingly slow, and suffers from conspicuous lack of humor. There are some laughs along the way, but they're few and far between. The action (for lack of a better word) moves the plot (such as it is) so slowly that the 100-minute film felt at least thirty minutes longer. Seriously, we had to watch people walk around a lab carrying clipboards, fiddling with keyboards, and trying to look important for what felt like 10 mind-numbing minutes. The Mission: Impossible team would have knocked out that sequence in 10 seconds flat and moved on to hitting somebody or something (I was ready to hit the filmmakers upside the head and tell them to get on with it already).

Maybe it moved so slowly because the characters have so little to say for themselves. It's never a good sign when I review my notes from the screening and see a scribble in one corner, "Who wrote this stuff?" One expects better of writer Simon Kinberg; his work on Sherlock Holmes and X-Men: Days of Future Past was far more watchable. Maybe co-writers Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank were to blame; considering that Trank (Chronicle) was the director of this mess I suspect that was the case. When characters do speak, it's often in platitudes and sappy sentiments delivered with the earnestness of a grade school production. Or maybe that was boredom; the cast often looked like they'd rather be watching a different movie, too.

Oh, the plot: After years of experiments in his garage, young genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller, Whiplash) manages to create a machine that will transport matter to another dimension and bring it back again. This is not as big a hit at the science fair as one might expect. It does, however, get Reed a full-ride scholarship into a snazzy school for techie phenoms, which is cool except that he has to leave his buddy Ben (Jamie Bell, Man on a Ledge) behind. But never mind, there's a hot girl geek named Sue Storm (Kate Mara, the upcoming Captive) to distract him. Then Sue's dad (Reg E. Cathey), also the head of the school, recruits a former teacher's pet (Toby Kebbell, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), who is vaguely mentioned to be trouble (with a name like "von Doom" can there be any doubt?) to help Reed and Sue turn Reed's science project into big-time reality. Once Dr. Storm blackmails his bad-boy son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station) into helping, the team is all set to send "organic matter"—and eventually people—into another dimension. All for the sake of saving the earth, naturally.

Of course, you know it's all going to go horribly wrong, and it does, but not until many, many long, dull minutes have passed. I'll spare you the details, but like many a bad decision the crisis involves alcohol, hurt feelings, and a lust for glory. It's not quite on the level of, "Hold my beer; watch this," but it's close. However, this is when the film finally starts to perk up. Sadly, just when things got going, Fantastic Four was over. The lone bright spot is that maybe the inevitable sequel will just cut to the chase now that all the pesky background stuff is out of the way.

Though it's never yet been accomplished (2015, 2007, 2005 and a mysterious unreleased 1994 iteration were all nearly unwatchable), it's still conceivable that The Fantastic Four could make for a good movie. But this film's plot wanders with no clear goal, the dialogue is lame, and the characters are never developed enough to care about. Reed and Ben's friendship feels legit but the other characters' relationships with each other are so distant they might as well be in different dimensions. The effects are fine, but not particularly special. The cinematography is adequate, but not exciting. In short, it's like they didn’t even try. Not at all fantastic. Not even close.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Characters get drunk and make some really stupid decisions as a result. Subjects are given pain meds and hooked up to hospital-like machines.
  • Language/Profanity: One character is twice described as "a d*ck"; sh*t (sometimes paired with "holy" or "bull"); a middle finger is discreetly waved; several reference to "yo a**"; hell, and da**.
  • Sex/Nudity: As The Thing, Ben is technically nude but he's made of rocks and does not seem to be anatomically complete, so we'll go with no nudity. No sex, either, not even a kiss.
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: Our heroes are in danger from unknown elements, alien-ish forces, and government troops; there are a few intense moments and numerous people die. Some basic fighting and shooting but the real ick factor came from exploding heads and the blood smears they left on the walls as they fell.
  • Spiritual Themes: Dr. Storm waxes eloquent about how the world discovered in an alternate dimension could "explain the origin of our species" and the "evolution of our planet."

Publication date: August 6, 2015