Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
Imagine you’re putting together a jigsaw. You’ve got all the correct pieces and you slot them into place…only to realise that what you’ve assembled is a shadow of what was on the box.
That jigsaw is Fantastic Four. On the surface, all the elements of the film made sense. A strong cast, who each logically fit their roles based on past experience; an upcoming, exciting director, responsible for one of the best ‘unorthodox superhero’ movies (Josh Trank, Chronicle) there’s been, and a base idea with a lot of material still to be mined. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as we all know by now, just about everything. The whole production is so flawed that pinning all the blame on any one element would be like blaming one atom for the devastation of a nuclear explosion. Indeed, analysing the myriad faults of the film turns into a game of one-upmanship.
There are issues everywhere. The film clocks in at around an hour and three-quarters, with credits. That’s essentially an hour and a half of action, yet the film takes up a huge chunk of that as set-up for a climax that it never manages to conjure. In the end, the nominal highpoint is so bafflingly short that it almost makes me long for the extended yet oh-so-misguided ending to Man of Steel. It’s truly a case of the four heroes working out that, shock, the whole of their combined might is greater than the sum of their individual powers and, mere minutes later, not only is the final showdown over, but so is the entire film.
The lack of action is exacerbated by the completely failed characterisation, both in the writing and execution. The Reed Richards and Sue Storm relationship of the comics is hinted at, yet it’s then suddenly no longer a part of either character. There would be nothing wrong with changing the two’s friendship to be purely platonic, but clearly setting them up one way, then ignoring that set-up results in the worst outcome possible.Ben Grimm genuinely resenting Reed for escaping from their imprisonment as human test subjects is also an inexplicable development (though of course the status quo of ‘best buddies’ is resumed by the end), but both these pale in comparison to the worst offence, which comes as the team decide the best way to perform inter-dimensional travel is drunk, in the middle of the night, without proper preparation, and with Ben along for the ride basically because he’s Reed’s best mate.
The idea of the characters resenting the notion of NASA taking their work and robbing them of their dreams (though the fact they choose to go without Sue, thereby robbing her of her dream, is a beautiful irony lost on the characters) was actually, briefly, a plot point that might have had some traction, both in setting up Doom as a villain, and generally for character building. But then this isn’t a film where things make a whole lot of sense.
Other than the dialogue, that is. Not because it’s a strong element of the film, but rather because it’s so mind-numbingly simplistic and blunt that after about 5 minutes of the film, the youngster in front of me – who had previously been bugging his dad to explain every bit of what was happening – said “I get what’s happening now, you don’t need to tell me any more”. Then there are the brief moments where the script calls for Kate Mara’s Sue to go into ‘clever-speak mode’. Are these meant to signify the characters socially awkward, direct nature? No, because at other points, she’s as emotionally and socially secure as the rest of them – that is, almost entirely indifferent to gaining superpowers from another dimension.
Fantastic Four is an awful mess of a movie, one that should be to superhero movies what Armageddon is to the scientific community – a fantastic guide as to the worst possible film to make on a certain topic. And the funny thing about it? You just know there’s going to be a sequel.