Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four photo starrating-3stars.jpgFollowing 2005’s Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007, this 2015 movie is the third theatrical film from 20th Century Fox to feature the superhero team. Regrettably it is yet another origin story. Oh joy! After 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, I was hoping for another unnecessary reboot. Perhaps it’s akin to naming the sweetest poison, but this is indeed the best in the series yet. Historically the team has been interpreted as a pseudo family represented by a father of sorts in Reed Richards (Miles Teller) mother figure Sue Storm (Kate Mara), son Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and uncle Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell ). The difference here is that they’re depicted as a much younger version of those archetypes.

Fantastic Four takes a lot of liberties with the source material and as such, will probably ruffle the feathers of purists. As far as I’m concerned, comic books are not gospel. As long as I get an entertaining flick, I’m happy. Some individuals are admittedly sidelined and shuffled around in a way that doesn’t effectively serve the story. Ben Grimm (The Thing) disappears for a large portion of the film. Sue is left out of the key event from which they get their powers. The face of Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) metamorphosizes into an immobile plastic mask devoid of emotion. Moreover, he’s such a flimsily written attempt at a villain, he’s all but unnecessary. However the overhaul does give us something novel. What sets this saga apart is that it really isn’t a superhero movie at all, but a science fiction character study. Granted it’s a bit dour and humorless, but after the campy and ridiculous previous entries, the change of pace is rather refreshing.

In terms of plot, Fantastic Four is easily divided into 3 parts. Thematically it starts out with a whiz kid’s science project like Joe Dante’s Explorers (1985). As they mature it exploits the body morphing horror of The Fly (1986) before ultimately devolving into a CGI superpower demonstration that recalls The Incredibles but without the heart. This chapter doesn’t tread new ground but it is competent at least. At first the narrative has the courage to eschew the clichΓ©d banalities of action setpieces for genuine understated drama. The exposition delves into the complexities of their situation. The relationship of these people is key and as portrayed by these charismatic actors, their anguish is captivating. The film is so modest, so rooted in 1960s science fiction, it’s almost a revolutionary act in 2015. Unfortunately the script doesn’t have the cojones to continue in this vein.

Fantastic Four is a mixed bag in 3 parts. For sections one and two, the script prioritizes character development. It probes the entanglements of their relationship. Just what exactly makes these people tick? These are nuanced protagonists struggling with their own identities. However, the story ultimately devolves into a computer graphics laden spectacle. The action climax is straight out of the textbook of bad superhero filmmaking. The finale is incoherent, bombastic and to be quite honest, really ugly. The director of Chronicle (2012), Josh Trank has publicly distanced himself from his picture. He intimated that it was ruined by studio interference. Given the complete change in tone in the final third, it’s plausible to see where his vision might have been thwarted. That’s a shame because given that a mere two-thirds of this is watchable, Fantastic Four can only rightfully be called Fantastic 2.67.


23 Responses to “Fantastic Four”

  1. GaryGreg828 Says:

    Not surprised they jacked this up. Your 3 stars seems generous; is that a typo? Judging by your review I would think it’d get a 2 or 2 & a 1/2 at best. The sequel will probably be the Fantastic 1.33. lol.


    • Read the review again. I was rather generous with praise for the postive aspects of the film. But if you need a proof it works out mathematically: 2/3rds of a good movie = 67% = 3 stars out of 5.


      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Mathematically 3 out of 5 stars is only 60%, you liar!! j/k. πŸ™‚

        I hear ya’. I just interpreted the tone of your review to be overall disappointed, with a few positives here and there. I may have been more interested in watching this had it not been another origins story. It just looks so dull. I hope the new Spider man is another origins thriller. I need another interpretation how Uncle Ben dies! lol.


      • You can’t reason backwards, smarty pants. There’s no such thing as 3.33 stars. πŸ˜‰


  2. Fantastic 2.67! LOL, love it.


  3. I headed over here after seeing your comment on Facebook, and it’s nice to see a more positive review of this because as much as I am not interested in seeing this I also have been shocked at how rough a ride this has been given. It’s in the single digits on the critical side on RT, I think. It may have adjusted by now and might have squeaked into the doubles, but still. Woof. I’ll give this a rent sometime then.


    • Cinemascore audiences rated it a “C-“. That’s the worst score ever given to a comic book movie. Only the The Spirit received an equal score.

      Catwoman, Elektra, Green Lantern, and Judge Dredd (1995) all received a “B”.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, Fantastic 2.67. That’s clever. I agree completely. I liked the character studies and science. It actually needed another 1/2 hour to make the finale more exciting. It came and went too fast. 3 stars.


  5. Rachel Wagner Smilingldsgirl Says:

    Interesting to hear a different perspective. After seeing The Green Lantern I was done with superhero movies (they’ve never been my favorite) but slowly Marvel in particular has won me over (and x-men). I didn’t want to have another GL experience with this one. Will have to give it a shot one of these days. Do you think it needs to be seen in the theater?


  6. Really nice review. I think mine wasn’t as kind. I had a lot of problems with the film – too many things I just couldn’t get past. And it is interesting that at least some portions of the relationships worked for you. I really struggled there. I didn’t believe in a single relationship and I thought the performances were all over the place. To me it ended up lifeless, dull, and messy.

    All of that said it is good to hear some positive perspectives to consider.


    • I thought the performances were pretty decent. This is a cast of respected actors and they lift the story into something fairly entertaining….at least for two-thirds of the movie anyway.


  7. I really do think that it was almost a “good” movie if not only for that third act. The first two acts took the majority of its running time, then we’re rushed into a preposterous finale with Dr. Victor Von Plastic wanting to destroy the human race (never thought he hated our world that much). What once was a solid “origins” tale has ended in an incoherent cgi mumbo-jumbo. If this movie was two hours and thirty long, things could have changed though. Gotta give Fantastic 2.67 a 2.5/5 grade. Great review Mark! πŸ™‚


    • Speaking of preposterous developments, I seem to remember a cartoon from my childhood called The New Fantastic Four but instead of the Human Torch, he was replaced by a robot.

      I found a photo. That’s him between Sue and Reed Richards.

      Can you imagine if the movie had done that?


  8. Surprisingly, your review is the first one I’ve read that doesn’t tear Fantastic Four to shreds. While I echo the majority that it is terrible in almost every way, your comment about it being a science fiction character study rather than a superhero movie is an interesting insight. The movie certainly dour and humorless, but you’re right that it’s a welcome a change of pace from the campyness of the previous entries. I enjoyed the succinctness of your critique regarding the film’s finale. I totally agree that it’s incoherent, bombastic, and ugly. Nice closing line on the review. It definitely made me laugh.


  9. martin1250 Says:

    “As long as I get an entertaining flick, I’m happy. ” same here. Fantastic Four might not satisfy comic book collectors. But for the average movie goer, this movie should be ok. good review Mark.


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