FILM REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR
What is there to say about Josh Trank's Fantastic Four that hasn't
already been said? Not much really. Everyone has said their piece on why
they think this take on Marvel's superhero family is one of the worst
superhero films ever made, even worse than Batman & Robin, and to some extent it is very easy to see why.
Trank's version of Marvel's first super team
sees a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller) headhunted at a school
science fair by Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to join his science programme to
crack inter-dimensional travel. Richards gets to work with Franklin's son
and daughter, Susan (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), as well as top scientist
Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbel). Once the young scientists create the "Quantum gate" they are soon told by the men in suits that they won't get the chance to travel to the other dimensional. In an attempt not to end up like the unforgettable scientists behind the Apollo 11, they travel to the other dimension only to return with new psychical abilities.
In the first hour it is easy to see what Chronicle director, Josh Trank, was attempting to do with this new incarnation. Instead of the cartoonish, comic book style Tim Story opted for in his 2005 and 2008 films, Trank tries to instill a sense of realism into the story. He tries to examine the question of how people would really react if they woke up with these powers, or physical defects as Susan describes them and that could have been an interesting conceit on which to build a superhero film but it becomes a bit of stretch (pun intended) when Trank applies this to one of Marvel's brightest group of characters.
The first act plays
out as an interesting science fiction-cum-horror which is closer to
Cronenberg than comic book. It has nice little character touches, the relationship between Reed and Susan has a nice dynamic to it and Doom's disdain towards authority feels believably realistic. We also see an interesting examination in the power shifts of the modern age with parallels drawn with Apple. Reed creates a beta version of his
inter-dimensional teleporter in his garage, brings his mind and ideas to a
corporation and is quickly used and abused. The director sets solid groundwork on which to progress the film and than the film quickly digresses into something completing different, something far less intelligent and thought provoking.
The story becomes split into two, rather
savagely mutilated with an awkward one year later edit,everything after this severely juxtaposes the first act. Gone are the subtle touches, the relationships between characters quickly stales (Grimm never says anything to Susan) and we never see the characters attempt to come to terms with their new powers. Instead they integrate an intrusive story line centering on the military weaponising their powers which never fits in comfortably with what Trank sets up in the first act. It is an interesting idea that feels like it could have been saved for a sequel but ends up reeking of rewrite. And then you have the finale. There is no stronger proof that this film was tampered with by Fox than it's last ten minutes with it's weak action set pieces, sudden heroism and the it's horrifically constructed villain. Victor von Doom's transformation into Doom is dealt with so poorly it's difficult to see how he managed to make the final cut. His powers are never explained (he seems to be able to do literally anything, from moving rocks to blowing up brains Scanner style), his motives for destroying Earth never make any sense and his design and appearance is laughable.
As an audience we have become to expect a certain style of superhero films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are partly to blame for this. Disney's MCU instill their films with a comical sense of whimsy, bright colours and big action set pieces but with different companies owning different superheros this offers the chance of diversity. Disney have found what works for them but that doesn't mean Fox have to copy the recipe, just look at their X-Men films to see, and Fantastic Four could have paved a way for more interesting, idea driven superhero films. Yet as it stands and disappointingly so, Fantastic Four is creatively too far from the film it should be. Leaving us a final film that hints at what could have been but is ultimately a disappointment.