Fantastic Four has gone through some trials and tribulations leading up to its release. Director Josh Trank has openly discussed his conflicts with the studio and their input, the reviews were embargoed until the day that the film released, and the background and visuals of the main villain of the film caused many fans to be hesitant.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have an incredible cast and the trailers eased a lot of concerns. Was the end product able to deliver?
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a brilliant super-genius that has cracked the code to interdimensional travel. He’s been building and working on this design since he was a child, alongside his best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). He eventually gets drafted into some sort of company ran by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who also recruits his two kids into working on the project (Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan). They’re also joined by reluctant and socially-awkward genius Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). Things get crazy when a trip to this other dimension unleashes superpowers upon our main characters.
Visually, the movie is cool looking. The character designs were great, for the most part. I appreciate that they tried to make the outfits more grounded and scientifically-driven, as opposed to the bright blue spandex donned in the older films. The character of the Thing was really cool to watch, though the CGI couldn’t always do the character justice. I also thought the Human Torch effects were nicely done.
While there will be a lot to discuss about the character of Doom later, I thought they did a decent job of making him threatening when he arrived on the scene. He goes on this killing spree through the building and it’s absolutely menacing. I heard audience members gasping in shock at how quickly and brutally he was killing people. That aspect of the character was done well.
What doesn’t work?
Unfortunately, most of this movie is a disappointment. Similar to my sentiments about Pixels, people seem to love hating on this movie, so it’s been snowballing and culminating with a 9% score on Rotten Tomatoes (at least, for now). I don’t think this movie is that bad though. It’s not good by any means, but it’s not the absolute atrocity that I was expecting after hearing all this negative press.
Here are some things that didn’t work for me.
Firstly, the movie is incredibly boring. There’s only one action scene really and it’s the final battle. There are a few moments of suspense but they’re too short and we don’t get to see these awesome superpowers in action. The problem with a movie about interdimensional travel is that it’s hard to explain but this movie tries so hard to do so, that it spends 3/4 of the movie trying to help you understand what’s going on. It was a struggle to stay awake for the whole first half.
And while our actors here are incredible (each of them has several significant films and television shows in their resume), they have zero chemistry here. Grimm (Bell) and Richards (Teller) are supposed to be lifelong friends but we only get like two scenes for them to talk to each other. It’s also a bit of a stretch how the script gets Grimm to join them on their trip, when he’s unqualified for a job like this.
Let’s talk about Doom. Toby Kebbell is a gifted actor, known lately for a lot of a CGI characters like Koba (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and the upcoming Warcraft film. Here though… The script gives him zero to work with and the actual design of Doom is very strange. Instead of a traditional mask, they went the route of having metal basically molded to his face, which means he has no expression and no mouth movement. They also don’t explain why he’s trying to do what he does. He basically shows up in the last third of the movie and unexpectedly tries to destroy the world. What? At one point, there’s this dimensional hole open in the sky and it’s supposed to be really epic… but I just couldn’t figure out why any of this was happening.
The CGI effects were also very hit or miss. Like I said, the Thing looked really cool but some scenes really failed to do him justice, most notably some montage shots of him working for the government as a hired mercenary basically. Also the effects for Sue’s (Kate Mara) flying and invisible bubble were really substandard. Looked horrible as she flew around.
The trailers led me to believe that this would be a new spin on the Fantastic Four but that the movie would be full of epic and fun superhero moments. That trailer lied to me, as all of the action was pulled out of the final climax. The story made zero sense and the script made it impossible for this incredible cast to shine. There were moments that shone through, that I thought to myself “Do more of that!” but the movie would immediately fall back to its heavy-science and heavy-exposition nature. The fun found in the earlier Fantastic Four movies was completely absent, as this movie is dull and spends most of its runtime trying to explain the premise of the movie, but ultimately the movie still makes no sense.