Helmed by Josh Trank, Fantastic Four attempts to reboot the superhero franchise based on the Marvel Comics characters of the same name. This 2015 motion picture features a screenplay by Trank, Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg and is not without its share of behind-the-scenes controversies. The studio apparently ordered changes without the director’s permission and that’s never a good thing.
Regardless of the story behind Fantastic Four, what’s on screen is dreadful. There’s no artistic value and the plot is dull. There are early attempts at character development, but the acting is so bland and the screenplay so elementary that it never matters who the “four” are.
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) have been working on a teleporter since childhood. They gain the attention of Professor Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who runs a government-sponsored institute for prodigies. Richards is recruited and joins Storm’s daughter Sue (Kate Mara) and son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) at the world’s least exciting research facility.
It turns out that ex-student Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) has developed a “Quantum Gate,” which can teleport people to a parallel dimension that comes to be known as Planet Zero. One thing leads to another and Richards, Grimm, Johnny, and von Doom wind up in the parallel dimension and acquire various special powers. Sue Storm is also impacted, while von Doom is left behind on Planet Zero.
The story is familiar to comic book fans and those familiar with the earlier Fantastic Four films. In the case of Trank’s vision, there’s not a lot to cling to. Teller, so good in Whiplash, is inconsequential. He appears to be going through the motions, working his way through Reed Richards with zero connection to the character. In fairness, he doesn’t really have anything to work with.
Kebbell makes for an exceptionally bland von Doom. There are hints of history between him and Sue Storm, but that’s never developed or illuminated. Once von Doom goes through his transformation to Super Bad Guy, the special effects department takes over and develops a tepid, uninspired costume design that matches the others. Also, his powers are preposterous blasts of whatever.
Mara and Jordan could’ve made for an interesting pair of siblings with Professor Storm as their eminent father. They never quite act like they’re brother and sister and there’s not a lot of personality to either one, plus Cathey’s Storm is just a ball of angry gibberish.
There’s also Dr. Harvey Allen, the half-assed government agent who supposedly helps the heroes hone their abilities but is only seen on screen to produce more artificial conflict. He semi-clashes with Professor Storm and is the catalyst for the three boys entering Quantum Gate in the first place, but like every other character in the picture he has no personality to speak of.
The half-hearted characters are only partly to blame for how poor Trank’s movie is. Consider Planet Zero, which should be rife with creative possibilities. There is no wonder or horror in this analogous world and the actors can’t drum up any actual excitement for the arbitrary sprinkle of hills and green lightning that is supposed to be the greatest discovery in human history.
Much of the film concerns itself with the work at the research foundation, with scenes involving characters chatting vaguely, listening to music, pretending to be pals, and drinking. It’s overcast stuff until the breakthrough moment. Even then, Teller’s character merely says “We did it” in monotone and they chuck a monkey into the other dimension. Lucky monkey.
Trank takes a lazy approach to the development of the powers, allowing a year to go by after the initial discovery. By the time the action returns to Grimm, Richards and the two Storms, everything is figured out. Johnny’s already saying “Flame on” and his sister’s running around in a sphere of energy. Nobody knows where Reed is, which is an attempt at provoking some semblance of drama before the final act.
A pointless endeavour, Fantastic Four is another reboot that has no reason to exist. It looks dingy and dreary, it lacks character development and it features a one-note story that only serves to set up a franchise. It’s an origin story without an original though, a lackadaisical gurgle of pallid blunders that is as forgettable as it is tiresome.