Dog’s Movie House: “Fantastic Four” A Fantastic Mess!
Howdy folks! It’s The Kendog!
I have to tell you, when I was reading up on all the vitriol, hate, and behind the scenes shenanigans surrounding Josh Trank’s new Fantastic Four reboot I thought the art of hyperbole was being taken to entirely new levels. Surely this film couldn’t be as bad as the early reviews were saying, could it? I mean, Mr. Trank had already knocked it out of the park with the excellent “Chronicle” so surely he would be able to bring Marvel’s First Family to the screen in an original and entertaining fashion, right?
Uh, not so much.
“The Fantastic Four,” while not the worst bit of film ever committed to celluloid, is an absolute mess, with tonal shifts, slight characters, and a finale that comes out of nowhere and absolutely underwhelms the audience to the Nth degree.
The story beats here are familiar to anyone who’s read the comic. Reed Richards (Miles Teller), is a young genius who, since his youth, has been trying to invent a teleporter capable of carrying humans vast distances. At a science fair, he is approached by Dr. Franklin Storm (the gravelly voiced Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara). Dr. Storm informs Reed that, instead of teleportation, the young genius has actually cracked the secrets of travelling to another dimension. So Reed ends up working for Franklin at Baxter Industries with a team that includes Sue, her brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell).
The team of course cracks the code, builds the machine and, before the military can take over, take the now classic ill-fated trip to the new dimension, which is hostel and full of cosmic energy that transforms our intrepid explorers into individuals with strange powers. Reed can now stretch and mold his body into weird shapes, Sue (who monitored the trip from the control room and gets caught in the backlash) can turn invisible, Johnny becomes a human fireball, and Ben Grimm (Jaime Bell, brought in at the last minute by Reed to come along for nebulous reasons at best) becomes the immense rock monster known as the Thing, As for Doom, he is unfortunately left behind and is presumed dead.
Now I won’t tell you any more of the plot because, believe it or not, that little synopsis takes over half the movie! To say director Trank moves at a leisurely pace is an understatement, but at least at this point I’m vibing with the subdued nature of the film, Then something happens at this point and the tone and pace of the film totally change, and not for the better. The dialogue gets clichéd, the characters get even less relatable, Doom reemerges just in time for a finale that is so rushed and weak that I have to believe at least a half hour of the film has been left on the cutting room floor. It may be one of the most head scratching movies I’ve ever seen.
The team is okay, at least in the beginning. Teller gets Reed’s inherent genius mixed with some of the insecurities of youth while Mara makes a decent, if underused foil. Jordan, a terrific actor with very little to work with, does some good work in his scenes with Cathey as combative father and son, and Bell, who disappears for great chunks of the first half of the movie, is actually terrific in the scenes in which he actually appears as Ben, Reed’s best friend and supporter. They are all underutilized, though, even more so, ironically enough, when they become a team.
And, just like the forgettable Tim Story films that preceded it, this film doesn’t know what to do with its villain. Dr. Doom is the Darth Vader of the Marvel Universe and it should be easy to translate him to the big screen, but three movies in and the various filmmakers who have tried have no idea how to make him compelling or even all that evil. Kebbell at least lays some groundwork as Victor during the first half of the film, but all of that is wiped away in the rushed finale in which his powers are more akin to Carrie White’s than a vicious, brilliant dictator of a small European country. It’s a tragic waste of time.
The effects work is inconsistent but watchable but falls in the same category as the rest of the film: rushed and schizophrenic. The stories involving studio interference and Trank’s bad reaction to said interference are entirely believable once you watch the finished product. I still believe that The Fantastic Four can still be made into a good, possibly great, live action film (see “The Incredibles” for proof of this), but this version is not it. Save your money and do something more entertaining, like banging your head against a concrete wall a few times. You’ll get the same headache you’ll have watching “The Fantastic Four” but at least you won’t be out eleven bucks. 1 1/2 out of 5 on the Barkormeter!
So Sayeth The Kendog!
“The Fantastic Four” is Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language.