Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.
The rebooted Fantastic Four franchise has arrived with acclaimed Chronicle director Josh Trank at the helm of a new cast retelling the tale of Reed, Johnny, Sue, and Ben. Almost a decade has passed since we last saw the Fantastic Four on the big screen, and as soon as the marketing began for this version, it quickly became apparent that this would be a different take on what’s come before.
A more grounded tone is instantly noticeable from the opening scenes this time around, which isn’t to say there isn’t any humour as there are most certainly comedic elements that work pretty effectively, but overall the film delivers a serious tone. The opening half of Fantastic Four is largely told through the eyes of Reed Richards, it takes its time to setup various characters, bringing them all together in the build-up towards the larger scale events.
Setting up the character’s relationships, bringing them together and creating some intrigue around what they are trying to achieve is where the film is most successful. These elements are generally handled well enough, however the character of Victor Von Doom is always clunky. He is oversimplified, his villainous path is too obvious, and there are too many missed opportunities for dramatic material between him and Reed Richards.
After maintaining its composure and coherent storytelling for the first third, over the remaining course of the film things become increasingly jumbled, erratic and rushed. Character arcs are squeezed into little more than one or two scenes, there are large sub-plots condensed into just a few minutes of screen time and what should be captivating and interesting exploratory sections in the film, are boiled down to quick sequences that serve only to advance the plot because the plot needs to advance, not because of any organic flow in the story.
The motivations of some characters in the final act are mystifying, Victor Von Doom’s powers are inconsistent and seem undefined, they essentially appear to be whatever the script requires them to be at any point in time, not to mention dialogue that becomes increasingly worse as the film progresses.
Regardless of the history to these characters there’s little sense of drama going on between them, with the final scenes just erupting into fairly generic, uninteresting action sequences with visual effects that are lacklustre. Further to his characterisation Von Doom’s visual design was also pretty disappointing, without anything really intimidating in his look. Sam Grimm’s transformation into the Thing on the other hand was visually pretty effective, as was the way in which the other characters powers were displayed.
Overall the performances are sound, and despite the leaning towards the “young genius” archetype it manages not to grow tiresome. Ultimately the material does let them down but Miles Teller in particular makes the most of some nice character flourishes and a slight awkwardness that’s enjoyable to watch.
In summary however Fantastic Four is difficult to recommend (especially if Mad Max is still showing), and in the context of so many great comic book based films coming out this one just doesn’t stack up. Despite showing some potential and good character building early on, it ultimately fails to deliver anything compelling or even just fun to watch. It quickly turns into a mess of pointless explosions, most of which will be forgotten about on the drive home.
I’m giving Fantastic Four 4 out of 10 stars, it was released in cinemas from Thursday 6th August 2015.