Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
After an eight year absence, Marvel’s first family have made a far from remarkable return to the big screen. Rather than awarding audiences with an epic adventure that re-ignites the Fantastic Four franchise, the filmmakers have delivered a dull and lifeless theatrical undertaking that barely qualifies as a movie at all.
At its most basic level, the plot isn’t too dissimilar to that of the 2005 film. Five diverse individuals are unwittingly endowed with extraordinary abilities, but are eventually forced to fight one of their own when he decides to turn his powers upon his people. The difference is that Tim Story’s take on the tale attempted to convey it in a way that was colourful and exciting. This updated account is presented in a monumentally monotonous manner.
For a movie that’s just over an hour and a half in length, the pace is surprisingly sluggish. A large proportion of the narrative is spent set within a confined environment, building things up for a payoff that never arrives. There is literally no action or escalation until the climactic confrontation, which comes and goes so quickly that it feels as if an entire act has been omitted in the middle.
The only remotely intriguing aspect of this iteration is its exploration of how the protagonists exhibit their capabilities in the immediate aftermath of being bestowed with them. For a brief period, it actually manages to display some drama by showing the transformations in a relatively realistic and fittingly frightful fashion. However, it skips over the matter all too quickly by using random time jumps. This leaves the film feeling more like a poorly edited series of disjointed scenes than a carefully constructed and cohesive composition.
It also throws away the opportunity for any sort of significant character development or relationship building. There’s an inexplicable lack of interaction and camaraderie among the titular team. They rarely appear on screen at the same time and even then, there’s hardly any affection between them. The script offers no real reason as to why these four would want to be friends, let alone form a surrogate family.
That being the case, the greatest victims here are undoubtedly the otherwise tremendously talented core cast. The failure of the film can’t be blamed upon its actors, who do what they can with what they’re given. It’s just a shame that they’re never permitted to meet their potential.
Miles Teller does an admirable job of portraying a child prodigy who’s grown into a modest and mannerly young man. Yet, it never really feels like it’s Reed Richards. Whether intentionally or not, he’s often made to seem cowardly and overly anxious. There’s nothing to demonstrate that he deserves the trust of his peers nor that he has it in him to become a virtuous leader.
Jamie Bell gives the most affective performance of the piece as Reed’s childhood friend, Ben Grimm. Despite ultimately ending up as a computer generated rock monster, he does come across as sympathetic. The motion capture on The Thing is also done well, but he doesn’t get a chance to establish a bond with anyone else. His reason for being present when the others receive their powers is also incredibly contrived. It seems as if the writers didn’t know how to handle him before his metamorphosis, which leaves him as more of an unfortunate outsider than a critical contributor to the scientific side of things.
While Sue Storm isn’t at all unlikable, Kate Mara doesn’t get much to do with the role other than spout some exposition and flirt fleetingly with Reed. Even though her own particular powers come in handy during the final fight, they end up feeling far too convenient and are never fully fleshed out. The same is true of her relationship with her brother.
Sue and Johnny Storm exchange only a handful of words throughout, meaning that their tie as siblings is never explored in any depth. Michael B. Jordan isn’t bad in the part, but once again he has nothing of merit with which to work. Like Ben before him, there’s no justification as to why Johnny’s involved in the events ahead of their transformation. He’s essentially just there because his father told him to be.
The less said about Victor Von Doom, the better. Toby Kebbell’s arch villain has little in the way of screen time, meaning that his motivations are extremely underdeveloped. There are implications as to why he goes rogue, but his rationale isn’t elaborated upon, leading to a hollow interpretation of an iconic antagonist.
Despite casting an accomplished assortment of actors, Fantastic Four squanders their skills to the point where it’s painful. This, along with the scarce action, results in no kind of tangible tension or sense of consequence. Add to that the facts that very little actually happens and that the whole thing appears poorly pasted together and you’re left with what may well be the worst superhero movie of the twenty first century, if not of all time.
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