REVIEW: “Fantastic Four” (2015)

FFposter

I doubt many people initially thought rebooting the Fantastic Four series was a great idea. Even though the previous two films made decent money, the cast has clearly moved on and calls for a third movie have been nonexistent. But that didn’t stop 20th Century Fox. Desperate to revive one of their lone Marvel Comics properties, the studio went ahead with their shaky venture. They compounded skepticism with some questionable casting choices and statements made during production that gave comics fans cause for concern.

Director Josh Trank was handed the reins and $120 million to bring his vision to the movie. Trank made a surprising splash with his 2012 debut film “Chronicle”, a movie loved by critics and audiences but one that I found to be inconsistent and predictable. We see these same issues fester up in “Fantastic Four”, but this film’s problems stretch much, much further (horrible pun intended) and the resulting mess of a movie is pretty tough to endure.

FF2

Sleep – Prepare to fight it.

The decision to completely rewrite the superteam’s history proved to be a bad one for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not convinced moviegoers really want to sit through another origin story especially about this group of heroes. Second, when you make the decision to rewrite well known characters and their history you better make sure you have a good story to tell. Unfortunately this is an painfully long and dull origin story and not a single new element offers anything of value.

When I say this is a long origin story I mean it is a LONG origin story. The film starts with Reed Richards meeting Ben Grimm in elementary school. The two build a close friendship around Reed’s garage-based teleportation experiments. Next we jump ahead seven years to Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) showing off the experiment at a high school science fair. They are approached by Professor Franklin Storm (Reg Cathey) of the Baxter Foundation who recruits Reed to help work on a dimensional portal called the Quantum Gate. Reed joins the research team consisting of Storm’s daughter Sue (Kate Mara), his rebellious son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), and a disillusioned young protégé Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell).

FF3

I had the same reactions…

The film then lumbers through the completion of the Quantum Gate giving us loads of monotone exposition. It takes a few breaks for personal exchanges meant to add some life and emotion to these characters. It doesn’t work. Not one single relationship feels authentic and the emotionally inert characters are void of any compelling personality. Trank and Company want us to believe that Victor has a thing for Sue. They want us to believe that Sue and Johnny are actually brother and sister. They want us to believe in the inevitable team camaraderie that we get later on. But that’s tough to do when the characters are as interesting as tree stumps.

It’s a full hour into the movie before we get to the experiment that grants them their powers. With the evil U.S. government and specifically scientist and government liaison Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) breathing down their necks, the team decides to use the Quantum Gate and stake a claim on their discovery. Obviously things go terribly wrong. Each are imbued with unique powers but their reactions to their new abilities fractures the team. It’s only when they face a powerful and unexpected threat that they realize the strength they wield as a team. Blah, blah, blah.

FF4

Mara’s expression…through the entire film.

It doesn’t help when the performances are as drab as the story. People are high on Miles Teller but here he flatlines and is embarrassingly bad once the action ratchets up in the final act. Jordan doesn’t offer an ounce of charisma or good humor vital to his character. Cathey’s ultra-serious monotone dialogue is robotic. Mara is strikingly mundane. Yet it’s Tim Blake Nelson who gets the ‘prize’ for the worst performance. He constantly flashes this odd snarky smirk meant to show he is the man in charge. He actually looks like he just sucked on a dozen lemons. In his defense he does get some of the worst lines of dialogue. On the other hand they all get crappy dialogue yet no one is able to rise above it.

Trust me when I say this – reading about the movie is a lot more fun than watching it. You don’t always expect these types of films to be narrative masterpieces, but you do expect them to be spirited, whimsical, and energetic. “Fantastic Four” is a lifeless bore, devoid of any of the ingredients that make these pictures work. Trank has already started pointing fingers at the studios and the studios are already bracing for what looks like a big loss at the box office. I can’t say I’m surprised. Simply put, this is a bad movie and 20th Century Fox should be on the phone with Disney making a deal and getting whatever they can from this now dead-in-the-water franchise.

VERDICT – 1.5 STARS

1.5 stars

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37 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Fantastic Four” (2015)

  1. I initially found it almost hard to believe that it’s that bad but I guess it is. I will still be watching it though because I just want to see how badly they screwed up a ‘gritty’ superhero movie.
    What did you make of Toby Kebbell’s Dr. Doom btw?

    • I didn’t see anything ‘gritty’ about it. No even slightly. It’s funny that they can even think this thing fits that description.

      Kebbell was kinda like Mara, flat and forgettable. Not necessarily terrible, but dull. And there version of Doom is uninspired. It doesn’t do that great villain justice.

      I’m just amazed at how bad they flubbed this thing up.

      • That is my one big hope. That last line of my review is sincere. I really hope 20th Century will sell it back. But I actually read somewhere that they haven’t ruled out making another FF film! Seriously???

      • They actually even set the release date for July 17, 2017 but now that the movie has bombed both critically and commercially they’re thinking of replacing it with Deadpool 2, which also hasn’t released yet.

      • Oh ok. They were also thinking about a crossover with the X-Men. Supposedly this film takes place in the same “universe”.

  2. Nice review Keith. I had little interest in the previous Fantastic Four movies and even less in this one, despite the fine young cast. It just looks so stupid.

    • Don’t waste your time!!! I didn’t mind the previous ones although they aren’t movies I care to see again. This one is really bad. It fails in so many areas. And not just in story choices but also in basic fundamental moviemaking.

  3. I actually did like the first part of the movie. It was after the “one year later” where it lost me completely. The last sequence was just painful to watch. Great review 🙂

    • Thanks for reading! I thought the idea was decent during the first part. But I still never bought into a single relationship. Didn’t care for the ultra-serious tone and when they did try humor it felt so forced to me. And then at that ‘one year later’ point it really takes a nose dive.

      And you are so right – that last sequence! What on earth???

    • I would scream with joy if 20th Century Fox would sell this back to Marvel/Disney. I don’t know if it will happen though. If they don’t after this disaster I’m not sure they ever will. Fingers crossed though.

  4. I knew this movie was going to be horrible when someone in the trailer said “we should use our powers for good.” Talk about cliched on the nose dialogue!
    So I’m steering clear from this one. I’m not really a huge fan of superhero movies anyway, even the good ones, but it’s funny to read everyone’s reviews. Your captions were hilarious!

    • Appreciate you reading!

      If you think that line is bad, you should hear some of the others. Woefully bad! This thing falls short in so many areas. And not just creative decisions. Definitely steer clear of this one. I promise, you aren’t missing a thing!

  5. Haven’t seen it yet, but when I even heard that they were doing a reboot of Fantastic 4, I knew it was going to fail hard. This is one of those franchises that just doesn’t really work for the big screen, I think. Fantastic 4 would be better as an animated feature. Believe it or not, I rather enjoyed the previous two movies, despite their obvious problems. This new one, though……bleh. How bad is it compared to, say, Batman and Robin as far bad comic book movies go?

    • You know what, I’m with you. I honestly didn’t mind those previous two movies. They aren’t movies I care to rush back and see again but I did have some fun with them. They were entertaining and they never took themselves too seriously. This one is totally opposite.

      It’s interesting that you ask how they compare to other bad comic book movies. A friend of mine asked me the same thing earlier today. I told him that I wouldn’t put this one in the same unwatchable category as Batman and Robin or Elektra. But this one isn’t too far ahead of them.

      • Well, I went and saw it last night. Oh, dear. I really wanted to like it. There were elements that I thought had some real potential. I liked that the film had a more serious tone than the previous ones, but it was a complete and utter mess. They still didn’t get Doom right. In fact, they made him worse. How do you do that?! Say what you will about the previous F4 films, but at least The Thing was an actor in an actual suit and not crappy CGI. Then there was the whole scene where Reed was disguising himself by changing the shape of his head and face. Good grief. Considering all the crap that’s been happening behind the camera, I’m not surprised that this movie turned out as bad as it did. Still, it’s a better movie than Pixels. At least I didn’t walk out in the middle of Fantastic 4.

        The fact that Fox Studios is still pushing ahead with a sequel, just shows how out of touch with reality they are. I wanted to be one of those critics that went against the grain and tell people that they were wrong about Fan4stic. But they’re not. It’s a bad, bad movie. Fourth time is clearly NOT the charm.

      • Yep. And what about Reed just vanishing? They never tell us what he is doing during that time. We assume he is working on a cure but they never make it clear. They find him, they all say “hey” and off we go.

        And the ridiculous experiment. Ben is gone for most of the first half but Reed calls him in the middle of the night to come up and take a ride to another dimension with them while Sue is left completely out. Then the nonsense that follows that…

        And the movie claims that “It’s Clobberin’ Time” was actually inspired by Ben’s abusive older brother? Huh?

        Ugh…I’m getting annoyed again, LOL. So many goofups keep coming to mind.

  6. It’s a shame, but your review seems consistent with the general derision that has greeted this film. I’m not sure if I’ll bother going to see it as there were three other films released here last Friday that I’d be keen to check out. Ah well, I’m sure someone else can reboot it in two or three years’ time!

    • It’s terrible. I was talking to someone about it and said it’s not ‘walk out of the theater’ terrible. It’s not a movie that is utterly unbearable to sit through. Yet at the same time there are a compilation of missteps and things get worse and worse as the film goes on.

      • It’s also interesting to read Trank’s comments about having a better film that was butchered by the studio. It’s likely that’s the case, although it’s a very easy thing to fall back on when you know said version will probably never see the light of day.

      • Yes, I wonder about that. I’m sure there is some validity to that but on the other hand there is so much wrong with this film I can’t imagine it all being the studio. I agree with you, it is an easy thing to fall back on – a safety net of sorts.

  7. I never thought rebooting this was a great idea, but I never expected it to actually get panned more than the original. That’s the surprising part to me. Now I’m afraid to see it. Great write up!

    • Thanks a bunch. I always go into these things optimistic. I thought this reboot and some of the decisions made were cause for skepticism, but I still wanted to be surprised. Well, I was…surprised at how bad and poorly made this flick is. It truly was worse than I expected.

      Did you like the previous two movies at all?

  8. Saw this today and, perhaps I’m in a minority, but I didn’t think it was the dog’s breakfast the online community has decried this as being since it landed. Sure, it wasn’t great, or even good, but I went in expecting Catwoman-bad and came away actually impressed with that transpired. That back half of the film is the obvious problem, the whole “1 year later” gap in narrative a telltale sign this film had material removed, plus whatever the hell that final twenty minutes was up to (it reminded me entirely of Man Of Steel’s “World Engine” MacGuffin), but I think the DNA of what Trank was trying to do was sound, if perhaps misguided or overreaching his ability to tell it.

    I”m currently thinking over my review and I’m trying to figure out if it’s a D or a C rating; I don’t normally vacillate over scores but this one is giving me pause. The opening half is worth a C, but that final half is worth a D. What do I do?

    • The second is definitely when things go completely down the toilet, but I had so many struggles with the first half. I keep getting back to the relationships. I didn’t buy any of them. The closest I came was between Reed and Ben. But the ‘tension’ between Sue and Victor was poorly done. In no way, shape, or form did Sue and Johnny have a believable brother/sister relationship IMO. I also thought the ultra-serious approach worked against it. When they did try a lighter moment it felt really forced to me.

      Forgive me for rehashing my review. I just never thought this was a good idea but I went in wanting to be surprised. I often go against popular sentiment. Just look at my lone celebration of The Monuments Men from last year and Child 44 from this year, lol. Unfortunately I just can’t get onboard with this one.

      BUT it isn’t the worst film of 2015! I saw one easily worse this weekend. Look for that nugget of crap review coming soon! 😉

  9. I went in expecting not only an origin of the Fantastic Four, but an origin for Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben. We got none of that and I actually liked the cast but like you said there wasn’t much there. They get their powers, fight Doom, The End. It was such an incomplete movie.

    • Incomplete for sure. Man, I can’t figure out how they could have botched this so bad. Poorly developed relationships, paper-thin characters, some horrid dialogue, and an ending that didn’t excite me at all. I had hoped to be surprised by this one. I was. I was surprised at how bad it was.

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  11. Hi, Keith:

    Why is Hollywood so intent on destroying my pleasant childhood memories?

    ‘Fantastic 4’ worked supremely well as a Jack Kirby comic. And its later attempts weren’t terrible. An okay cast, dialog and effects. The latter, used in abundance instead of early character development. While Doom demands a Hugo Weaving class villain to work! And the guy from ‘Charmed’ and ‘Nip. Tuck’ just wasn’t up to the task.

    I predicted months ago that this latest “offering” would tank its opening weekend. And I’ve given you a Commendation for watching what others do not have to!

    I’m also with “meezookeewee” that the franchise might work better in an animated venue with or without Marvel, instead of live action.

    • You were spot on. It has tanked and this particular film deserved to talk. You’re right about the earlier FF films. They weren’t great but the weren’t bad either. They had the right tone for this franchise. This thing completely blows it with its ultra serious approach which contributes to it lifelessness. But that just touches on the many, many, many problems.

  12. I’ve been reading the news and it seems like Josh Trank and Miles Teller nearly got into a fist fight. While I would normally blame the studios for the way that some of these movies turn out, Trank is looking more like he’s the one at fault here. I’m not saying that Fox Studios shouldn’t take some of the blame, but it seems like a lot of the problems with the movie have a lot to do with Trank’s inability to get things done. The way he’s been treating the cast and crew and his apparent behavior on set is unbelievable. I’m surprised they didn’t fire his butt at the start. I would’ve agreed with it.

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