A decade since the very cartoonish 2005 Fantastic Four film and we're reunited with Marvel's original team of heroes, this time given a much darker, more grounded reimagining and reboot by director of the surprisingly good sci-fi, found-footage superhero picture ChronicleJosh Trank (a potentially great choice for the reboot we were hoping we'd see). After much controversy though, the film has arrived but the million dollar question remains: how good is it?

To answer the above: not very. When the reboot was first announced, a few years back, the general consensus was positive - as the thirst for a good Fantastic Four film is unpalatable. However, as more and more details were revealed about the film (the Ultimate Fantastic Four route, the idea of Sue being adopted, Doom being a blogger etc), the skepticism began. Even marketing was late to kick off and, when it eventually did, people didn't like what they saw (although, I didn't mind the trailers). With the film now actually here though, our worst fears for the blockbuster are being realised but, the biggest problem is just in how disappointing it is - not a good superhero flick let alone one that does these characters justice.

Introducing us to our characters from a young age, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a too smart for his own good boy that is working, with his friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), on a teleportation machine. When he is discovered at a science fair by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), he is offered a scholarship at his institute to help him crack interdimensional travel. Jumping at the chance, Reed is reluctant to work alongside hothead Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and the also wildly intelligent Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to achieve interdimensional travel - although his friendship with the latter is a little competitive.
Deciding to be the first ones to test their newly-built invention, Reed and Doom, along with Ben, Sue and Johnny, are transported to a mysterious, dangerous new dimension. However, things go awry from there when Doom goes missing (presumed dead) and, upon returning back to Earth, the remaining 4 discover that the dimension altered them and gave each of them unique special powers - Reed can stretch, Johnny can go on fire, Sue can go invisible and Ben becomes a rock-like creature. We then skip ahead a year to see our titular team comfortable and used to their powers but being sought out by Tim Blake Nelson's vindictive Dr. Allen for military purpose, all just as a familiar face makes a returns and poses a global threat.

This is supposed to be an origin story but the reason I say 'supposed to be' is because it's hardly even a story. It's just ideas that were pieced together with no coherence at all. That said, the first two acts of this film are its best. It's not to say they're amazing, they're rarely even good, but they are competent and occasionally fun to watch - seeing this team come together and, well, the origin part of origin story. It's still clumsily put together, with so much inconsistency, the story so muddled and confused and in-cohesive. However, despite the dark take on the heroes that Trank wanted, it never gives us the feeling and the atmosphere it's supposed to and becomes a lot worse when we hit the cartoonish, dumb, bland, CG-fest excuse of a finale and the inevitable battle between the Fantastic Four and Doom. The tone is always all over the place. It's never Nolan and The Dark Knight Trilogy-esque dark but it's not Marvel's tongue-in-cheek Ant-Man vibe either.

As far as the aforementioned characters themselves go, that is where the film hits some of its weakest links. The inspiring, heroic team that Stan Lee created back in 1961 doesn't translate to the big-screen. Instead, what we get is actors too good for this project playing one-dimensional, single trait people with abilities that have no resemblance to the heroes we grew up with and, instead, just have their names and powers slapped on in hopes of garnering the cash of us fanboys. It's hard to deny the fact that Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Michael B. Jordan are all talented actors and a have a lot of charisma and wit but, whilst they try to inject it into their roles, it never works due to the horrible writing and dialogue they've been slammed with. They have their moments but you never believe them as these heroes and, despite some veritable chemistry, the family dynamic is very poorly portrayed too.
Marvel have always been weak with their cinematic villains and even if this is a Fox property, it's still Marvel and with the character of Victor Von Doom, I feel that his failure is more personal. Not only is Dr. Doom one of Marvel's most iconic, formidable and epic antagonists but he is one of my favourite too. I wasn't too keen on his potrayal in the 2005 and 2007 films but this doesn't advance much on that either. Kebbell recently delivered a triumphant mo-cap performance in last year's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, this is a huge step down. Not only is he absent for the majority of the screen-time (so there's little arc to work with when he does appear) but he is such a weak villain that you never believe he has the power to take down the Fantastic Four.

I have to admit though, his powers look cool. You never understand just how he becomes so powerful and has the ability to control the whole Negative Zone and whilst he never seems much of a threat, his powers look good. The same applies for our titular team too. Seeing Jordan light up or Teller stretch or Mara go invisible is always great and I thought that Bell looked pretty awesome as The Thing too, even if he - like Doom - was absent for a large chunk of the picture's tedious 100 minute runtime. The action was okay but was your typical, Hollywood-ised, bloated stuff and the finale was underwhelming. The team dynamic didn't fit in well there and it was just a big, convoluted CG mess and did a very mawkish and feeble attempt in trying to string things together. By the end, it felt as though the film was just building up to the main event and finally ready to give us something worth watching but we never got to see that main event as the credits rolled and left the door open for us to expand into a sequel. Unfortunately, the thing is, chances of that film going ahead are looking pretty slim.

VERDICT:
Fantastic Four is just disappointing, more than anything else. It's a big, bloated mess of convoluted ideas and potential that never gels together - like colourful, straggling jigsaw pieces but for the wrong puzzle.
★★☆


About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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