A less than Fantastic Four

By Thomas Simpson

There are film franchises that don’t need a reboot and there are those that do. Fantastic Four was positioned firmly in the latter camp.

Tim Story’s two films aren’t without their charm but with the cast’s Chris Evans finding success as Captain America it made more sense to start from scratch. When the news broke that the new film would be a dark and gritty reboot steeped in realism, I rolled my eyes. However, the more I saw of it the more optimistic I became. It had a great cast with Josh Trank directing a screenplay by Simon Kinberg. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot, it would appear.

The origin of the Fantastic Four may not be as familiar as Spider-Man or Batman so you can forgive the creative team for spending some time on the back story. Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a high school student who, with the help of his friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), creates a device that can teleport matter. When introduced to noted scientist Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), he is informed that his device doesn’t just transport objects, but does so to another dimension. Storm invites Reed (who later invites Ben) to join his team comprising of his daughter Sue, son Johnny and estranged colleague Victor Von Doom.

An experiment goes awry and Reed, Johnny, Ben and Sue are infected with cosmic radiation with Victor feared dead in the other world. The surviving four develop unique powers, something the military is keen to capitalise.

It’s from that point that the film starts to go downhill. The build-up is fine; more than enough time is taken to explain the origin of their powers and the characters come into conflict with each other setting up formulaic tension. Everything falls apart in the third act which feels tacked on in a rushed attempt to create any resolution. It feels like the filmmakers are forced to prematurely wrap things up and in doing so sacrifice any structural logic.

Fantastic Four has gathered an impressive cast but they’re smothered by their 100 minute runtime. Kebbell suffers the most. An incredibly talented actor, his Victor shows promise of a great movie villain but when he evolves into Doom, he isn’t given enough screen time to showcase this. His descent into madness is covered off screen with his evolution to supervillain grossly neglected.

The visual effects range from impressive to poor depending on the scene and in many ways serve as a metaphor for the film. Fantastic Four plays out like a test screening, an unfinished product that needs work done. Unfortunately, this is the version that has been released and there’s no going back now.

Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.

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