I can’t remember the last time I went to see a film where I had expectations quite as low as I had for Fantastic Four.
With Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, I didn’t know what to expect and they both turned out to be triumphs. So I decided to keep an open mind about the (seemingly-doomed) reboot of Marvel’s ‘first family’, which comes just eight years after the second of Tim Story’s efforts.
Instead of going into space, in this reboot the team of scientists gain their powers through inter-dimensional travel. It’s less cinematic, less engaging and just a bit more muddled. Not to mention that Sue Storm doesn’t even go on the inter-dimensional trip, but just happens to get her powers by accident, whilst Ben Grimm is inexplicably just along for the ride.
Rarely do we leave either a science lab, an underground military base or another planet; making it harder to invest in the whole ‘Earth is in danger’ shtick. I could outline the plot but other than the shift from space to inter-dimensional travel (still pretty much in space) there’s really not a lot different from the 2005 movie.
The special effects are decent enough, but never mind-blowing. To be honest, it’s a near impossible task to make characters such as Mr Fantastic and The Thing not look ridiculous and the movie’s serious ‘real world’ take on the story does the preposterousness of the concept no favours.
One of the few redeeming features of the movie is its lean running time of 98 minutes. Superhero blockbusters can all too often be bloated and dragged out but this is mercifully manageable, though it’s a shame that the origin story took the best part of an hour to unfold.
It means that by the time we eventually get around 15 minutes of action when Dr. Doom finally appears, the shift into summer blockbuster actually feels rather jarring. Both Doom and The Thing are criminally shunned for the most part, though it’s not the casting that’s to blame, with both Toby Kebbell and Jamie Bell making an impression in their limited screen time.
The issue is that characters just aren’t given enough depth here, with barely any interaction between some of the team. There’s a reason that the Avengers work equally well individually as they do all together; they are characters with enough depth and power to keep audiences wanting more. I assure you now that there will be no petitions for an Invisible Woman movie or a solo Human Torch venture.
Announcing a sequel before the movie is even out is a bold move – and, as Andrew Garfield will assure you, no guarantee that it’ll go ahead. If a follow-up does happen, please give us some villains that we haven’t seen in previous F4 adaptations and at least next time we won’t need to spend ages on a drab origin story.
Fantastic Four wraps up with a painfully dragged-out scene in which the team pick their name and ‘fantastic’ feels like a bit of a misnomer. How about the ‘distinctly average four’?
At no point in Fantastic Four did I feel any tension, emotional involvement or real sense of excitement. None. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie, at least not on a technical level. Perhaps a bad movie would at least have been more memorable though.
In defence of director Josh Trank, who delivered 2012’s truly fantastic Chronicle, it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that this finished cut probably bares little relation to the movie he was trying to make. A ‘one year later’ jump in the middle of the film particularly smacks of scissor-happy studio interference.
There’s the potential for a decent franchise here, but it seems that the sole purpose of this release was just to keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel Studios. The only way to create any excitement for 2017’s sequel would be if Fox figure out a deal to incorporate these characters into the X-Men universe. On the basis of this outing, however, we doubt that Professor X’s band of mutants would want them.
Released in UK cinemas on Thursday 6 August 2015.
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