A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Josh Trank
Written by: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank.
Produced by: Simon Kinberg, Gregory Goodman, Robert Kulzer, Hutch Parker, Matthew Vaughn.
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson, Toby Kebbell
Yet another superhero movie that has been overpublicized by the press, I’ve been hearing about FANT4STIC (as the film is called on its poster) for at least a year, maybe two, it could have even been thirty and I’ve just lost count. The film has been swarming the internet since its announcement, and EVERYBODY has an opinion. Not about production details, but about the black guy playing the white guy role. I realize I sound like a hypocrite right now, but you should dig up the press that had been surrounding this movie. This was before the film came out and flopped like a wet noodle, now the internet is drowning in FANT4STIC press. What’s Fox going to do now? Will Marvel get the rights? Just how bad a bomb will this be? Find out next week, same bat time! Same bat place!
FANT4STIC sucks, but it doesn’t suck quite as bad as you might think. Despite its infamy, the film is never aggressively unwatchable, merely boring and underwhelming. Here’s one thing superhero films need to stop doing, building up scenes that the audience already knows are going to happen. Let’s skip what we already know, we already know Johnny Storm is going to become the Human Torch, we know Reed Richards will be able to stretch his body, we know Ben Grimm will become a rock monster, it’s boring to watch this script careen toward the inevitable.
It doesn’t help that between these four otherwise fine young actors, not a single one of them have any kind of chemistry with each other. They all look as bored as the audience is. I should digress to take some time to single out some aspects of the movie I liked, because I was rooting for this thing once upon a time. I liked how gory Doom’s abilities were (that may have just been me looking for something to like because I didn’t want to fall asleep), and, while I’m not entirely sure its suited for heroes that are as innately stupid as the Fantastic Four, I like the idea of using interdimensional travel as a way of explaining superpowers.
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is an outcast, he works throughout his childhood to crack interdimensional travel. Through this he makes a friend named Ben (Jamie Bell). I’m going to go off-topic again, when Ben is first introduced at his home, his brother gets mad at him, moving to beat him up. Before he does this though, he says “It’s clobbering time!” That later becomes the catchphrase of The Thing (the rock monster Grimm eventually becomes), meaning that in this universe he picked that up from what his brother said one time before he was about to beat him up. That’s just…way too convenient, and pretty stupid.
He and Ben get recruited by Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey, who picked a bad movie to jump into films with. Shame, because he’s trying his best here) to work on a machine to send people into this dimension. During this time they work with the Storm siblings (Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara) and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). I’m going to digress again, if and when Marvel gets the rights to the FANTASTIC FOUR, they should pick a different name for this guy apart from Victor Von Doom. That is the most obviously evil name I’ve ever heard, and maybe that can’t be helped. I know this guy is a widely acclaimed supervillain, and maybe a name this stupid would gel with a different tone. It doesn’t gel with this tone, albeit in Trank’s defense he wanted to go with a different name.
Here’s the thing about the behind the scenes fighting. People have been quick to paint Trank as a martyr and to demonize 20th Century Fox for crapping all over his vision. I look at some of the aspects of this film and it seemed like Trank didn’t want to make a superhero movie at all. He wanted to make a Science Fiction movie with Cronenberg elements and somehow fit a superhero flick into this. 20th Century Fox didn’t want this, so Trank threw a tantrum. He would show up on set high, and he fought with Miles Teller, he deliberately sabotaged the production. Yeah, Fox was making this movie just to hold on to the rights, their intentions were spiteful. Trank refused to work with them, and a big studio movie cannot function without everyone working together. They didn’t, and it shows. It’s all over this movie.
The action scenes carry no weight, because I constantly found myself hard pressed to care about these characters. What this movie does is it eschews character development in favor of exposition. Half of the dialogue from our four main leads is expository. There are also a few moments where the film cuts to a montage where it shouldn’t, FANT4STIC actively avoids developing its characters in any way shape or form, unless it’s to unintentionally make Reed Richards look like a jerk. Richards, for most of the movie, behaves in ways that seem completely devoid of heroism.
For one, the expedition that gets them their powers is initiated by Reed getting drunk and wanting to go check this dimension out. Naturally things go wrong. What I don’t understand is that by the end of the movie Reed and Ben are friends again when Reed’s bad decisions condemned Ben to life as a rock monster (rock monster is sounding more and more ridiculous the more I say it). Why does he like this guy? This movie coasts on interactions and payoffs that it never earns.
FANT4STIC is a mess, and it’s horribly disappointing. Hopefully it will serve as a lesson to blockbuster filmmakers in the future. Say what you want about Marvel Studios and the MCU, they know how to hammer functional, enjoyable movies out of characters that are brain-dead stupid. They managed to make a fun movie out of ANT-MAN somehow. Maybe it’s time to retire the FANTASTIC FOUR, give them back to Marvel, and let them put a movie out in 2026 when the stigma from this turd has cooled down.