Review by Dominic Messier, Founder and Editor
In the realm of film rights and ownership regarding popular properties from the printed page, there comes a fine line between ambition and desperation, especially when one is contractually bound to produce a new film within a given time frame lest said rights revert back to the original owner, which is exactly the case when it comes to Marvel, Fox and the classic Fantastic Four franchise.
In the same way that Sony plunders and pounds the Spider-Man franchise by producing bad movie after bad sequel while Marvel goes on to financial success with its in-house properties, Fox is hoping to bank the same level of coin by repeating the process with a new cast and a new series of FF films.
The resulting effort, I’m sad to report, is one messy discombobulated disaster.
I’m no lawyer, but I say this with brutal fan-like honesty: just sell the thing back to Marvel, won’t you? It’s not like they can’t afford it, these days…
The concept for this latest version of the FF story is fairly similar, insofar as having four friendly characters develop fantastic powers after a scientific mishap (all which depends on which version you’re watching, they tend to vary) only to fight evil, usually in the form of their nemesis Dr. Doom or in other installments, planet devouring entities named Galactus.
And so, this latest version has the remaining members of the foursome coming together to help Reed Richards (Miles Teller) complete a prototypical teleportation device which could not only allow instant travel across the globe, but possibly to other dimensions as well.
When the trip across to what is dubbed “Planet Zero” (in other dimension altogether) affects Richards, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and as a side effect of their return to the Earth lab, Susan Storm (Kate Mara), all five of them see their DNA affected in extraordinary ways which we, the audience, get to witness in all its F/X glory.
Now, if you’ve been anywhere near a comic book rack in decades past, this is nothing new to you, what with the usually colorfully clad foursome unmistakeably fighting Doom or some other cosmic-level threat.
What galls me and most other semi-regular fans of FF and its ilk, however, is how such an ambitious project designed to reinvigorate a well-aged concept can disregard source material to such an extent as to turn what should be an easy exercise in fictional regurgitation into a veritable farce of a film which, although pretty and full of explosions, turns out to have a little too much fun reinventing itself to the point of unrecognizable nonsense.
Granted, the film has the best looking Ben Grimm/Thing yet, thanks to the justified use of CGI to do away with the man-in-a-rock-suit approach. What doesn’t make sense is how a once feared villain the likes of Victor Von Doom, usually a power-mad ruler of a small European country called Latveria, now finds himself reduced to an anti-social pseudo-American expat who sounds like he grew up in the Five Boroughs. Where is the back story? Sigh.
Miles Teller seems ill at ease playing the lead given that he goes missing for portions of the film, while actor Jamie Bell barely gets his time on screen before he gets replaced with his rocky alter-ego. Not that this wasn’t unexpected, but you can barely manage to associate these two actors registering as “best friends” before you stop giving a crap about them.
Kate Mara gets a few minutes of screen time here and there while Michael B. Jordan hands in a variation of the hot-headed rebellious teen with resourcefulness to spare.
What we get all around is wooden performances that reek of inner-studio interference, something confirmed by director Josh Trank’s less-than-private tirades on the subject.
What we end up with is what feels like an unfinished film, or at least a half-written one. The first half of the film rings true to the usual origin story seen many a times over the past iterations of this Marvel team. What follows is a rudderless miss-mash of promising ideas that simply don’t connect in any logical way.
There’s already talk of an approved sequel which I feel may be necessary if only to give these poor saps a chance to find themselves, or at the very least a decent script which would give them purpose, equal screen time and a villain that isn’t reinvented to the point of usurping the original’s good name.
1.5 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.