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Fantastic Four – Movie Review

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Fantastic Four – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

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Fantastic Four is the sort of film that wants to be different from other entries in its sub-genre, but also secretly wants to be included among them. There is some promise early on of a superhero film more focused on the character’s scientific abilities and individual intelligence rather than special powers. It takes a good chunk of the film before the leads even attain their magical attributes. Even then, director/co-writer Josh Trank chooses to go in an interesting direction, opting for possibly a more realistic reaction to their unique and strange skills. It’s in the third act that Fantastic Four shifts into something silly and sheds the image it was so interestingly working towards through the bulk of the film’s runtime.

A team-up movie should have solid interaction between the characters and cast and the four leads do work well with each other. The screenplay by Trank, Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater features some decent banter between the intelligent Reed Richards and adopted siblings Sue and Johnny Storm. They are believable as co-workers and likeable as protagonists. Ben Grimm’s friendship with Richards is similarly nicely handled. The actors all embody the Four well, with Miles Teller continuing to show a natural on-screen dapperness. The weak spot in the cast is Victor Von Doom, played by Toby Kebbell without a hint of subtlety. He’s an obvious antagonist from the start and his motivations are weak and under-explored. The script completely lets this character down and he’s partly to blame for the film’s sour final act.

The decision to focus primarily on the Four’s scientific exploits allows Fantastic Four to take a more low-key approach than the typical superhero film. Seeing the characters spend a bulk of the first act planning and building a transportation device proves to be genuinely entertaining. Science will occasionally take a back seat to the action, so it’s pleasing to see Trank put a lot of attention towards it. He also takes a different approach to how they react to their newfound powers. Trank appears heavily inspired by David Cronenberg body horror films and it’s surprising how much he was able to get away with and not attain a more restrictive rating. They react with shock as most people would in their situation. The decision to have the film jump ahead a year later is an odd one and it means the script does not explore them being confused and adjusting to stretching or becoming invisible. It almost feels like a good chunk of the film has been trimmed out, especially with the final cut only running about a hundred minutes.

The cracks of Fantastic Four start to show in the last act, when it immediately plunges the team into a generic superhero film wildly in contrast to the genre-bending of the preceding hour. The design for Dr. Doom looks ridiculous rather than threatening and he’s evil simply because the screenplay and source material demand him to be. The action lacks any sort of pizzazz and eventually becomes a mash of unappealing special effects. While The Thing is well-animated, other effects are less successful. The computer work on Reed Richards’s stretching looks fake and feels like it came out of a film from ten years ago rather than today. There’s even a bit of uncanny valley in one scene where Richards modifies his face. The sudden tonal shift to ridiculous and silly antics ends the film on a rather disappointing note.

Fantastic Four is merely a forgettable affair that feels like it will differentiate itself from the other superhero films on the market and then ultimately aspires to be them with no real build-up. With Chronicle, Josh Trank showed his talent at handling a superhero film in a unique way, but only small elements of that earlier success appear in this sophomore effort. The third act especially affects the rest of the picture and feels like a lot of executive meddling to get it to appeal to the action spectacle crowd. It’s easy to see Trank wanting to make a smaller and more intimate Fantastic Four film, but other forces appear to be at play. There is even a briefing scene that shows clips that feel like deleted scenes that will eventually appear on the home video release. The potential exists for a solid film adaptation of the Fantastic Four, as proven by Brad Bird in his own superhero family team-up film The Incredibles and that one remains the best screen incarnation of the Four and their powers.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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