Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fantastic Four Review

Fantastic Four Review
There is a scene at the end of "Fantastic Four," a scene right before the credits begin to roll. In that one scene, it feels like everything is coming together. The characterization of these superheroes seems to be the best that its ever been, compared to the series started ten years ago. The actors sell the moment flawlessly, and the writing is superb. It feels like an understanding of these characters, and just when the life of this movie is about rejuvenate itself, the credits roll, feeling like some sort of cruel joke. As I walked out of the theater today, I thought to myself, does 20th Century Fox even care? If the answer is no, why are did they even bother rebooting this franchise? Are they really so stuck in greed mode against Disney that they are going to make a movie about characters they clearly do not understand?

Before we get too much further, let me say one thing. If I had to choose between Tim Story's "Fantastic Four" movies from ten years ago, or this new movie, I'd choose this new movie. "Fantastic Four" is a slight improvement, but its an improvement nonetheless. There is great acting work done by cast that is clearly giving it all. There are some character beats that fans of the comic book will absolutely love. But taken as a whole, "Fantastic Four" is another letdown. It is another example of what not to do in order to get these characters right. Honestly, I don't get why its so hard. Four scientists get radiated by cosmic rays, they come back to Earth with extraordinary powers. Even though they are different, they are still a family and they work as a team in order to save the day. Seems like pretty simple stuff and prime material for a good superhero movie, doesn't it? So why does 20th Century Fox continually mess it up?

"Fantastic Four," in a lot of ways, is the movie many people claimed "Man of Steel" of being. Its an exercise of brood and somber overtones for no apparent reason. Its a superhero movie with zero fun or excitement. It's a movie that is tonally confused, not understanding if it wants to be a science fiction thriller, a superhero movie or a horror movie. Its made clear that the studio has no idea what makes these characters special and what makes them unique. Having a story which involves the government turning this foursome into weapons is painfully familiar and absolutely unneeded. Dr. Doom (Toby Kebbell), who is one of the most popular and most dangerous villains in all of Marvel comics comes off as a clumsy joke and he is featured in the lamest climax in any superhero movie so far. This is not the Fantastic Four and that is, once again, definitely not Dr. Doom.

The movie takes its ques more from the Ultimate Marvel storyline. As Reed Richards (Miles Teller), grows up, he dreams of inventing things that will change the world and with the assistance of Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), he invents a teleportation machine. This breakthrough leads him to a internship at Baxter Institute, where he works under Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara). Dr. Storm is working toward inter-dimensional travel, and with the help of Richards, he is able to pull it off. Reed, Sue, Grimm, Sue's brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and their associate Victor von Doom (Kebbell) all travel to another dimension in secret to explore it before anybody else does. Once in the dimension, some bad stuff happens, they get powers, they go back to Earth and everything from this point is a depressing, lifeless story. 

Lots of people like to complain about light and dark in comic book stories. I feel it really depends on the character. Both Marvel and DC have their fair share of light and dark stories. In fact, some of the best Marvel crossover events were bittersweet. The heroes saved the day, but a cost was paid. Marvel does like to be more broad and swashbuckling with their storytelling, and Disney has been really embracing those notions, sometimes a little too much (I am looking at you, "Age of Ultron"). But what I hope we will all understand that it need to tell a dark or light story should depend upon the character. Batman works better with a more serious tone, and it would be silly to make a Punisher movie with him cracking silly jokes while he blows the heads off of mafioso. A serious, brooding "Fantastic Four" movie simply doesn't work. 

I will say that Miles Teller surprised me here. I didn't think he'd be able to pull off Reed Richards, and I was sorely mistaken. Teller really nails the awkward brainiac points of  the character, and when Richards emerges as the leader of this new super team, it feels natural. In fact, everybody does really good work here. Both Mara and Jordan create a sibling relationship that feels real. Toby Kebbell is actually really good as Dr. Doom, and its killing me that he didn't have a better script to work with, because he would have ran with it much more if he did. The studio completely wasted one of comics most treasured villains and his plot at the end is laugh-conducing. Also, if you are not careful, you could miss the entire action scene at the very end of the movie if you have to use the restroom.

I am shocked, because I feel like Josh Trank was the perfect guy for this job. He made one of the greatest superhero movies in "Chronicle." If the studio got in his way during the production of this, then that is a massive shame. There is a reason why so many hardcore Marvel fans are screaming for Fox to give the rights back to Disney, and once "Fantastic Four" tanks this week, which I am sure it will, then Fox may have to pony up. After two failed attempts at these characters, they need to realize that they just don't understand the possibilities with these characters and how they can make a good movie. Holding on to them out of greed is immature and potentially dangerous, and I assume they will begin to get that once they see weekend numbers on Monday morning.

With that said, I can see pieces of the actual Trank film. I believe those moments are the best moments in this movie. Whether or not Fox is to blame or not, "Fantastic Four" is still a disappointment. There is still a great "Fantastic Four" movie out already, its called "The Incredibles." That Pixar movie gets the style and tone of the Fantastic Four much better than any Fantastic Four film could. If you want my advice, stay in tonight and pop that in, it will be a much more entertaining evening for you.

FINAL GRADE: C-

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