FANTASTIC FOUR REVIEW - JUST HOW FANTASTIC IS IT?

Josh Trank's Fantastic Four is finally upon us, but is it any good? The film has been receiving a lot of hate leading up to its release, so hit the jump to find out if the film is deserving of such judgement or not!

Reviews Opinion
Well, here it is folks - Josh Trank's Fantastic Four reboot is upon us, but is it worth checking out? Before getting into this spoiler-free review, it is important to note: DO NOT GO INTO THIS FILM EXPECTING AN ACCURATE ADAPTATION OF THE SOURCE MATERIAL, OR YOU ARE SETTING YOURSELF UP TO BE DISAPPOINTED. THIS FILM IS, FOR MOST ACCOUNTS, A NEW TAKE ON THESE HEROES. 

THE STORY

First things first, how did the story of the film measure up? For the most part, its not really anything we haven't seen before. Johnny, Ben, Sue and Reed get their powers in a tragic accident where Victor von Doom is also affected in a more drastic way. Everyone on the team but Johnny sees their newfound abilities as a burden, we see some inner conflict in the team, the typical Reed telling Ben he can fix him, Doom enacting some kind of evil plan, and the titular team coming together to defeat him. The main problem with the film's narrative, however, is there is too much build up and not enough payoff. For a film called "Fantastic Four", you don't really see much of the team at all. The movie spends A LOT of time focusing on introducing you to the characters (there are really only about seven characters that have any relevance, just about every actor in the movie are just background characters), building the Quantum Gate, and talking about the team's abilities. In fact, there isn't too much of the action in the movie you haven't already seen in the clips and trailers for the movies thus far. Another issue with the story is how it handled the defining moment that causes the characters to come together; it feels rather lacklustre. There is a death that didn't really make too much sense (the cause of death causes other characters to die instantly, where as this particular character gets time to utter some "important" words before biting the dust). What really was disappointing about this particular scene was it should have been more emotional than it was. The final issue with the narrative is its rather vague with just what the deal with Doom is. The film doesn't really allow you to get a grasp on what exactly this incarnation of Doom's powers are, nor how he becomes so knowledgeable on certain things (I can't say much more than that without throwing some major spoilers as to what his role is in the finale of the film, but you'll understand when you see the movie). One of the strongest points of the story is its rather humourous approach to just how the team end up causing the tragedy that changes their lives, but this isn't really something that accounts for much at all. Unfortunately, the story for the film was not quite as strong as you might hope it would be, and that really shows in some parts.

THE ACTING AND THE CHARACTERS

So, now that we've gotten story out of the way, its time to talk about the cast's performance. All in all, the cast members all played their parts well. Miles Teller does make a rather phenomenal young Reed Richards. Teller really plays the part of the awkward genius well, and he really shines in the role. Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan both play the Storm siblings just fine individually, but unfortunately, they seemed to be rather lacking when it comes to the sibling chemistry between their two characters in the film, though this is most likely due to the disappointingly small number of scenes the two characters actually share together - if it weren't for the few times their relationship is mentioned, the casual moviegoer could actually be forgiven for going most of the movie unaware that they were in fact family. Jamie Bell played the role of Reed's best friend Ben Grimm well, but he doesn't really get much opportunity to shine as The Thing. Upon being manipulated by Harvey Elder (yes thats right, Harvey Elder. But don't be expecting Mole Man to pop up in a sequel any time soon), Ben is too easily convinced that Reed has abandoned him, and becomes something of a military lackey. This writer is all for director's putting their own spin on the characters, but given the circumstances, I felt like Ben's departure from who he is meant to be was too much. And unfortunately, the one time he uses the classic "IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!", its rather underwhelming. It's really more of a "it's clobberin' time", which is rather disappointing. Tony Kebell doesn't really get much of a chance to shine as Victor von Doom in the movie, as beyond being set up by the other characters as being a bit of a d-bag, you don't see him for a good chunk of the movie (he is absent for the entire second act, only to underwhelmingly re-appear in the third). Unfortunately, his powers were very incomprehensible; one minute he's using what could possibly be telekinesis, the next he's making matter converters out of rock and being totally fireproof. The only real upside is his powers do seem somewhat more like the sorcery Dr Doom is known for in the comics, but only barely. A massive downfall in the development of a lot of the character relationships is there is no real telling of their backstories, just constant teases. A former troubled relationship between Susan Storm and Victor von Doom is teased, but never expanded upon. It is teased that Johnny has had trouble accepting Sue as family, but that too is abandoned. Johnny also seems to have parental issues, but you never really find out what exactly the falling out was (though it is implied it has to do with Franklin Storm favouring his work and/or Sue over Johnny, though it is hard to know for sure, as it is never visited in any great depth). So in summary, while the acting was solid, the characters really needed more development, and the absence of such development is very much noticeable.

THE EFFECTS


Now it's time to talk about the special effects in the film. The CGI is solid. Planet Zero, the alternate dimension location that gives the Fantastic Four and their 5-minute long nemesis (I wasn't joking when I said there was very little action), does look quite cool, and deserved to have more of the movie showing off its unique environment. The film had some serious potential to show of some really cool and abstract aspects off here, but unfortunately, much of the time spent in the alternate dimension is spent on a rather bland rocky plane. The visual representation of Marvel's First Family's powers were impressive. Lack of pants and The Thing's, er, "thing", aside, Ben Grimm's rocky/monstrous form does look good. Reed Richard's elasticity was also an improvement from the previous attempt at showcasing his power on screen, as his powers don't have such a cartoony look to them. Both Sue's invisibilty and Johnny's powers look great too, though honestly, I can't imagine it would be too hard to not screw up the visual representation of their abilities. Doom's powers were mostly either shown as his eyes glowing green, or rocks being telikinetically thrown around the place, and his character design (post-accident) was something of a step in the wrong direction from his comic book suit - I'm not saying they necesarrily need to perfectly adapt his costume, but I don't believe they changed it in the best way possible. So, aside from Doom's disappointing display and Planet Zero's disappointigly limited exposure, the effects did indeed hold up throughout the film.

CONCLUSION

You can tell that in Fantastic Four, Josh Trank has tried to make something different to your typical superhero movie. Unfortunately, he hasn't really succeeded in that. It is ultimately still your typical superhero origin movie - it just doesn't want to be. The biggest flaw with the film, however, was it built up for too long, and it simply didn't have a climactic enough pay off. And, while its main problem was too much build up in terms of the general story and action, there actually wasn't ENOUGH build up for the characters and their relationships for certain events to carry the emotional weight that they should. Luckily for the film, the acting and the effects do lift the quality somewhat, and the story is good enough to be a somewhat entertaining waste of an hour and forty five minutes. The film certainly isn't the worst superhero film made, but its definitely not the best either. It does have the potential for a sequel, and the cast do deserve another shot at playing the characters in a better film. However, a sequel film has a lot to improve upon to get it right. 
At the end of the film, The Thing says "Its Fantastic", but I'd say that'd be much too generous for the film. I'd say its alright.

3/5 stars
*****
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