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Fantastic Four

Theatrical Review


20th Century Fox; 106 minutes

Director: Josh Trank


Written by on August 6, 2015 




Finally coming out at the end of another predictably superhero/remake/sequel-laden summer, Fantastic Four opens with its back against the wall. Though undeniably ambitious in spots, this beloved Marvel property – as produced by Fox – feels stitched together and disengaged. It plays like a product that was fussed with too much and then abandoned. We’re introduced to young Reed Richards, a boy genius determined to perfect his “teleport-er” machine. His teachers don’t understand him and his classmates think he’s a dork. Seven years later, a teenage Richards (Miles Teller) and his only friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) make a scene at the school science fair, attracting the attention of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg. E Cathy) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara).

In a blink, Richards is in a fancy science lab designing the grown-up version of his machine, which we’re told has opened a gateway to another dimension. On the other side exists a planet with potential resources that can save our own dying planet, and so on and so forth. To make the dream a reality, Dr. Storm re-enlists tortured youth Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and his own son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), whose got a rebellious side we barely see.

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Worried and angry their creation will get taken away from them by a corporate drone named Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson), the boys (Sue’s clearly the smart one) get drunk, teleport and acquire some creatively weird powers in the process. The moments following this mistake are some of the most inspired. Playing out like scenes from some body horror cult hit, we watch these four (Doom was left to die in the other dimension) writhe in pain as they slowly adapt to their new lives. When Doom – ultimately the villain – does reappear he looks like an updated Creature from the Black Lagoon, and it works. He’s frightening and unabashedly murderous, slaughtering dozens without a second thought.

This new version of “Marvel’s First Family” comes from Josh Trank, the young filmmaker who gave us the surprise hit Chronicle only three short years ago. Now-a-days, as dictated by movie world gossip, Trank is Persona Non Grata. Earlier this year, amidst these untidy rumors, he was excused from his directorial responsibilities within the upcoming slate of Star Wars spin-off films.

But make no mistake, there’s talent on hand here, both in front of and behind the camera. Trank is clearly trying at something a bit different. From its Amblin-esque opening minutes to a decidedly somber second act that attempts to explore to solitude that comes with innovation, the filmmaker has an intention for something character-driven, even psychological. Sadly, the lack of agreement in the narrative’s ultimate direction by the powers that be (including Trank, writer-producer Simon Kinberg and Fox in general) sits up on the screen like a scar you can’t ignore.

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There are a bevy of lines delivered by characters off-screen to mend structure, along with a myriad of quick fades to skip through time and connect dots not originally meant to be connected. As written by Trank, Kinberg and Jeremy Slater, Cathy’s Dr. Storm is little more than an exposition machine and the film ends just as we get get to know the kids as a team. If there hasn’t much been much in here noting specific performances, that’s because there’s not much to mention. This is a young and already-accomplished cast that will continue to do good work elsewhere. Whatever they’re doing here gets lost in the mess.

The film careens towards a climax that feels quick and out of place, once again reminding us of the world-threatening stakes required of these large tentpoles, before ending with an introduction to a franchise that will surely not survive the summer.

Fantastic Four opens wide on Friday, August 7th.


C







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