By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
It’s a foregone conclusion to know that the Fantastic Four 2015 movie is going to fail. Reboot, remake or reimaging … the reality here is that there was interference while this movie was being crafted. The responsibility of a movie’s success or failure can include how strongly the studio’s executive producers want something in the film instead of the director. When they do not understand the world of comic book fandom, they should not get involved. When a few people have been involved in other works, there’s hope.
Writer/Director Josh Trank‘s one hit wonder, Chronicle, does not mean he should handle a keystone Marvel property like Fantastic Four. After a lamentable X-Men: The Last Stand, writer Simon Kinberg took a long time to prove himself to fans with his work in the very enjoyable animated television series Star Wars Rebels and well made X-Men: Days of Future Past. Jeremy Slater, the third member of the writing team, does not have enough cred to say if he’s even at fault here. To wonder if these three shared the chores of crafting this film equally or they worked independently in certain segments only reveals a muddled product that is not helping these new four heroes any. As far as some producers are concerned, it’s all about the financial gains a franchise can offer over a film by fans for fans. Where’s Joss Whedon when we need him?
As some film-goers may have heard, Bryan Singer is hopeful for an X-Men / Fantastic Four crossover. If the gains after opening weekend are going to be an indicator of whether it not it will happen, let’s hope the idea of going forward with a sequel will fail.
The movie starts off nicely by establishing the fact that Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a prodigy. In his childhood, he meets Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) after getting caught rummaging around in a scrapyard for parts. After explaining what he’s after and showing the rough neck his plans to build a teleporter, they become life-long friends. Fast forward to their high-school years, Richard’s idea to build a inter-dimensional teleportation device succeeds but fails to impress his science teacher — he says he has no time for parlour magic. In that moment, the movie offered a glimmer of hope if this movie looked at the challenges of what constitutes scientific discovery versus magical hocus-pocus. That can lead to a unique encounter between Richards and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). Sadly, this penultimate villain of the Marvel Universe is dumbed down. The casting is wrong and his importance as a future ruler of Latveria is never realized. As a bright physicist who hates authority, he does not feel like a formidable adversary. The fact that Richards and Doom barely become rivals during the film only diminishes the product. When they both have feelings for Sue Storm (Kate Mara), any inkling of a love triangle hardly materializes. It might have saved the film but sadly, any drama between them does not get played up.
Mara’s performance offers some enjoyable moments. When her father Franklin (Reg E. Cathey) and brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) are of African-American descent and the film explains that she’s adopted, there’s potential to explore how these dynamics came to place with a flashback. Did her parents die in a lab experiment? Just what prompted Franklin to take her in? There are questions that could have been answered in a similar style as CW‘s Flash, when Barry was adopted into the West household. An opportunity to explore these three’s relationship on a closer level was missed. Just why she’s involved in Franklin’s project to build an inter-dimensional teleporter is never fully explained.
As far as the story goes, the scientist’s and military’s goal is to find a new world to plunder. That is, Earth is coming close to being mined dry and to find new resources is paramount. In the world that gets discovered, the label it gets is a poorly named Planet Zer0. In the comics, the realm that may be referenced is the N-Zone where strange entities exist. If this film’s narrative borrowed a few ideas from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within then maybe some cross over into Doctor Strange territory can save this film. In the Marvel Prime universe, Doctor Doom dabbled in magic, and to not include this in his origin or transformation makes this movie tough to enjoy.
In the comics, the Fantastic Four worked with the Master of Mysticism more than once. When Richards can not solve the world’s problems with science, he went to Strange. Sadly, that’s a territory that will most likely never get alluded to in any of this studio’s interpretation of the Marvel Universe. With this movie, the producers forgot to include the fun that’s often part of the Marvel brand. Ant-Man looks spectacular in comparison and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron stomps over the Four big-time. After opening weekend, this comic book company must be scheduling midnight meetings to talk about how to reclaim their property. So long as it remains in outside hands, outside of Kevin Feige‘s executive control, the Fantastic Four are going to become an insignificant blip in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
2 Stars out of 5