Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

Starring: Miles Teller, Toby Kebbell, Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson

Directed by: Josh Trank

Somehow, I’ve never seen the previous two Fantastic Four films, or the original, though that’s less surprising. I know of the Four of them, but not that much, so I have very little to compare the latest reboot to, though based on the look and feel of them, they’re pretty different anyway. 

The latest Fantastic Four comes in the form of an origin story, beginning when Reed Richards (who grows up to be Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) become friends in the 5th Grade as Reed tries to build a teleportation device in his garage. Seven years later, at their high school science fair, Reed is offered a full scholarship to study/work at Baxter where with the help of Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), Susan Storm (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) he finally builds the machine he started in his garage as a child. A trip to another dimension, which included Ben, goes horribly wrong, and they all end up with some strange super-powers. 

What starts out as a pretty standard origin story, ends up going not very far at all, which is a little disappointing coming from the director of Chronicle. I wouldn’t say they should have cut the whole story of how they become the Fantastic Four, but maybe we’ve become spoilt and expect a full superhero movie as well as back story. While they do fight a villain, there’s something seriously lacking in that part of the plot, which feels a little like ‘oh, okay, we’ll throw a fight scene in because people expect one’. Yes we do, and we expect a better one. The other thing that really bugged me was the lack of any actual scientific explanation, real or fictitious, for the science behind the entire point of this film. I wasn’t hoping for Interstellar, but at least something that could allow me to believe these people are actually smart, and didn’t just get lucky. ‘Cos there actually is a joke in there about Reed getting lucky not to destroy half the planet. 

There’s more negatives than the two major ones, but there’s good stuff too. Miles Teller is great – he’s gone from the awkward, nerdy friend to the awkward, nerdy lead, and now a nerd with superpowers, which is perfect on him (until he starts with his cheesy pep talk, but I guess someone had to give one of those). I don’t think he could have pulled off a superhero with a nerdy alter-ego (Clark Kent being the obvious example), but this suits him well. Jamie Bell kind of got the short straw in only actually being half the character, but he does well all the same. Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan were fine as the other two Fantastic’s, but I didn’t feel they added much themselves… I’ve seen a lot of talk about Jordan being the racial quota casting, and him responding by claiming it was more of a creative choice (I’m paraphrasing quite a bit here, but the gist is the same), but I don’t know if I believe he actually believes that. 

This reboot definitely belongs to the “dark” superhero genre that has become a thing in recent years, particularly if compared to the 2005/2007 outings, which had more of a cheesy Hollywood polish to them. It’s not a bad film at all, and is fairly enjoyable in places, but we’ve had better superhero films in the last couple of years, and better blockbusters this Summer. Part of the problem is how the entire film feels like set up for coming sequels, a bit like Divergent and The Maze Runner, and even as an origin story, it needs to be able to stand on its own as a good movie. I hope it does well enough to green light another outing with the same cast, but this particular one isn’t as strong as it should be. 

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