Written by David Holland
I remember seeing a trailer for the 2015 incarnation of “Fantastic Four” and recognizing Kate Mara from “House of Cards” and Michael B. Jordan from all sorts of projects. I shared it excitedly with a friend and thought, “Wow, this is great. They are finally going to get the Fantastic Four right.” Then I never really saw or heard anything about the movie again until I watched it this weekend.
Needless to say, they didn’t exactly get it right.
I think I am starting to sound like a broken record, because I started out exactly the same way with “Spirit of Vengeance“, but I was on board with this movie at the beginning. I liked seeing young prodigy Reed Richards and his friendship with Ben Grimm. I got a kick out of them building a teleportation device for a school science fair. In a lot of ways, the friendship between Reed and Ben is the only really compelling relationship in this movie, which is why it is such a shame that Ben is absent for most of the second act. This version is a clear departure from the previous two “Fantastic Four” films, with their cartoonish portrayals of the characters. Instead, we are going full “Dark Knight” and creating the gritty reboot of Fantastic Four. In the next section I will point out the problems with this, but I always say that I give points for taking a risk, and I want to be consistent. This movie tried something new and in the first few minutes looked like it had a shot.
The great thing about the Fantastic Four in the comics is that they are all different, but are all likeable. Each one has their flaws, for sure, but you get them. Each relationship has its own joys and tensions that can be mined for conflict or emotional depth. This movie doesn’t capitalize on any of that. Kate Mara, whose “House of Cards” character was deep, flawed, and relentless, plays a flat Sue Storm who feels disconnected from the rest of the team. The relationship between her and Reed Richards feels forced simply out of loyalty to the comics. As I said above, the friendship between Reed and Ben, which shows great promise early on, gets mostly abandoned for much of the film. After the accident, we spend a lot of time watching the Four in a horror-movie style sequence as their powers manifest. The dark tone here just doesn’t feel right for this set of characters. Not every comic book movie has to be as lighthearted as “Thor: Ragnarok”, but you also can’t force a darker tone on any set of characters either. You have to love, understand, and know the characters you are creating for, and you have to tell a story for them. Otherwise “The Dark Knight but with Different Characters” won’t connect with your audience.
There’s plenty more to gripe about. The CGI is inexcusable for 2015. At times it looks like you are watching a Pixar movie. This version of “Fantastic Four” also fails to get Dr. Doom right. It reduces the genius king of Latveria to a scorned hacker driven insane by a year in another dimension. Dr. Doom is not just a Fantastic Four villain, he is one of the shadows over the entire Marvel universe, and the failure to get his character right is like a Superman movie that doesn’t do justice to Lex Luthor.
And I realize this is a minor complaint, but can we please get The Thing some pants?
About thirty minutes in you will wonder if the movie is worth finishing. It’s not. Rights have reverted to the MCU and casting speculation is already rampant. Whatever the future of Marvel’s first superhero team, there is no where to go but up.
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