When Tim Storey brought the Fantastic Four team to our screens for the first time in 2005 it was panned for dopey comedy, poor acting and an uninteresting story. Who knew it could have been so much worse.
This time Chronicle mastermind Josh Trank has taken the wheel to bring us a reboot of the oldest Marvel team. An elementary school child Reed Richards is attempting to crack inter-dimensional travel. After being quashed by his teacher and laughed at by his peers he continues the work at home. He completes it using stacked up Game Cubes and Xboxes, and the unhelpful and unnecessary presence of his friend Ben Grimm. The whole childhood section is made to feel unnecessary by the end of the movie.
Fast forward to teenage Reed & Ben, played by Miles Teller & Jamie Bell respectively, are entering a science fair with a more sophisticated machine. At the fair Reed is recruited by Franklin Storm to work with his children at the Baxter institute to travel to a planet on another dimension known as “Planet Zero.” He’s hired to complete a quantum gate initially designed by Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbel,) with Sue & Johnny Storm (Kate Mara & Michael B. Jordan;) an unlikely team of child geniuses. Who’s interactions between each other feel forced and unnatural. The cast is undoubtedly talented and they try to imbue sensitivity and heart into their roles but to no avail. The turmoil during production was well publicised an it’s possible that they were shot on different sound stages. The film consistently leaves it’s cast hanging out to dry.
When the gate is complete they are denied the chance to take its maiden voyage. Reed, Johnny and Victor while liqueured up decide to commandeer the machine, but not until Reed has convinced Ben to join them. They discover the new planet contains unknown substances, as Victor tries to collect a sample the structure of the planet begins to change. Sue is the only person in the entire facility notified of the commandeered multi-million dollar quantum gate. She is able to bring them team back as a tumbling landscape steals away Victor and joins Ben in his shuttle for a The Fly style transformation. On return the machine explodes altering the team on a molecular level. This gives them uncontrollable powers Reed can stretch his body, Sue can become invisible herself, make others invisible and generate force fields, Johnny can engulf his entire body in flames and They are kept under government custody and the film begins to take an interesting turn to explore ideas of body horror as we see Reed looking horrifically at his own stretched out limbs. Reed escapes as a fugitive after fracard with his childhood friend Ben about his appearance. The film seems to be taking an interesting turn as it explores Cronenbergian themes until it hits us with the most bizarrely placed 1 year later cut.
After the cut we spend an unnecessary period with Reed in Central America so he can be tracked by Sue and captured by Ben. His friends have now been weaponised for the military, but in an interesting choice we only see this on a tiny television in the corner of the frame as it’s explained to us. It seems like a missed opportunity to skip the part of the film where the team struggle to control their powers and work together, which adversely affects the ending. The ending is a Star Wars prequelesque, green screen, mess. Director Josh Trank worked to give an indie feel to this blockbuster that was possibly taken apart by the studio; the script refers an ungodly amount of times to how corporations can have an adverse affect on creative integrity. The majority of the film is spent building these characters that it’s astounding how different they are when they are finally using all their superpowers as a team. The cast do their best as they fight, strecth, flame and be invisible but takes seem to be wrapped before the actors were happy with it or they weren’t even acting together in the same room. The audience eventually get to see Victor take Doctor Von Doom form when the team rebuild the quantum gate for some convoluted reason, who cares why, the filmmakers clearly didn’t by this point. When we do it is beyond disappointing, it’s devastating. Doctor Doom does not look like The Terminator if he was made from tinfoil. It’s a fanboy gripe, but a valid one; Doctor Doom is a perfect comic book villain that would transfer brilliantly to film in just the way he is portrayed in the comics.
As the film is drawing to a close it feels like there is another 50 minutes left. There’s evidence everywhere of the problems caused by the expensive reshoots. After watching the film I rewatched the trailer and lost count of the amount of shots that didn’t make it into the final film. The cuts & reshoots have resulted in an incoherent mess with characters that make baffling decisions and spout awkward, cringeworthy dialogue.