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Review: Fantastic Four – “It’s not a disaster, it’s just a shame.”


The reboot of the Fantastic Four is directed by Josh Trank, who also helmed the excellent Chronicle a few years ago, and Marvel’s first family is now played by Miles Teller (Divergent), Kate Mara (House of Cards), Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) – with RocknRolla’s Toby Kebbell as their nemesis Dr. Doom.

Reed Richards (Teller) is a genius who has been working on inter-dimensional travel since he was a little boy, assisted by his best buddy Ben Grimm (Bell). When Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) sees what Reed and Ben have done so far, he whisks Reed away to the Baxter Institute, which is like Hogwarts for science geniuses. Here, Reed joins an emo Sue Storm (Mara) and eco rebel Victor von Doom to perfect the transportation of humans between our world and another dimension.

After a surprisingly enjoyable slow first hour of serious science, with lots of lovely research and experiments and exploration – and welding help from Sue’s tearaway brother Johnny (Jordan) – the gang crack it. But before they get to step into their machine and beam themselves off, the government step in and want to give the whole thing over to NASA, robbing our heroes of their first steps upon another world. Not happy with that, they drunkenly go anyway, but the teleporter malfunctions, Doom “dies”, and the foursome are all blasted with cosmic energy and given strange powers.

The next section of this almost nega-comic book movie is good too, with the four horrified at what has happened to them, and coming to terms with it in different ways. Reed is horrified at his stretchy limbs and bolts, abandoning his friends. A depressed and angry Grimm becomes a merc for the government, clobbering tanks to deal with his pent up rage; Sue is confused and scared, but focussed on controlling and developing her powers; while Johnny just wants to burn fast and bright, man.

Then it feels like a lump is missing, like someone mislaid issue 4, and we’re just jumping ahead. The tone changes drastically, Reed is swiftly returned and everyone has suddenly already forgiven him for leaving them. They have all also now come to terms with their powers, as well as having totally mastered them. And just in time too as Dr. Doom returns to zap everyone and suck the Earth into a black hole or something.

Right there is where someone has clearly bottled it in regard to Trank’s story, and decided things need punching up, literally and figuratively. The well-documented reshoots clearly begin here. All subtlety and science go out the window, and the Four find themselves battling Doom in a generic, box-checking superhero showdown, alongside suddenly cheesy dialogue.

Things then manage to get worse. A post battle section sees the gang return to Earth for the hastiest wrap-up and franchise set-up possible, with a coda where they are trying to decide what to call themselves, which may be one of the cringiest things you’ll see on screen this year, and ending on a cut that might have been clever if The Avengers didn’t already do it three years ago.

Like the narrative, the design and FX work is a mixed bag. The tech at the beginning feels lovingly bodged together, and Reed’s stretchiness and Sue’s invisibility look cool. The texture and make up of The Thing is well done – but his eyes are too far apart, and seeing his bum and his orange rock Ken doll crotch is just weird. This is quite indicative of the designs overall – there are some good ideas, but there is always something a bit off in the execution.

The green screen work is hideous, and the fire effects on The Human Torch suck. But this pales next to the awful Dr. Doom. The idea of him having melded with his environment suit is clever, but the final look is not. His mask is too long, and too busy, and he has magically spirited his famous hooded green cloak out of nowhere. How this laughable looking visualisation of an iconic villain managed to reach the screen beggars belief.

It’s not a disaster, it’s just a shame. That first hour is really good, and different. Maybe if faith had been kept in Trank’s vision, Fantastic Four could have been a welcome change to the great, but familiar, Marvel comic book movie house style. As it is, it’ll only be seen as a warning to not deviate.



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