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Review: Fantastic Four – “a severe regression for comic book hero movies.”


OK, so were any of us really twitching in our seats in anticipation for another telling of the Fantastic Four? After two disastrous outings starring Jessica Alba et al, it seems like – unless you are Marvel or making a Batman –  you’re doomed to fail.

And doomed this project was. (If you wish to connect this as a loose pun to the film’s villain Dr Doom, then feel free to do so – it’ll likely be the only satisfaction you’ll get from reading this and subsequently watching the film.) Because let’s face it: you’re bound to check it out with an ‘it can’t be that bad’ curiosity, but trust me, it is.

It’s also a stark reminder that, as much as their trumpet has been blown repeatedly over the years, no one makes a comic book film like Marvel. Indeed, we’ve been so used to consistently good (and in some instances great) output from Disney and Kevin Feige that the thought of a subpar superhero flick is something of a dated image associated with a nightmarish memory of Green Lantern or even Marvel’s own Iron Man 2 or Daredevil.

But that was a long time ago. Studios should have learned by now, but sadly some never do. Encumbered by giant dollar signs ($120m to be exact), genuine creative freedom and skill required for making ambitious movies such as this require a patient, dedicated mind. Josh Trank no doubt went into this with an honest intention, but somewhere along the way the vision got lost somewhere.

Surprisingly, Trank can’t follow on from the impressive Chronicle, instead opting for exciting names (rising stars Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and a more established Jamie Bell) that are, unfortunately, accompanied by consistently sloppy written dialogue, unintentionally laughable CGI, neatly packaged in a dull, lifeless origin story.

We don’t even get to see the wonder (if you can even call it that) of the foursome’s powers until the final 20 minutes or so, meaning there’s around an hour and 20 of yawn-inducing, uninspiring exposition and a progression so gradual you’ll be begging for a Stan Lee cameo just to offer some reassurance that this hasn’t been one big waste of time. But it never comes. And that sums up the entire film: a blind willingness and anticipation of something great that’s never achieved. And it doesn’t even come close.

Essentially the plot treads unadventurously around a bare-bones story. Having created a portal to another dimension, Reed Richards (Teller), Johnny Storm (Jordan), Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), and Ben Grimm (Bell) travel to this other world after a few too many drinks (yes, they get a bit tipsy in the lab) and, in the name of cementing their names in history and for alcohol-fuelled lols, decide to send themselves there. Suffice to say it all gets a bit explosive-y and everyone’s hit by whatever green luminous goop flows there, transforming everyone into different, unique freaks. Sue Storm (Mara) is hit by the ooze as she transports them back, and from then on the plot doesn’t seem to go anywhere quickly

In truth there’s more chemistry going on in the early on high school science fair scenes than there is on-screen with any of the characters, as only a few jokes land and the rest veer uncontrollably into the side of a mountain. There’s no charm, either – from the first few minutes we can see that this is a film that’s trying to take itself way too seriously rather than weave in likeability and witty comic relief with a story containing a degree of peril.

The only thing worse than sitting through this drivel is the horrible feeling we’ve been here before. And we have. (See 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.)Superhero movie have come a long way over the past decade or so, with Marvel rightly receiving the praise they deserve for paving the way. However, this is the antithesis of the inviting nostalgia we hoped to get with these classic heroes, serving only as a reminder just how bad comic book films used to be. In short, it is a a severe regression for comic book hero movies, failing to capitalise on a proven formula displayed time after time by Marvel.

Yet there is one thing worse than all of the above (plus the frustrating feeling of regret and time wasted): the ending. It’s a culmination of not only lazy, rushed writing that offers nothing spectacular, engaging or even very interesting in its climax, but manages to squeeze in more stinking cheese in its final few minutes than all of Marvel’s Phase Two combined. You’ll laugh (at the absurdity), and cry in equal measure. And cry you will, hopeful in the idea that, while a sequel has painfully and blatantly been set up, we won’t ever get to witness one.


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