Sometimes, when it comes to giving a film a harsh review, the best strategy is to simply pull off the bandage and avoid delaying the inevitable. With that in mind, here goes: Fantastic Four is one of the most disappointing and cringe-worthy films of 2015, and you should absolutely, positively save your money and see almost literally anything else instead.
There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? It would be lazy and a tad bit unfair to leave the review there, so let’s back up this claim.
Based on the popular Marvel comic book that premiered in the 1960s, Fantastic Four tells the story of four brilliant and capable young adults who create a device that allows them to travel to another dimension. There, they develop strange and terrifying new powers that will change them forever. When a face from their past threatens Earth, the four have to band together to save everything they hold dear. For a Fantastic Four film to be successful, at least in the minds of the comic book fans who have grown with these characters over the years, a few key elements need to be present:
First, the film needed to showcase a family dynamic between the four leads. While we catch glimpses of this in the friendship between Reed and Ben, the rest of the bonds lack any chemistry whatsoever, making the characters themselves almost interchangeable. Second, the Fantastic Four comics pride themselves on whimsical, weird, and far out science-fiction premises. Aside from the alternate dimension that spawns their powers, the foursome live in a drab, hyperrealistic world that almost seems indignant of its sci-fi origins.
The most frustrating part of Fantastic Four, though, is the fact that the film lacks any confidence in what it sets out to do. If there was more action, more color, and a more whimsical sense of humor, the film could have embraced its comic book roots. Alternatively, the film could have gone even darker, aiming for a body horror / thriller vibe which would have been a deviation from the comics, sure, but a fresh look nonetheless. Instead, we get a film that looks to be assembled by committee, taking the least offensive parts of different genres and slapping them together in a colorless, shapeless mess that tries so hard to avoid offending anyone that it appeals to no one.
There are a lot of problems with this film. The cast, including notable names like Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan, all seem to be phoning in their performances, likely a symptom of the shoddy script. The CGI is clumsy in spots, with the seams so transparent in some places that it violently ejects you from the realism that the film otherwise tries to evoke. And why the hell doesn’t the Thing have any pants? Sure, the last point is more of a pet peeve than a legitimate complaint, but come on; staring at poorly animated, rocky butt cheeks during a climactic showdown robs the scene of any real tension.
After an abysmal opening weekend (clearing only $26 million domestically) and a terrible critical response, including a 9% Rotten Tomatoes score, the scramble is on to assign blame. Do you blame director Josh Trank? Do you blame Fox for derailing the project and mandating third act changes which hurt the film’s narrative structure? What about the script writers who demonstrate a clear lack of understanding as to what makes these characters work? Or do you point the finger at the cast, otherwise talented, who underwhelmed with the material provided?
Ultimately blame is meaningless with so many moving parts disastrously out of synch with one another. No one is walking away from this film without a black eye, and we truly hope that the cast and crew will be able to salvage their careers through their upcoming projects. Regardless, Fantastic Four is a boring waste of time, not even enjoyable to watch as a train wreck, and is not worth a cent of your money.
Be sure to listen to the full Movie Bears Podcast review of Fantastic Four in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or on YouTube, embedded below. Enjoy the show!
by Will Lindus, Movie Bears Podcast