Whichever way you look at the negative buzz surrounding Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four (2015), it seems to have confirmed its fate before audiences could even see it. Admittedly, after the success of Trank’s debut feature Chronicle (2012), anticipation would be high and audiences are right to demand something special. It’s been widely reported that Trank has struggled with the pressure and most recently it was announced that there were disagreements between Trank and 20th Century Fox, who own the rights.
Miles Teller plays Reed Richards, whom we first meet as a geeky child who is attempting to invent a teleportation device with his unlikely pal, the gruff Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). At a school science fair he meets Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and her adoptive father Dr. Baxter (Reg E. Carthy), who invites Reed to join his institute to crack inter-dimensional travel. Here he meets like-minded folk including Victor von Doom (perennial British villain Toby Kebbell) and the thrill-seeking Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), who is Sue’s adoptive brother and son of Dr. Baxter.
We see the quartet bond, chat and a great deal of time is given over to clunky pseudo-scientific jargon and backstory. The pace is slow but entertains, feeling like a high-school movie full of genius kids. Eventually, the team travel to another dimension and, after being mesmerised by the primordial planet they have reached, disaster strikes. Victor is lost to a fluorescent green gloop and the rest of the team are given extraordinary physical abilities. Sue can become invisible, Reed can stretch, Johnny can fly and burst into flames, while Ben is mutated into a rock monster. Trank has decided to show the team’s powers as a curse rather than a gift. We have a round of scenes showing the pain they must endure from their newfound powers after they’ve been whisked away to a secret government base. From here we get a few glimpses of the heroes being weaponised by the military until they decide to revisit the other dimension, discovering Victor is alive and has decided that he wants to destroy the Earth.
The initial exposition might be lengthy, but it just about works. This is in part due the remarkable talent Trank has assembled for his cast. The rest of the film, sadly, feels as if it is being pulled in two directions. There’s an undoubted independent sensibility to Fantastic Four, focusing in on the human drama, and even with hammy dialogue and weak on screen presence it just about holds. The problems come when the team come back with superpowers. There’s a desperate scramble to get to a deeply unsatisfying, a-typical superhero climax. While Trank may have shed the camp style and blue spandex, he hasn’t succeeded in making a rounded, worthwhile film. With a weak structure and little chemistry between its central cast, Fantastic Four is one reboot that was better off lost in space.
Joe Walsh | @JosephDAWalsh