The fantastic four is rebooted yet again in 20th Century Fox’s successful attempt to keep hold of the film rights away from Marvel. But despite the troubled production stories, is it any good?
Disclaimer: This review does contain spoilers but if you’ve seen any form of the Fantastic Four then you won’t be surprised by the content of this film
Where to begin?
Fantastic Four has to be one of the most troubled films of recent times. Rumours and stories started to fly around the internet a few months before release. However, the excrement really hit the rotating air blades just as the film was released.
Stories and rumours started to spread about a troubled director that was hard to work with. Other tales told of a studio that didn’t really know what it wanted and decided to make the film their own with expensive reshoots.
I hope to write a more detailed article on what exactly went wrong at a later date. Here and now I want to review the film as it stands on its own. Try to push aside those stories of troubled production from my mind and watch the film with neutral feelings.
The film opens with a young Reed Richards telling his class that he has built a teleporter and hopes that it will change the world one day. His teacher accuses him of day dreaming while his fellow class mates scoff at his remarks.
One boy, Ben Grimm, the son of a junkyard owner, isn’t quite so naïve when he notices the technical drawings and formulas scribbled in Reed’s school book.
Later that night Ben catches Reed in his junk yard looking for a power converter for his teleporter. Ben decides to help him and the two of them go back to Reed’s house where they turn on the teleporter for the first time.
The first experiment is a success. The toy car which was the first test subject disappears in a flash of light only to be replaced by a handful of orange dust and small rocks.
Fast forward seven years and the same experiment is played out again with an older Ben,Reed and their more polished and refined teleporter. This time the presentation is for the school science fair.
They successfully teleport a small model plane and then bring it back, again covered in orange sand. The faculty is unimpressed and disqualify them both for acting out what they believe to be an elaborate magic trick.
Two people that do believe the device works are Dr. Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter Sue. They believe in Reed’s experiments and show him a small glass vial of the same rocks and dust they have also collected with their own teleporter. They offer Reed a full scholarship at the Baxter building to help them work on their teleporter.
Dr. Franklin makes a visit to Victor Von Doom to convince him to come back to the Baxter building to help finish the teleporter project that he originally started. They now have a protégé in the form of Reed who figured out how to teleport items back from wherever it was they were being teleported to.
Reed, Sue and Victor start to work on the teleportation machine when they are soon joined by Johnny, Dr. Franklin Storm’s son and Sue’s brother. Johnny has been forced into the project after wrecking his car in an illegal race. His father believes that his mechanical talents should be put to a much better use.
The group begin to bond except for Victor who still helps but remains a bit of an outsider. Despite this, the group finish the device. After the first successful demonstration, they hear that the US government will be pleased with the results and NASA will organise the first men to go through to what has been labelled ‘Planet Zero’, a new world in a new dimension.
Later that evening, annoyed that others will be the first to make the journey to a new world, Doom, Johnny and Richards get a little drunk and decide to go first. Richards not forgetting his long time school friend calls up Ben and invites him along for the ride.
This of course leads to the fateful events that see the young members of the scientific team receive their strange new powers.
It’s at this point the film takes a twist for the worst. Up until this point the film was actually entertaining. The characters were rather thin, not very fleshed out in detail but I enjoyed seeing them come together act as a team and build the teleporter.
There are few remaining hints that this film was going to be about the four dealing with their new powers and how it has changed their bodies but instead the film charges to the end in a distinctly mediocre fashion.
Doom promptly shows up, threatens the existence of the world and promptly kills most of the generic workers at the research base. The Fantastic Four travel back to the new dimension after Doom and defeat him. No surprise in that but it’s been put together in such a way that it doesn’t match the first half of the film in tone or style.
It’s as if someone dug out the generic superhero movie action rule book and followed it to the letter. Each team member tries to take on Doom individually and fails. Reed has the epiphany where he realises they can win as a team and they proceed to do so.
The Fantastic Four act completely out of context with what we’ve just seen. Reed for example is suddenly the superhero you’d expect him to be, bending his body into impossible shapes to dodge projectiles thrown by Doom.
The whole sequence is just…bland, so generic and flat, lifeless even. This is further hindered films design as well.
They’ve transported to a new planet in another dimension and what do they find? A generic brown mountain range with dark moody clouds with lightning bolts flashing across the sky. The landscape is broken up by pools of bright green energy which acts as an important and obvious plot point.
The Fantastic Four costumes are essentially non-existent. I wasn’t expecting bright blue spandex with giant white circles encompassing the number four but all they have are the black suits that help them contain their new powers.
Worst design must go to Dr. Doom. As a result of the accident on Planet Zero, his environment suit has merged with his body. Doom looks like an android that has been subjected to the heat for too long and started to melt. The only remains of his humanity are his eyes and various other flashes of green speckled throughout his body. The android simile is further enhanced by the lack of a mouth. While there is a mouth piece, it does not animate in any form.
(I’ve just realised that this probably a throwback to the classic Doom who wore a type of armour including a metal face mask. As I’m not knowledgeable about the Fantastic Four, this never occurred to me whilst I was watching.)
This finally leaves me to the special effects which are simply adequate…for the most part. There are several scenes where it looks like the main cast weren’t even in the same room together during filming.
This is especially true when Ben goes off to find Reed at his hideaway. The scene just screams, “OBVIOUS GREEN SCREEN USED HERE!”
I find it hard to believe that such a low quality effects work found its way into what was supposed to be a major motion picture for 20th Century Fox this year.
At the beginning I stated I didn’t want to mention the production troubles that ravaged the film but with that knowledge in my head it’s so obvious to see that the final showdown was never a part of the original film.
Director Josh Trank started out with a great idea for a different take on the Fantastic Four but unfortunately 20th Century Fox didn’t agree with him and hastily slapped on this generic ending.
I didn’t hate Fantastic Four, in fact I was rather enjoying it until the obvious change half way through. Fantastic Four is not extremely bad nor is it average, it just sits somewhere in-between.