- Movie Rating -

Fantastic Four (2015)

| August 9, 2015

Fantastic Four is a very dark movie. I mean, really dark. I mean dark, as in, somebody please flip some lights on. That’s not a joke; every scene in this movie is so under-lit that you feel like your wearing sunglasses indoors. Every outdoor scene feel you’re attending a vampire funeral. It is a funerary tone is unfortunately appropriate because this is a joyless, dead serious movie that rings all of the energy out of something that should be bouncy and fun.

This is the fourth failed movie rendition of this property and the fourth time that Hollywood has shown that it doesn’t have a clue how to do it right. Roger Corman’s legendary 1994 action-comedy was so infamous that it never got released. The 2005 Fantastic Four movie and its sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer, were colorful but featherbrained and forgettable. Yet, they were modern masterpieces compared to director Josh Trank’s current modernization, a movie so joyless that makes the last hour of Revenge of the Sith feel like Christmas morning.

At the beginning of the new Fantastic Four – or as the poster calls it, ‘Fant-4-stic’ – we meet 10 year-old Reed Richards (Owen Judge) who is working on a matter transfer machine.  He becomes friends with young Ben Grimm (Evan Hannemann) whose family owns a junkyard and has the parts that Reed needs. They become friends and grow up working together on the project, but years later at their high school science fair, their teacher (Dan Castelanetta) dismisses their amazing discovery as “a magic show.”

The government is more interested in their discovery and gives them access to work on it – along with Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and a broody drop-out named Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) who is said to be from Latvaria, but has an accent that is true-blue America. The team is given access to The Least Secure Government Research Facility on the Face of the Earth. Seriously, they can go anywhere, do anything, and send out photos of themselves to their buddies without any restrictions what-so-ever.

The first test of the matter-transfer machine with a chimp is successful, but Reed (played as an adult by Miles Teller) thinks that he and his team would be perfect for the first human test. The project overseer (Tim Blake Nelson) wants to bring in astronauts, but Reed is undaunted and wants to try it out himself. After hours, he gathers the team for an unauthorized test, but things go wrong and they, of course, find themselves with magical powers. Reed can stretch. Johnny becomes a human torch. Ben turns into a walking, talking chunk of rocks. And, for no reason at all, Sue gets the power to turn invisible, which is a head-scratcher because she didn’t go on the mission at all – she was at the lab computer, so okay.

The introduction of these elements make up the movie’s first hour. We are laboriously introduced to every single character. Then after the accident, we are laboriously introduced to all of their superpowers. By the time the introductions are over, we have time for a ten minute action scene before the movie abruptly ends. The worse section of the movie are the discovery of the powers. What should be a moment of joy and discovery is a long, sad series of ‘what-have-you-done-to-me’ scenes that have the same tone as if someone’s dog just died.

The idea here should yield a movie that is as joyful and fun as last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Quite the opposite. This is a grim, mean-spirited and broody movie. Instead of a fantasy, we get the approximation of how these events might play out in real life. That’s exactly the wrong approach. The characters spend much of the time getting to know each other that you feel like you’re watching the pilot to a TV series.

The comic books, as I remember them, were colorful and fun. The team felt like a cohesive family unit whose chief quirk is that their differing personalities meant that they were always playfully squabbling with one another – like a family. Here they seem to have been pulled together from central casting. The actors do what they can, but never at any time are they required to give us any sense of joy or wonderment. What was the thinking here? Why make a summer action movie this gloomy and oppressive? Why spend 90% of the movie on introductions? Why set the entire movie in a lab? Why give it such a mean-spirited tone? Fans of the movie won’t recognize the characters.  Non-fans will be repelled by the movie’s repellant atmosphere.  Who was this movie made for?

NOTE: There are no credit cookies, midway or at the end.  Which is okay, because the less time spent with this mess, the better.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.