After seeing the initial Fantastic Four movie trailer earlier this year I had high hopes that the movie would turn out to be at least entertaining. There was a lot of potential shown in that trailer thanks in large part who was cast to play the members of the Fantastic Four. Unfortunately that was not the case after watching the Fantastic Four with my own eyes this past weekend. Instead Marvel’s First Family’s latest attempt at a major blockbuster played out more like one big trailer that never got out of the concept stage.
As someone that grew up as a Marvel guy I always want their films to do well, whether they are produced by Disney-Marvel or someone else. Even though my history with the Fantastic Four only extends to Mark Waid and Jonathan Hickman’s runs I’ve always held a great respect for these characters. There is a special aura that these characters carry that anytime they appeared in an Avengers, Spider-Man or X-Men comic I was reading I knew they were characters I should respect.
That level of respect is never apparent from the story that Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell are cast to tell. It’s unfortunate because if their is one positive to the movie it is the cast. All four leading actors are extremely talented and when given some time to develop their respective characters they do well.
That is where one of the movies biggest problems comes to the forefront. Because while the actors are great and they did have a chemistry when allowed to interact with one another they aren’t given much to do. Instead the majority of the character development for Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm is done by everyone around them.
It’s actually through Dr. Franklin Storm and the rest of the supporting cast that we get to learn something about these characters. While this doesn’t sound like to bad of a choice when you see it in execution you quickly begin to see how basic everything is. It’s almost as though Josh Trank and the movies army of producers tried to figure out a way to integrate comic book thought bubbles into the story and they thought this was the best way to do so.
But by doing so they robbed the viewer of the opportunity to connect with Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell’s version of the Fantastic Four. The lack of character development for the Fantastic Four is further highlighted by the one year timeskip we get during the second act. Its during that time we don’t get to see where we are told that all the character development happens as the four learn to control their powers.
Also, in an attempt to make the Fantastic Four more dark and gritty the movie is devoid of the heart that makes each character. A great example of this is Ben Grimm’s iconic line of “It’s Clobbering Time” is turned into something that has a dirty connotation due to the history the movie establishes for that line. The same goes for Reed’s journey to cure his friends as the story makes him out to be someone that straight up abandoned his friends.
Adding to the problem of the lack of character development is how the entire movie feels extremely claustrophobic. There is zero sense of space in a movie with a reported budget of $120 million. Even when we get brief moments in the forest or Planet Zero, this universe’s version of he Negative Zone, it all feels like it happens in the same sound stage. The only thing that is different is that the set designers exchange computers and desks for trees and dirt. Even the effects work done for the climactic battle on Planet Zero isn’t impressive enough to escape the feeling that the fight is still happening in the same confined space the rest of the movie took place in.
Speaking of the final battle, one of the coolest villains in Marvel’s catalogue, Dr. Doom, is the most uninteresting character in the whole movie. Even as the story establishes Doom’s history early on it all feels hollow. There is nothing about this version of Doom that feels compelling. Instead his connection to Franklin Storm, rivalry with Reed and affection for Sue feels completely artificial.
At the end of the day the 2015 version of Fantastic Four was even more lifeless than Barnie’s body in Weekend At Barnie’s. Even with a highly talented and accomplished cast leading the way there was nothing that could mask a bad script and poor use of a big summer blockbuster budget. Now all I am left with after this experience is extreme sorrow over the fact that the Fantastic Four has become a toxic franchise, something Marvel’s First Family does not deserve to be.