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Fantastic Four: Movie Review

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Fantastic Four Movie Info
Director:  Josh Trank
Studio:  Fox
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi
MPAA:  PG-13
Release Date:  August 7th, 2015
Author:  Stephen Hanning

 

I have no problem admitting I’m kind of a sucker for superhero movies. In fact, it actually took the likes of professional Hollywood terrible person Brett Ratner to create one I truly despise. Thankfully, I was not alone in my hatred for Ratner’s work, and then in what may possibly be the greatest instance of one-upmanship in history, Bryan Singer actually came along and blew my mind by completely erasing the events of Ratner’s X-Men in his own endeavors into the Marvel universe. But I digress. My point is, I want to like any superhero movie you shove at me-that’s just my default stance! And I’m not alone. Superhero films are all the rage and have been for some time now (So much so that it’s rare I get a chance to review one without getting in the ring with a couple of other MovieFloss staffers). X-Men, Avengers, Spiderman, Blade…they’ve all churned out blockbuster after blockbuster! And then there is the Fantastic Four. The red headed step children of the Marvel Universe. The 2005 version was a goofy, rushed origin story that nobody really loved. It did, however, do well enough to warrant the 2007 sequel, which featured fan-boy favorite Silver Surfer but still only managed to be inoffensive enough to not make people too angry. And that, as they say, seemed to be that for the franchise. Yet wait! There’s still a buck to be made and rights to be protected, and that can only mean one thing. Reboot!

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This incarnation of Fantastic Four gives us a new take on the origin of the team. We’re introduced to boy genius Reed Richard and best friend tough kid Ben Grimm only to see them quickly become young man genius Richards (Miles Teller) and tough guy Grimm (Jamie Bell). Reed, who appears to have made a monumental breakthrough in the field of teleportation (despite his high school science teacher being unable to recognize actual science and chastising Richards at every turn-Middle American schools! What’re you gonna do?!), is recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to assist with his research group’s efforts in the field. Upon being granted a full scholarship by the group, Reed finds himself in the famous Baxter Building working alongside Storm’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) and somewhat deranged genius Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). In their haste to achieve glory in the name of discovery, Reed, Johnny, Victor and Ben attempt to use their newly completed teleporter only to find themselves transported to another world, where a series of unfortunate events lead to Victor being left behind and the rest of the gang, including Sue-who was only trying to help!-becoming imbued with fantastic otherworldly powers. Of course, this draws in the military industrial complex looking to weaponize the youngsters and find their way back to planet zero to harness its power, unaware of the evil that awaits them there.

Where Fantastic Four largely succeeds is in the buildup. The development of the characters and their journey to acquiring their powers is pretty compelling stuff. These are good actors and they do an admirable job of using the time provided to flesh out their characters. Their motivations are clear and believable enough to make you care to see where this is all going, even though we all basically know. Unfortunately, this strength of development is also probably the films biggest downfall. If you’re going to spend that much time giving four or five characters and their rise to power their due development you’re not going to be left with a lot of time to create a believable conflict or to play out an engaging climax. The final confrontation comes and goes so fast that if you blink you might miss it.

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Another aspect of the film that both succeeds and fails is director Josh Trank’s determination to keep it gritty and anchor the team in the real world. So, while pantsless Ben Grimm as The Thing looks light years better than Michael Chiklis’ Thing from the early 2000 efforts, the raw brutality of this film is daunting for a movie you’d probably like to take the kids to see. And of course the gritty reality goes out the window once we see our heroes travel to the alternate universe that births their powers. This world, Planet Zero, is part set, part green screen and all cheese. The same can be said for Dr. Doom, who no one can seem to get right.

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All in all, Fantastic Four is entertaining enough that you’re not going to feel too bad about spending your time and money, but it feels like yet another foul ball for the franchise. More than that, it feels like another comic book film from someone who doesn’t really like or at least understand comic books. Maybe one day others will learn from a franchise like The Avengers that rather than putting your characters in the real world we all live in you can create your own comic book universe, where the heroes and villains wear costumes and the violence is cartoonish and bloodless and you don’t have to apologize for it, because really that’s what the people want.

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