Another year, another Fantastic Four reboot.
This year’s version (dir. Josh Trank) seems determined to stray as far away from the cheesiness of Tim Story’s 1995 attempt, often coming across in parts as contrived and forced as it attempts to add the level of grittiness popular in most recent mainstream superhero films. The film begins promisingly, with an extended prelude showcasing the growing friendship between Richard Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) as young children. However, any chances there are for touching character moments are cut short through the use of inter-titles which propel the narrative forward in time – quite often skipping substantial chunks of time, such as seven years. As a result of this the character development is somewhat stunted, and the onscreen relationships appear shallow and underdeveloped for the most part.
When Richard is recruited by Franklin Storm (Reg E Cathey) and his adoptive daughter Sue (Kate Mara) to join a group of scientists in creating a machine capable of transporting human life to another dimension, we are gradually given details about the rest of the group – Sue’s controlled, guarded nature is revealed through her initial reluctance to engage Richard in a decent conversation, whereas her brother, Johnny Storm (Michael B Jordan) is introduced in a high speed street race (his car exhaust literally sparks at one point – just to make sure you get that he’s a “hot-head”).
Along with this, Fantastic Four creates its own villain, like its predecessors, but he is only brought into the plot as a villain in the final stages of the film – Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) is introduced swiftly, with discussion of his dismissal from the Baxter Foundation and how he set fire to property before leaving – in other words, it’s made clear that he’s the “bad boy” of the operation, in case the name “Von Doom” didn’t hit it home enough for the audience – and for the majority of the film his character is little more than another moody teenager working on the transporter with the rest of the group. Until, that is, the boys decide to try out the machine, with Richard recruiting Ben to join them; with Doom ending up left behind in another dimension, Ben’s compartment being filled with rocks, Johnny’s with flame, and Sue being hit with a force-field of energy upon their return home.
There are yet more jumps in time after this – with Richard being the only member of the gang who isn’t being held under surveillance, unless you count Victor – inter-cut with footage of Ben/The Thing fighting against military enemies, Sue learning to make force-fields, and Johnny flying through the sky as The Human Torch; which is all very good, but it just all seems so rushed. The gang gets Richard back, they rebuild the transporter, Doom gets brought back, and they defeat him in what feels like a half an hour – compared to how drawn out the first two thirds of the film feel, the action seems to be over before its even begun.
All in all the film wasn’t bad – it was an obvious comment on the power held by millennials (the young scientists-come-superheroes) and the resultant attempts to co-opt and control that power made by older generations (the government), and it was successful in achieving that. However, the film just didn’t flow well for me, the beginning showed promise regardless of its slow pacing, but towards the finale I felt as if the film itself were shouting “oh crap, we’re running out of screen time – let’s wrap this up guys.” In saying that, it was enjoyable in parts, the casting was great, and the use of CGI wasn’t overbearing. Other than that, it wasn’t particularly remarkable, and I’m still sitting here wondering if we really needed another remake.