Fantastic Four English Movie Review

Feature Film | Action, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Critics:
Audience:
Josh Trank's Fantastic Four isn't really Josh Trank's at all. Instead, it's a mildew of studio meddling and artistic frustrations that's so lacking in action, drama or character development that it's impossible to recommend.
Aug 21, 2015 By Piyush Chopra

You're a total nerd, you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, you suffer from a freak accident/get experimented upon by a freak and BAM! You have superpowers. You play around with them for awhile, you're tempted to use them for your own benefit, you end up saving the world instead and BA-BAM! You're a superhero.


Not if you're featuring in a Josh Trank film though. The sophomore director, who smartly (innovatively) showed us what could go wrong if a "supernatural freak" did decide to use his powers for his own good in his debut directorial Chronicle, once again attempts to reinvent the wheel with a more grounded and science-oriented superhero flick, and he would've gotten away with it, if it weren't for that meddling Twentieth Century Fox.


For those not in know, shortly before the release of Fantastic Four emerged reports of clashes between Trank and Fox, and how Fox took the film out of Trank's hands during post-production and retooled it extensively into its present state. Those reports were confirmed beyond doubt when Trank himself tweeted how he had a fantastic version of the current film till a year ago before Fox intervened.


Pre-release, it was hard for me to tell who was in the right and who wasn't. After all, Trank wouldn't be the first tantrum-throwing, paranoid/complacent director who tried to blame the production house for his failures as a storyteller. Post watching the film though, it's impossible not to believe Trank's claims of victimization.


This Fantastic Four reboot goes back to the beginning, to the obsession with teleportation that the film's main protagonist Reed Richards had even as a young child, an obsession that first bound him and Ben Grimm into a seemingly unbreakable friendship. This (and other relationships) are put to the test years later, when Reed is hired to work on teleportation by a huge corporation, working with siblings Susan and Johnny Storm and under the guidance of Victor von Doom.


The idea of exploring more comprehensively the pre-superpowered events might appear dubious at first, but Trank makes it work somehow. The science of it all might not be fully comprehendible to commoners, but it's actually interesting to see the precipitating factors that lead to the life-altering "happening": how did all these people get here in the first place? What went right? More importantly, what went wrong?


There's no wrong place at the wrong time. There's no freak accident/being experimented upon by a freak. There's nobody for our to-be-saviors to blame but themselves and humankind's greed in wanting more and more and more, which is what makes Trank's experimental first half a rather pleasant departure from the formula. The pace might be a bit on the slower side and the world-saving histrionics pushed back for a little while longer, but Trank's imprint is easy to see on the reasonably fun first half.


It's the second half where things start to get murky and where Fox's grip on the film carefully dismantles everything Trank had built from the ground up, starting with the team's expedition into the alternate dimension. That particular sequence is exciting enough to arouse interest and get you excited about what's to come but is much lacking in the visual splendor to make it stand out (which, in fact, goes for the entire film). The 1 year time jump after the team's return back to Earth isn't the most awful idea (presumably Trank's), and the government weaponizing The Thing to fight their battles is a great turn of events (presumably also Trank's brainchild).


These ideas and others, however, are never really explored and utilized to amp up the drama and accentuate the impact of the rift in the relationships caused by the biggest disaster of their lives. Or, at least, scenes furthering these ideas never make it into the final film, along with others that could've helped us better in understanding the characters and their decisions and why they do what they do. These sequences, which made an appearance in the film's first trailer 6 months ago, are (in)conveniently missing.


Resultantly, the film starts to completely unravel. The story starts jumping from one event to another without the proper setup. Huge chunks of footage appear to be missing from the narrative, which makes the film incoherent at times. Character relationships never get the much-needed emotional payoffs. Su Storm's hairstyle and hair color changes (due to extensive reshoots ordered by Fox) start distracting. The climax is quickly arrived at and quickly done with.


Ben never really gets any real screentime on his own (something that was instead a part of the first trailer), which makes it impossible for the audience to sympathize with his plight (he is, after all, the most severally impacted as The Thing) or to agree with grudge he holds against his best friend Reed for bringing him into this in the first place. You never really get the sibling vibe from Su and Johnny because they don't get any scenes together or hold a conversation that lasts longer than you counting till 30 (again, a crucial emotional scene during the climax between the two that appeared in the trailer, but not the film).


Same goes for the antagonistic Dr. Doom, who makes his first appearance too late in the day without ever really making his motivations clear for destroying the Earth (again, in the trailer and not in the film). Even though Reed gets the most footage across the film, his character is too lacking in personality or any stand-out traits to ever connect with the viewers or make us care for him.


If Trank is to be blamed for something, it's the performances. Miles Teller was fantastic in Whiplash last year and looks tailor-made for the non-hero-ish hero part, but he appears either too uninvolved or simply not giving a damn as Reed Richards. Kate Mara looks great in the part of Su Storm, but her acting here is as evidently superficial as her wigs in the second half. Michael B. Jordan has been great in just about everything he's done till date, but fails to impress in playing Johnny Storm. Jamie Bell gets too few scenes as himself and too little to do as The Thing. Toby Kebbell's is probably the best performance of the lot, playing the evil Dr. Doom, but he's overpowered by the lack of importance given to his character in the final cut of the film.


At a slender 100 minutes, Fantastic Four is a good 30 minutes shorter than your average superhero extravaganza, most of which seems to have been taken out of the final act of the film. What's left of it is severely lacking in action, drama and character development to such a degree to make even the most skeptical of people believe Trank's crying afoul and his seemingly tall tales of studio interference.


I've seen better films that have left me angrier about my decision to watch them, but Josh Trank's latest just left me sad and disappointed, that we'll probably never get to see the film as intended by the maverick filmmaker. Unless the Sony hackers decide to have a go at Fox and break into the deepest and darkest corners of the Earth where Trank's original cut has been unceremoniously dumped. 'Til then, this newly rebooted film is no better than the earlier two horrendous films from the previous franchise.

Piyush Chopra

   

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