“Fantastic” is a strange name to claim for oneself. Egomaniacal, really. It implies a certain level of pizzazz, of genius. And with characters that have powers like invisibility, force fields, flying fireballs and rock clobbering, you might expect something fantastic.
But the latest iteration of “Fantastic Four” is far from what its name suggests. Profoundly uninteresting, it hits all the beats of the standard superhero movie but provides nothing in the way of imagination or magic.
This version, directed by Josh Trank, starts at the beginning — with fifth-grader Reed Richards professing his goal to one day build a teleporting device. With his buddy Ben Grimm, he actually manages to build something that seems to work.
Fast-forward seven years, and Reed (Miles Teller) is recruited at the science fair by Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and daughter Sue (Kate Mara) to develop his teleporter, or Quantum Gate, as they rename it.
At the Baxter Institute, Reed collaborates with the Storms, including Sue’s rebellious brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), as well as paranoid, anti-government hacker type Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to realize his childhood goal. They’re hungry for glory, unwilling to share credit for their achievements. One drunken impulse and spin in the Quantum Gate later, and they’ve changed their lives forever. Their bodies are transformed — disabilities become abilities — and Victor is lost to Planet Zero.
All of the performers are compelling and charismatic. But in a post-Whedon/Nolan superhero universe, anything that’s not snappy and funny, or dark and violent, is just going to seem tedious and repetitive.
Blame the script. It’s credited to three people, many more surely took a pass at it, and the result of so many cooks has no voice at all and no emotional stake.
The film takes place in either a lab or on Planet Zero, so the inevitable “saving the world” climax is unearned. The only interpersonal conflict is between Reed and Ben (also Kate Mara vs. her numerous wigs), and the friendship betrayal that Ben feels is the only thing that elicits any kind of emotion.
During the climax it completely falls apart. Teller, usually a charming presence, is saddled with the task of standing on a rock saying some of the most obvious lines, like “Don’t do this!” and “We’re stronger than him.” In the end, this 100 minute movie feels three hours long.
It’s not offensively bad, even mildly pleasant in parts. But anything edgy or interesting that may have once been was sanded down so much that the film feels completely anonymous, barely even a film at all.