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Fantastic Four Movie

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: Aug. 7, 2015


Movie Review - 'Fantastic Four'

by Adam Pavlacka on Aug. 7, 2015 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Fantastic Four centers on four outsiders who teleport to an alternate universe that changes their physical forms in surprising ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth.

Ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with "Iron Man" in 2008, things have been relatively good for Marvel fans. Sure, there were some rough spots with Sony's handling of the "Spider-Man" franchise, but the mainline Marvel movies have ranged from good to great, while the "X-Men" films have held their own. Given that Fox has handed the "X-Men" films well, there were high hopes for the "Fantastic Four" reboot. Sadly, those hopes have been dashed, and the current run of Marvel films has its first real stinker.

"Fantastic Four" starts out promising enough. We see a young Reed Richards (played as an adult by Miles Teller) invent teleportation technology (powered by a networked rack of Nintendo 64 consoles) with the help of his good friend, Ben Grimm (played as an adult by Jamie Bell). Of course, no one believes the two youngsters until a few years later, when Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter, Sue Storm (Kate Mara), stumble upon the two at a science fair. Dr. Storm invites Richards to come work with him and perfect the teleporter. Dr. Storm also recruits Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), a former student who left after becoming disillusioned, and his reckless son, Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan).

What follows is an odd mix of intriguing character development, technobabble and plot threads that are started but never properly followed up on. For example, Doom and Sue have some history, but aside from a few pouty glares by Doom whenever Sue is friendly with Richards, that bit is never explored. Grimm and Richards were inseparable growing up, but Grimm is pretty much ignored until the night Richards and Doom decide to take a drunken test flight. And Johnny is a rebel who doesn't want to be there until he suddenly has a change of heart after picking up a welding torch.

Out of it all, the character development bits are the strongest, so it's a shame that there wasn't a little more focus on the individuals. Still, even the rough spots could've been overlooked once the first trip to the other dimension was made. After the team's disastrous return, with Doom missing and the four afflicted with powers they don't know how to control, "Fantastic Four" was at its make-or-break point. Director Josh Trank teases us with some semi-serious scenes of body horror as the four don't know how to deal with what they've become.

Instead of delving into the unplumbed depths of how "normal" people would deal with the reality of suddenly being granted super powers (something that could've really built on those early character threads), "Fantastic Four" throws us a sudden time jump in the form of "One Year Later."

Yep, it takes the easy way out and quickly glosses over all of the adjustment troubles the four would've had and ignores a lot of the early ground work. It is also the point at which "Fantastic Four" squanders any potential it had left and turns hard into B-movie territory. We're talking quality levels that make SyFy Originals look like top-tier films. At least the people behind the SyFy Originals know they're making films with a bit of cheese in them. Here, everything is played straight, and it's groan-worthy.

We see things like Richards abandoning his friends before returning and serving as a technological deus ex machina. There is a conversation that goes something like, "We've been working on this for a year and can't figure it out. Oh, that's because you're doing it wrong. Give me 10 minutes."

Doom is suddenly found alive, and he has mysterious powers that allow him to kill on sight. He's doing so because man doesn't deserve the Earth. Imagine an amped-up eco-terrorist Darth Vader with neon green glow lights on his costume, and you have a pretty good idea of what's driving Doom. All of that angst and character drama that was hinted at early on? It's like the writers completely forgot about it. Instead, Doom just wants to blow up stuff and kill people.

Of course, as soon as Doom appears, the team suddenly realizes that they're besties, completely forgetting any of the angst and drama that was front and center. A few minutes earlier, Grimm's resentment of his former best friend was clear before being dropped like a hot potato. After all, it's time to go to kick Doom's butt on an alien world. Who needs story resolution? It also doesn't help that a film that tries so hard to establish its "scientific cred" by throwing around big words manages to confuse the ideas of a black hole and a wormhole.

In the end, "Fantastic Four" feels like two different films that have been smashed together. The first act offers a promising setup and the potential for an original take on the superhero genre. Then it skips the second act of the story and plows directly into a third act that completely ignores all that came before. There is little reason to see it aside from morbid curiosity and wondering what could have been. After all, this is the same studio that brought us the acclaimed "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

Score: 3.0/10

"Fantastic Four" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes. It is showing in 2-D.

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