Friday, August 7 2015 marks the official U.S. theatrical release of Fox’s re-imagining of comic book/superhero film Fantastic Four. Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the advance press screening two days earlier on the previous Wednesday, courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Regal Cinemas. Due to a media embargo, this review (written 8/5/15) was delayed until today.
To begin with, when it comes to comic book-inspired superhero films, let’s just say Fox has a bit of a reputation. It’s not exactly a stretch to claim that Fox’s take on Marvel Comics properties, in particular, haven’t exactly gone over very well with most fans, and are (at best) rather hit-or-miss. With this Fantastic Four being a re-boot of the previous attempts (2005’s Fantastic Four, and 2007’s Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, respectively) which if I’m being perfectly honest, weren’t very good at all – I’ll admit that when I walked into this film, I didn’t exactly have the highest of hopes.
The film is touted as “a contemporary re-imagining” of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby‘s The Fantastic Four, and it most certainly was. Unlike many other journalists out there, I actually have no problem with this; as I can separate from my own near-lifetime of comic book fandom and just appreciate the movies for what they are, even if they are merely “inspired by” a comic book. So I won’t even go there, and trust me, with over 25 years of comic book fandom, you dear readers probably don’t want me to.
Fantastic Four tells the story of Reed Richards – played by Miles Teller (of Whiplash, The Spectacular Now), a brilliant young man who alongside his childhood best friend Ben Grimm – played by Jamie Bell (of Jumper, Defiance) are working on a revolutionary teleportation device. Despite the fact that the home-built device actually works, it is widely rejected by the scientific community, with one notable exception – Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey of Se7en) a prominent scientist at the Baxter Institute who offers Reed the opportunity to join his team, comprised of his adopted daughter Sue Storm – played by Kate Mara (of House of Cards), his son Johnny Storm – played by Michael B. Jordan (of Friday Night Lights) and Victor Von Doom- played by Toby Kebbel (of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) in their work on a similar device, which has cracked inter-dimensional travel.
Eventually the young colleagues, along with Ben decide that they should be the first people to land there and use the transporter, things go awry, and the strange “Planet Zero” in the other dimension has adverse affects on the five of them – granting them strange superpowers. Victor Von Doom seems to get almost godlike powers, he suddenly wants to destroy the world by creating an inter-dimensional black hole, and it’s up to the Fantastic Four to stop him. Of course they do, rather quickly, and… well… that’s pretty much it.
The special effects are fairly well-done, the visuals are impressive at times, and the cast does a serviceable job with what they’re given, but it’s just sadly not enough to save this one. There is far too much time spent on origin story, and not enough given to any sort of real conflict or action. The final battle is over very quickly, everything resolves itself almost instantly, and we’re left wondering if we just watched a 100-minute commercial for the next F4 film, rather than the action-packed summer blockbuster that was promised. Plus, this being a re-imagining notwithstanding, Doom comes off as way more of a cheesy 1980s sci-fi villain from a bad direct-to-video film rather than Doctor Doom. That’s the only thing I’ll say about the overwhelming inaccuracy at work here, but it had to be said.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Fantastic Four just falls flat. While certainly not as bad as its predecessor of the same name, it’s just not that good. Worst of all, it outright breaks the cardinal commandment of comic book/superhero films – it’s not exciting, not action-packed, and just not really fun. It’s not an outright terrible film, mind you. In fact, it’s not even the worst superhero film Fox has put out. It’s just lacking in all the places it absolutely shouldn’t. It’s perhaps worth a rental from your local Redbox or favorite VOD service if you’re really into cool special effects, but I wouldn’t personally recommend paying anything more on it. – 4.5/10
Editor: Nerd Nation Magazine