Less Than Fantastic Four

Marvel's Fantastic FourThe latest Marvel franchise to get the seemingly inevitable reboot is Fantastic 4, who last had an outing in 2005’s Fantastic Four and the 2007 sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer. The previous movies were kind of goofy and very comic-book, so with the latest offering looking altogether darker and more grown-up, this movie looked like it was going to be very different.

It is very different, but possibly not for the right reasons.

Coming in at 100 minutes, Fantastic 4 is a lot shorter than some of the recent Marvel movies have been – being a whopping 41 minutes shorter than Avengers: Age of Ultron – but it feels a lot longer, as the plot meanders through the super team’s origin story at what at times feels like a glacial pace. There seems to be a lot of plot exposition, and a lot of introduction of the characters which never really pays off, leaving the viewer feeling a little bit short-changed.

It isn’t all bad – Whiplash star Miles Teller is warm and likeable as Reed Richards and it’s fair to say that his performance largely carries the whole movie. Michael B. Jordan is the other standout cast member, with the pair of them doing the best job they could with the material they were given to work with. It’s difficult to see how either of them could have done any more.

Jamie Bell doesn’t really get a lot to do as Ben Grimm/The Thing, and Kate Mara’s Sue Storm also seems massively underused. While it’s a nice change to see a female scientist super hero with serious smarts, her character is vastly underplayed and she gets relegated to being basically a glorified seamstress, making the teams’ protective suits, which incidentally don’t end up working all that well. She even gets left behind for the main chunk of the origin story’s action.

There were large sections of the movie where the viewer is desperate for Fantastic 4 to just get on with it – it felt like it took well over half the film for the characters to get their super powers and start to use them. What you want from a super hero team movie is a super hero team. You want the heroes to band together, using their powers to fight the super villain, but this movie takes an age to get to that point after endless character exposition, the very slow-moving origin aspect, and then a lot of in-fighting between the team members, before they eventually unite for the final twenty minutes of the film.

When they finally get their fantastic act together to fight Dr Doom, the danger to Earth and the human race hasn’t really had the time to plant itself in the brain and so does not feel all that perilous, leaving the final battle scene a little bit anti-climactic and low-stakes, and leaving the viewer wondering why they care about the result. It all feels like the scriptwriters didn’t really know what to do with Reed Richards and his team, and some of the dialogue in the final scenes is so clichéd that most people would be able to predict the next lines and quote them along with the actors. It all feels a little bit forced.

It’s hard to say whether this version is better or worse than the Fantastic 4’s 2005 outing. As goofy as that movie was, it got on with the action a lot quicker and gave the comic book fan the kind of movie they would be expecting – high in the action stakes and considerably lower on plot. This was visually more accomplished and more modern, able to compete with the likes of The Avengers and X-Men in terms of style, but it lacked substance.

Not terrible, but certainly not fantastic. 5/10.

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