While certainly less campy than the 2005 version, this film puts a smudge on the Marvel brand by lacking their usual comedic appeal, emotional complexity, or jaw-dropping action.
Characters & Story
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) since childhood has been ambitious and had many doubters. That is, except best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). Someone who stuck by him for over 7 years as he built the machine which would heavily impact his life. Enter Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), a combination which leads to a teleportation device which takes Victor, Johnny, Reed, and Ben to a different dimension. One in which, due to curiosity being taken too far, leads to drastic effects – one which fans of the franchise are all too familiar with.
However, on the return home only Reed, Ben, and Johnny have the privilege of returning. Victor, on the other hand, is trapped on what is labeled Planet Zero, and the explosion which comes from the return home effects Sue Storm. Leading to each of the eventual heroes becoming government soldiers in training, with Ben being the first, Johnny prepping for his first outing, and Sue trying to keep herself from becoming just another tool. As for Reed? He escapes and tries to find a way to fix his mistake, but between bad blood from abandonment, and the former government conspiracist Victor Von Doom gaining the type of power which would allow him to change the world, if not destroy it, so comes the question of how the Fantastic 4 will get over their past troubles and join as one.
The main thing worth praising when it comes to this iteration of Fantastic 4 is that it doesn’t take the campy approach the 2005 version did. Not to imply this has the same post-Christopher Nolan Batman grittiness a lot of comic book adaptions have, but that it seems to be less about cartoonish characters and more about a bunch of science geeks bumping heads and pooling intelligence into building something. Which is when the movie is at its best, for everything before the super powers come into play almost has the type of energy you’d expect from a movie about NASA engineers who never got the credit for sending man to the moon. This is thanks to Teller playing a convincing science nerd; Mara playing the prodigal adopted daughter in such a way which is refreshing, if only because she is much easier to take seriously than Jessica Alba’s take; and while it may have been highly controversial for Jordan to play a white illustrated character, honestly there is very little reason to be worried. For despite the race switch, pretty much he is played the same and his background doesn’t have much, if any, effect on the character.
Honestly, while taking note I haven’t seen Ant-Man, this is probably the worse film with the Marvel label since Blade Trinity. For it honestly seems the Marvel formula, which is jokes spread throughout, good backstories, and intense action, are all completely absent. Which is surprising for while Mara and Kebbell I don’t know for being funny, it has only been one or two years since Telle and Jordan were in a comedy together and did quite well. So there goes your first disappointment.
The 2nd being, there isn’t much in the way of emotional depth. I mean, yeah, a main character does die, but it doesn’t hit you in the gut the way it should. The situation just plays off as a plot device meant to energize the character and help you understand that the finale is to come soon. But, in general, death in the film aside, when it comes to Reed, despite being misunderstood, there isn’t any mental or emotional connection you get with him and, with everyone else, there isn’t much of a backstory. Ben’s family is possibly poor, and they all live and work at a junk yard. Reed pretty much seems to evolve past their friendship once high school ends, but there isn’t any time put into Reed missing the one person who was one of the few people who believed in him, nor is there anything from Ben’s side of things dealing with settling into a normal life after being paired with a mad scientist type for a good 7 years.
Then comes the situation with Sue and Johnny Storm. They relationship as siblings is meek and while you can tell Johnny feels like his father cares more for his sister than him, this isn’t really developed or gone into strongly. Neither is the fact Sue is adopted. I mean, they address it in such a matter of fact manner that it seems like they rather be politically correct than address one of the most controversial, and interesting, things about this reboot.
Leaving the action. Now, being that the majority of the film doesn’t feature Dr. Doom as a villain, but more so the build to getting warped into another dimension, and then how the government wants to use Ben, Johnny, and Sue to do their bidding, as Reed is in hiding, it makes it so the action of this film is nil. Then, when it comes to Dr. Doom coming into play, while him seemingly blowing people’s heads up, or hitting people with enough energy for their face to melt, was interesting, the final fight was so lackluster that it honestly made Doom seem like a second rate villain rather than the Joker to the Fantastic 4 universe.
Overall: Skip It
I honestly have never thought in my life that I’d label a Marvel film as something to skip, but there is a first time for everything. Now, as for why I’m saying to skip this rather than label it something that you should wait until it comes on TV or DVD, well it is because it starts off strong because it isn’t campy, but then it falters so bad that it makes you wonder if maybe the highly panned 2005 version might have overall been better. Which, made the film leave you in this place where you are consistently waiting for it to go from potentially good, to the usual awesome level Marvel produces.
Alas, while the tone may have been nearly perfect, it offers nothing you come to expect. It just basically recasts our heroes, strip them of anything which could make them funny, relatable, or exciting, and expects you to just buy into it because the actors are today’s stars, this is a Marvel movie, and because this is one of the last big blockbusters of the summer.
Hence the Skip It label for this movie isn’t so much a reboot as it is a reminder. A reminder that the 2005, and its sequel, weren’t up to par, and that perhaps this franchise needs to just stay dead.