HOLLYWOOD—I’m still trying to wrap my ahead around the fact that we’re seeing a reboot of the “Fantastic Four” franchise less than 10 years after the original flick first hit theaters. I will admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first flick that arrived in 2005 because it was an origin tale. However, I thought its sequel “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” was tons of fun.
The players in the superhero genre have attempted to revitalize a franchise that has so much potential, but fails to deliver the sparks that the series needs. This new installment, similar to the first big screen feature weaves an origin tale for the viewers. The movie even opens with a young Reed Richards, explaining his level of intelligence while in class; he is mocked by other students as well as his teacher about his ability to possibility change the world.
As he ages, Reed (Miles Teller) finds himself and his friends, Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) forever changed when one of his experiments goes terribly wrong. The narrative plays out like most origin tales of superhero flicks; trying to humanize characters to a degree where the audience understands their motivations. That might be the problem. The audience is already in a world where they are expected to allow some suspension of reality, overthinking the concept only defeats the purpose in my opinion.
A big hoopla in the flick was the revelation that Johnny would be African-American. In the comics, he is notably Caucasian and his sister Sue is not adopted. That change in dynamic does not really concern me as much; I think the new approach on the character is a nice differentiation. One of the biggest problems with “Fantastic Four” is it spends a substantial amount of time building up these characters and their backstories. So much to the point, when the action gets underway, the movie is ending. When you build up a certain level of suspense, the audience expects a worthy payout.
Could one argue the special effects in the movie are riveting? Without a doubt, but special effects alone will not sell a movie if the narrative isn’t as polished as it could be. Once again a big disappointment comes at the hands of the villainous Victor von Doom aka Doctor Doom (Toby Kebbell). The interesting dynamic is the familial relationship between Sue, Johnny and Victor who are all connected by patriarch Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey). So to see really close friends becomes enemies is a fascinating dynamic.
My biggest frustration is no writer has been able to grasp the concept of how villainous Doctor Doom can really be. In the comics he was a force to be reckoned with, in the movies he is just the bad guy. Unfortunately, he’s a bad guy that doesn’t really shock the fans or give the impression that he’s a worthy foe to our protagonists. This is a character who is a narcissist in the comic books. That personality trope alone should be useful to crafting the character’s drive to annihilate all that goes against what he believes. The audience doesn’t receive that villainy in the movie.
Director Josh Trank delivers a film that is slightly uneven for the spectator to fully enjoy. There are those moments that provide glimmers of hope, but quickly retreat backwards. My suspicion tells me the studio was focused on capping the flick off in less than 2 hours; that might explains why the bulk of the action takes place in the third act of the film. “Fantastic Four” suffers the same fate as its predecessors; an origin tale has to be carefully mapped with a narrative that leaves fans in a tizzy, not one that leaves them wanting more.