Screened Out – Fantastic Four

By : Stephen Miller
Comments: 0

Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordon, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey

Fantastic Four is false advertising; this is not fantastic. It’s overpriced, joyless crap. The plodding, unentertaining plot is 85 minutes of tedious exposition for 15 minutes of lackluster superhero stuff at the end.

It’s not just that this snore-fest breaks the rules of comic book flicks, which usually concentrate on action and remember to add humor. It also breaks the first rule of good filmmaking, period – tell us upfront why we need to care, why we should be interested.

Four starts with clichés. Teller and Bell are poor kids struggling through substandard education. Teller is the genius bent on creating a teleportation machine. Bell is his loyal sidekick. When they almost succeed, a scientist (Cathey) and his adopted daughter (Mara) express interest. Soon, Teller is working with Mara and other young adults – most notably the nefarious Kebbell – to perfect their teleportation machine.

That’s most of the film. They argue and flirt and do science-y things. This is how the filmmakers choose to waste our time.

As if that isn’t boring enough – you wouldn’t believe how often I checked my watch – the story decides it needs a tangent. Why?!?! So, we cut away to Cathey’s other child, Jordon, who’s a bit of a parent-hating daredevil. Great, another cliché…

After the success of his first film, Chronicle, director Josh Trank tanks on Fantastic Four.

After the success of his first film, Chronicle, director Josh Trank tanks on Fantastic Four.

I’ve suffered through a lot of ponderous art films where I wondered when something was going to happen – anything that would raise my pulse. These are movies that forgot their audiences. I never in my wildest nightmares thought I’d be sitting through a Marvel comic book film (produced by Fox under their outdated agreement) praying for a joke, an explosion, or even a fistfight. The fans should riot at how soul-crushingly stale this all is.

It’s not like I should’ve had high hopes. This reboot comes just a few years after the last two films. Though I loved seeing Chris Evans shirtless, those two flicks had very little to offer. They were decidedly juvenile.

There were some small glimmers of hope that this time would be better. The leads are all indie darlings and strong actors. Teller had a track record for picking good projects up to this point. Jordon was wonderful in Fruitvale Station.

Add to that that Marvel’s source martial – mostly under Disney – has been doing fair to amazing work in cineplexes recently. The Avengers suite never disappoints its fans, Ant-Man wasn’t terrible, and Guardians of the Galaxy was the biggest moneymaker of last summer. I guess they were bound to fail at some point.

With his first film, Chronicle, director Josh Trank proved he had a good sense of re-imagining superhero genre. In Fantastic Four, he not so much redefines the rules as he completely ignores them. There’s little climax, nothing is genuinely funny, Trank almost completely avoids the comic book catchphrases, the characters are too flimsy, and it takes forever to introduce the real villain.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Part of the problem always lies with the script. First of all, there’s no good reason to have another origin story when we already know these heroes; just tell us something interesting! Despite having help from Simon Kinborg (the last two X-Men flicks, Sherlock Holmes), Trank and inexperienced cowriter Jeremy Slater wrote a dud. It’s amazing that producers flipped through pages and pages of soporific origin details and greenlighted this project to the tune of $100 million.

No amount of last-minute action or special effects can save a movie that wastes most of its time on mind-numbing dullness.

Share this story: