Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Josh Trank's Fantastic Four Will Have You Rooting for the Credits

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 9:16 AM

Kate Mara as Sue Storm and Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. - BEN ROTHSTEIN
  • Ben Rothstein
  • Kate Mara as Sue Storm and Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm.

There isn't an authentic human motivation or emotion to be found in this 187,874th reboot of Fantastic Four, a tale of boy genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller), who, with the help of his pal Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), builds a teleporter device in his garage and gets recruited by a mysterious organization to help them finish their teleporter device. Instead of appreciable motivation and character, we have an astute little kid calling Reed "a dick," which is true but is meant to be cute.

Or people saying things like, "It's fun having you here," when we have no idea what that could possibly refer to, having seen no fun nor even any interaction between the characters involved in this exchange. It's as if all the human drama that creates characters we care about has been excised.

The "here" is the scientific think tank where Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) appears to be using genius slave labor to construct his teleporter. He told Reed he was getting a full scholarship to a special school, but it appears that Reed is working for Storm, alongside all Storm's other "students," and that Storm is working for some rather nefarious financiers who do not have anyone's best interests at heart. Reed is not studying at all; this place doesn't look like a school, and no one appears to even notice that this could be a problem.

Miles Teller and Michael B. Johnson. - BEN ROTHSTEIN
  • Ben Rothstein
  • Miles Teller and Michael B. Johnson.

Also here, because there has to be four of them, are Storm's kids Sue (Kate Mara), who is some sort of unspecified brainiac, and Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), who appears to prefer that he were in Fast & Furious. Oh, and there's the guy who apparently no one can see is going to be the villain, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who is actually called "Von Doom" and who keeps talking about how the planet and humanity don't deserve to survive. Of course he's going to turn evil.

The plan is that once the teleporter is finished, all the kids will take a trip to the other dimension on the other side. This is a brilliant idea: Let's put the only people who understand how this teleporter thing works, plus an untrustworthy hothead (that's Johnny), into a machine that we've only barely tested, and send them off into the unknown. And then the movie tries to make Tim Blake Nelson the bad guy for coming in and suggesting that this might not be the smartest thing to do. (To be fair, Nelson's Dr. Allen is one of the nefarious financiers. But he's not wrong about this.) The four guys -- neglecting to invite Sue, because ick a girl, maybe? who knows -- decide to go off in the thing anyway, and end up all mutated. They are all the untrustworthy hotheads that Johnny alone is supposed to be, and they even end up mutating Sue on the way home, her thanks for helping them at mission control when they get into trouble.

Complicated, messed-up antiheroes are one thing -- often a good thing. These guys are all just unlikable jerks with no discernible personalities. Even Sue. They certainly do not improve with superpowers...but that's when the movie gets even more like a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon from the era before superpowered antiheroes were taken seriously by The Movies. From a muddled mess of a beginning and middle, Fantastic Four swoops into a cheap-looking action finale.

The bar has been raised far too high on comic-book movies for anyone to accept junk like this these days. It's pretty insulting to fans and to the original material that anyone thought they could get away with this.

Fantastic Four Directed by Josh Trank. Written by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg and Josh Trank. Starring Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell. Now playing at multiple theaters.

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