There are several reasons why Fox’s reboot of Fantastic Four fails to be a satisfying superhero flick, but there are just as many moments of creative ambition that get lost in an incoherent mess that make this movie even more frustrating and disappointing. There’s a schizophrenic nature in Josh Trank’s movie that is consistently at odds with itself. I can’t say for sure how much of the blame the director actually deserves, but unfortunately, it’s his name attached to this movie so there’s no way for him not to take the brunt of the responsibility for the end result. [Editor’s note: He did try, though.]
The first act of this movie attempts to create awe and wonder in the adventure of science. It succeeds to a degree. It creates a sense of enthusiasm on the subject with Reed Richards (Miles Teller), who has been dedicated to working on a prototype teleporter with unlikely childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). The problem between these two characters is that as soon as any character development can possibly be established or strengthened, Grimm gets shoved to the side. The tone slowly begins to shift into Cronenberg territory after Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) are briefly introduced to get these chracters to their destination: gaining their awkward, super heroic abilities.
It’s actually in the transformation sequences that this movie briefly comes to life again. There’s a strong sense of claustrophobia in the manner of which these tortured characters come to terms with their metamorphosis in tight corridors; however, this movie refuses to commit to those ideas long enough for them to have lasting impact, much like how Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) briefly used to be a sympathetic character before transforiming into a cliché killing machine whose principles are relegated to force a sense of conflict that’s never fully earned.
With a brief run time of 100 minutes, it’s baffling how much time is focused on set up when there’s always a forced sense of urgency to rush every attempt this movie makes at establishing connections to characters and conflicts. Every intriguing idea that’s introduced is unresolved for the convenience of bringing the main four into their respective comic book identities.
The irony of rushing these characters into their proper personas is the disdain this movie appears to have for the source material itself. Superhero movies have come a long way since the days when they felt the need to poke fun at yellow spandex, but there are so many lame self-aware jokes in this movie that, most of the time, I didn’t know whether to awkwardly laugh, cringe or cry. There’s proof that there were some good ideas to bring back the Fantastic Four in this movie, and there are plenty of moments when those ideas sparkle in the rough. That the final product has been cobbled together is a fascinating failure at best. The movie squandered its potential and was ultimately unable to break through the mediocre mold in which it’s enslaved.