AM At The Movies: ‘Fantastic Four’

Above: 'Fantastic Four' with Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell

Fantastic Four
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
Director: Josh Trank (Chronicle)
Run Time: 100 minutes

Why is this group so hard to bring to life on the big screen?

Ten years after the first cinematic incarnation of this team arrived in theatres, a new, younger collection of scientists-turned-superheroes has arrived, but just like the Gruffudd/Alba/Evans/Chiklis collective, this latest ensemble is left struggling to get people invested in a group that seems like it should translate better than it has thus far.

Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four isn’t fantastic. It’s not even really good. IT falls somewhere between “meh” and “watching this makes me frustrated” because some of the actors in the film have already proven themselves to be capable of bigger and better and because even though this film offers a slightly different take on the origin story from it’s predecessor, the audience is still stuck watching a disjointed movie about the genesis of the group and its greatest adversary, Victor Von Doom/Dr. Doom.

At this point, we’re far enough into the comic book movies genre that we’ve had franchise reboots and a handful of failures and the thing that is becoming clear is that not all comic books are meant to be turned into feature films and this is one of them.

Cramming how a group of characters became associated, got their powers and then thwarted the bad guy into 100 minutes is a tall order, especially when the origin of their powers isn’t something as easy as got bitten by a radioactive spider or came from a different planet. Half the film is spent establishing these are a bunch of smart people building something cool and then it hustles through them getting powers, skips over them learning to harness their powers and dives right into “work together to beat the bad guy” in the final 30 minutes.

Now if you took the Fantastic Four and put them on television in a weekly show like Arrow or The Flash or Agent Carter, the get far more time to build some depth with both the characters and the story, rather than rushing through everything in under two hours. Daredevil is the perfect example; the Affleck version was bad, but the Netflix series was badass and it’s because they could take a bunch of episodes to establish Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk and everything around them.

The solo flicks from the MCU established the characters that became part of The Avengers, so that first ensemble piece didn’t have to spend any time letting you know who they were; it could get right down to getting them together. This film can’t do that and it suffers mightily as a result.

Trank was tossing some Twitter haymakers at the studio last week as rough reviews starting rolling in, saying he had a better version of this film a year ago that would have been well received. He added that we’ll probably never see that version and that’s a shame because I still believe there is a way to do bring this team to life for a larger audience and was excited about Trank being the one tasked with doing so here.

Unfortunately, it sounds like the studio took control, made some changes and should shoulder a lot of the blame for the disjointed and hurried flick that is getting clobbered by critics.

Save your movie money and check this one out once it arrives on your television or streaming platforms.

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