Marvel’s New Film Not Fantastic, But It’s No Failure

2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)

Fantastic Four 2015 Poster
Image from https://www.imdb.com/

Note: My thoughts on this film (often stylized as Fant4stic) have changed dramatically since this review.  Today, I completely agree with the majority opinion: the characters are weak, the tone is overly dour, and the film completely lacks a second act due to studio meddling.  Today, I would likely give it 1.5 out of 5 stars (one of the worst of the year).  I don’t know what possessed me to give this a decent review back in 2015, but please enjoy my faint praise below:

Marvel’s newest, non-Avengers offering: Fantastic Four is not what you think it is.  The marketing for this made it look overly dark and contemplative for a film of its type, leading me to believe it would be a serious character study that would bore me to sleep.  The reviews thus far have said that this movie is dull, overly dark, and anticlimactic.  I wholly disagree.  Though it is noticeably flawed, Fantastic Four is a fun, decently entertaining sci-fi action film with some good humor and likable characters.

Reed Richards (Miles Teller of the Divergent series and Whiplash) is a misunderstood genius who has been building a machine that would allow interdimensional travel with his best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell of 2005’s King Kong) since the 5th grade.  Now a senior in high school, Reed displays his machine for a science fair, only to have his teacher to laugh it off.

Reeds’ luck changes when he is given the opportunity by scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey of The Wire) to get his machine up and running.  Reed will work with Franklin’s children, hothead Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), and Frank’s old colleague Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to achieve this.  The quartet eventually makes their dreams come true, but that comes at a price that none of them could have ever seen coming.

I understand that my plot description seems a bit rote, but I cannot tell you anymore of the story without spoiling it. I can assure you it is worth it.

The cast is fine in their respected roles. Miles Teller and Kate Mara are believable as nerds, and Toby Kebbell does fine with what he is given.  Michael B. Jordan provides good comic relief, but he isn’t very interesting.  Jamie Bell gets the short end of the stick, as he doesn’t have enough to do in the film, and disappears for some of the first act, only appearing when the plot needs him to.  Because of this, I didn’t have a strong connection with the character, something that the last set of films (yes, this is a reboot) nailed.

Action-wise, it’s good when it’s there. There’s one action sequence at the beginning, a very short one in the middle, and one at the end.  They are intense, well-shot, and don’t go on too long (In fact, I wouldn’t have minded if the climax was a bit longer, but it’s good as is).  Josh Trank (who co-wrote the script) confidently directs the action, but he could improve in directing his actors.

In my review of Ant Man, I mentioned the good chemistry between the actors. Fantastic Four is the exact opposite.  The actors don’t have consistent chemistry with each other, making many of the scenes awkward to watch.  I understand that Reed and Sue aren’t going to be like Buffy and Willow right away, but Reed’s chemistry with Ben is so bad that it’s nearly laughable.  On the bright side, Franklin and Johnny work passably off of each other, but only passably.  This is not the script’s fault (though it is far from a perfect gem), it’s the fault of Josh Trank.  This is only his second film, and I feel it was a mistake to give a big project like this to someone who isn’t experienced enough to handle the pressures of it.

My final complaint is the amount of profanity in the movie. I normally have no issue with it, but Marvel doesn’t have a lot of bad language in their movies, and this one had much more than I expected.  I have seen lots of kids in Marvel theaters throughout the years, and this movie alienates that audience segment by inserting the profanity.  Kids beg for the merchandise for these movies, so putting in profanity only prevents them from being able to see it.  Those kids might be a saving grace for the movie, given its current projected box office returns.

Fantastic Four is not Marvel’s best by any means, but it certainly not its worst either. The individual actors are good and the humor is appropriately placed.  When present, the action sequences are intense and decently exciting, and the script is mostly sound (despite a few over-the-top lines and catchphrases at the end, but they are forgivable.)  See Fantastic Four at the $2.00 Theater, and you should be decently entertained.

Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence and Language

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