Taking this tale back to its origins, we meet Reed Richards (Miles Teller), an outsider who has been working on a teleportation machine with his best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) ever since they were kids. When at a science fair, his creation is spotted by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) – who decide to give the youngster a scholarship at their institution – and have him assist their ambitious project; to send a human being to an alternate universe.
Enthusiastically signing up to the task at hand, Reed works diligently alongside Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) in taking mankind somewhere they’ve never been before. However when NASA want to get their hands on the device – with the malevolent Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) pursuing matters, the creators themselves decide they want to be the first people to try out the machine – and so they head to this unknown, hazardous dimension. Though when they return back to Earth, they’re not quite the same, ordinary human beings who first ventured out.
Josh Trank – who was behind the innovative, compelling sci-fi triumph Chronicle – is now helming a feature that, unlike his preceding endeavour, has little to no character development nor chemistry amongst them. What transpires is an emotionally disengaging experience, as you care so little for the protagonists, and whether they live or die. That’s partly a fault of the lengthy set up (which takes up the majority of this title), as we don’t become acquainted with our heroes when they return back to Earth with special powers, not in tune with the nuances and idiosyncrasies of their personalities to allow us to fully invest in their cause. Guardians of the Galaxy and the various X-Men productions have proven it’s possible to structure a film that allows each different character an arc and respective emotional journey – in Fantastic Four, there’s nothing of the sort.
It’s a waste of such talented performers, as the likes of Teller, Jordan, Kebbell and Bell each have such absorbing screen presence and undeniable charisma – but they’ve been dealt with thinly layered, one-dimensional characters. But sympathy can only extend so far, as the script is woeful, so they should have known what they were signing themselves up for. Teller in particular is palpably inconsistent, as while Reed is supposed to be geeky and unpopular, he has this tendency to produce the occasional witty one-liner that seems completely out of character. Kebbell meanwhile is playing a well-crafted antagonist – who is formidable and sinister – and yet he barely has any screen time.
The final act feels so insanely rushed, and this title takes a turn for the worse dramatically, getting really rather bad, and really rather quickly – which is a shame given the opening hour is so easy to immerse yourself in. It’s almost as though Trank looked at his watch one afternoon and thought, ‘shit, we’ve got to wrap this movie in two days – shoot the ending – quickly’. Because this is where the film falls short – as there’s so much set-up and yet no pay-off. It feels as though we’re actually spending the entire time building up to another movie, a sequel. However the problem is, there’s a pretty good chance that may never come to fruition – and you can see why.