This time, the heroes are entitled Millennials. Super. Fantastic.
Just picture it: INT. PRODUCTION OFFICE — DAY. Fat Cat Producers sit around a fire pit as a sacrificial lamb of original content roasts on a spit. Obviously, they do not burn wood – just piles of your foolishly wasted dollars spent on increasingly disappointing box office fare. Lo, one said producer pipes up. “A ha, Gentlemen! I have it! We shall reboot another comic book franchise! That way, we can make several films based on the characters, as we will cast younger, hotter fools to play the leads!” The demon spawn each pat each other on the back as they head out in their cars that run on the blood of the innocent to vote for Donald Trump. Some intern holds his script about a time-traveling robot that saves a princess from a distant land and cries as he cleans up what was left of the lamb luncheon. End scene. Or something.
Yes, Dear Reader, we find ourselves here, once again, dancing the dance where I urge you to save your brain cells and skip a film, and you try desperately to hold onto any piece of positivity that might flow through this review so you might justify your trip to the cinema to witness the glory that is the bare chest of Miles Teller and the perfectly symmetrical facial shape of one Michael B. Jordan. Welp, that is about all the positivity I have for you, Lovelies: Miles Teller is nearly nude in one scene (albeit, whilst stretchy), Michael B. Jordan is adorable, Kate Mara types really fast, and Jamie Bell almost masters the accent of a kid who grew up in Oyster Bay. So, you know. There’s that in which to look forward in the newest incarnation of Fantastic Four.
Reed Richards (Teller), siblings Johnny and Sue Storm (Jordan and Mara), and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) are wunderkinds to the nth degree who master dimensional teleportation under the guidance of the Storms’ father Franklin (Reg E. Cathey) at the Baxter Institute: you know, the kind of unnamed military-run facility that Lisa Simpson might attend in a one-off episode. After the toddlers display their working technology, the military shamefully suggests that actual grown-up, field-tested NASA scientists should travel in the machine. But of course, f-ing millennial Richards and crew get sloshed, and strap in to explore the unknown. When Reed brings along his bestie Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), things (haha…things) go awry, leaving Von Doom on the other side and the remaining Fantastic Diaper Snipes with abilities the military now plan to utilize to control the world.
I’d love to tell you this film reignited a long-dead, silly franchise; I’d love to tell you that the talented cast shone through a tight script full of witty dialogue and the twists and turns we’ve come to expect from the Marvel Universe; I’d be positively ecstatic to announce my impending nuptials to my fellow NYU alum, filling out our invitations that you know would contain quirky Whiplash puns and The Spectacular Now quotes. Alas, for the guts of the thing, the bowels of the truth, the sad, sad reality: Fantastic Four is quite simply…a trainwreck. And not the good kind. This film fails on every single level so appallingly, heads should roll at production companies, agencies, studios, and post houses. This cinematic fecal clog labors on for what feels like six hours – actual run time a should-have-been-zippy hour and forty-five minutes – with plot holes larger than those gorgeous, dark brown peepers Teller sports. Trust me, my dears, I did try to get lost in said eyes, but my boredom would not be saved by Mr. Fantastic. The only thing to do now is to line up the suspects and decide where to place blame.
Rumors of turmoil on the set began in the media almost immediately, with director Josh Trank (Chronicle) famously distancing himself from reshoots and the final cut. Honestly, I cannot imagine this film ever worked from the first page even though Trank insists his original vision for the film was sound. The problem is in the Nolanesque approach to a core of characters that have always been cloaked in humor. The Fantastic Four is a campy comic, never meant to get the “Ultimate” treatment that plagues this generation of comic books and films. Not every story begs to be The Dark Knight – some superheroes embrace the comedy, existing in a world where good guys win and crack wise doing so. Even the Oley Sassone original and the 2005 Tim Story abomination approached Four with wit and silliness — unsuccessfully, but with more honesty than this piece of garbage. The modern Fantastic Four concentrates so much on the dark that it bores, yawn-inducing for the first two acts only to spiral into a violent climax that would edit well with footage from Hostel. The special FX fall somewhere closer to The Sorcerer’s Stone than Deathly Hallows – I mean, I saw all of the names in the credits. Surely someone pointed out the cartoony way Teller bounces around the screen when stretched? He looks like something out of a 1990’s Saturday morning cartoon. One of the bad ones.
You could drive a truck through the plot holes that attempt to heighten the drama. At one point, Teller’s Richards escapes the story for reasons given only to the audience, never explaining to the rest of the characters his motivations. How and why interdimensional travel is ever conceived or attempted is never explained…you know, PLOT DEVICE! When Von Doom embraces said Doom, you get the feeling you know why, but no one bothers to really explore his motivations. All you need is kill, I suppose. And do not EVEN get me started on these purported geniuses speaking in double negatives! The dialogue in this script would fit right inside one of Tommy Wiseau’s joints.
How you can have a cast populated with young talent — each having starred in Oscar-winning features — frankly phone it in for nearly two hours is mind-boggling. I’d like to believe you can blame a novice like Trank for this one, but we’ve seen Teller do more with less (see: Divergent), Mara soar with that whole disaffected thing she does with her face (Brokeback Mountain), and Jordan work with Trank to better results (Chronicle). At some point, you have to start blaming the actors, too. Each had to know that the other was just not bringing it. Bell’s accent is so atrocious, you start to beg: why hire someone to basically voice a character that does not have a native American accent?! Kebbell’s Von Doom does little more than seethe; you cannot blame him too much, as brooding is all the rage these days. Obligatory Military Bad Guy Tim Blake Nelson literally chews gum the entire film, just to inform the audience that he’s a tool. Reg E. Cathey is honestly the film’s only saving grace, at once showing how the love for his children and his obsession with seeing them succeed collide in such utter failure. It’s a simply lovely, understated performance from a veteran actor in a crapfest.
All of this might have been overlooked if not for the boring, plodding first two acts. This film is so dull I literally started counting popcorn kernels. By the time we get to any semblance of a battle scene, the audience has lost the will to live, let alone rally for the Earth to survive. I swear I heard a chorus of “Let Doom win!” start up in the back row of the cinema. No one will ever convince me that any studio executive sat down, watched this film, and believed in one frame of it. So many of the characters are mean-spirited, the plot is non-existent, nothing and no one makes sense, the acting is terrible, the writing atrocious…okay, okay. You get it.
Save yourself some time: see Chronicle, Whiplash, 127 Hours, Fruitvale Station, Billy Elliot, the first season of “House of Cards” on Netflix, and The Good Girl instead. You know what? Just stare at the wall instead. I guarantee there is more there.
Grade: D- (If not for Cathey, this would be an “F.”)
There. We made it through without even mentioning the wig.