Fantastic Four: Marvel’s First Family Falls Flat

A talented cast can't save Marvel's first family from mediocrity.

After the widely publicized difficulty of producing the film, a strong part of me thought Fantastic Four was going to pull a Rocky and emerge as the underdog superhero film of the year.

I was convinced that the bad buzz would inexplicably give way to something truly unique and fun. It had all the right elements: a talented cast and a director with a track record of refreshing the superhero genre (Josh Trank, Chronicle) seemed poised to make Marvel’s First Family relevant again.

Unfortunately, Fantastic Four looked less like Rocky and more like Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago took turns on Rocky with a lead pipe.

It’s not a good movie—at best, it’s mediocre. It’s a messy, drawn out set up for a rushed, unearned finale as flimsy as Reed Richard’s stretchy body.

In the film’s defense, Fantastic Four faced an uphill battle from the start. Every casting announcement or leaked plot point set the Internet ablaze with controversy, and rumors of on-set drama only worsened its reputation.

Whispers of budget slashing, studio interference and a whole gaggle of reshoots followed a suspiciously absent marketing campaign. The ill omens confirmed that Fox and Josh Trank were struggling to put together a reboot that no one really asked for in the first place.

It’s clear that those problems negatively affected the final outcome. The film feels hacked to pieces, and the longer it drags on the messier it becomes. Movies usually follow a typical three-act structure, but Fantastic Four felt stuck in the first act, unable to move forward.

Once the action finally starts, the movie ends ten minutes later. A spectacular, dynamic finale might have redeemed the film, but it ends so quickly that it seems like Trank was just putting the movie out of its misery.

Critics have debated the impact of the studio’s interference with the film, and if they were right to do so. In reality, both sides are at fault.

Trank tried to infuse fresh ideas into the generic origin story, but a majority of them failed. Besides the terrifying transformation scene, everything else required too much exposition and lacked energy.

On the other hand, Fox’s interference cost the movie any resolution to the personal dramas Trank was highlighting. The film introduces intriguing human developments: Ben’s anger over Reed, Johnny’s maturation and Victor’s displeasure with how the world is run, but it fails to provide the struggles any depth.

As a result, the movie is clearly the result of two forces working toward different goals.

In a summer of dominant superhero films, Fantastic Four is a stark reminder that the genre is far from invincible: popular comic characters do not guarantee box office success. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more Fantastic Four films for awhile. This was their shot and they blew it.

Overall Grade: D+


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