Let me start off by saying that I like this cast. These are good actors. It could be argued that they are too young for these characters that have been beloved by comic book fans for generations, but that is not the fault of the actors themselves. They were hired by the studio to do a job, and they did it. Unfortunately the material they were given was, on the other hand, not quite as “likeable.”
At times it feels that the reason this movie was given the title Fantastic Four is not because of the specific powers each of our heroes is given, but because of the personal dynamic each one has with the other. While this can be considered respectable, at the end of the day this is a movie about a superhero team. Sadly the majority of the film is anything but that.
In attempting this reboot writer and director Josh Trank (Chronicle, The Kill Point), and co-writers Jeremy Slater (The Lazarus Effect), and Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Sherlock Holmes) give us a totally different origin than anything that has been seen in either the comic books or previously released movies, and in doing so the movie takes us back to the young children that Reed Richards and Ben Grimm were and how they became best friends. However we get no such backstory on either Johnny Storm, played by Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, The Boondocks) or his adopted sister Sue as portrayed by Kate Mara (House Of Cards) except to see where their lives have taken different paths in the present day. Instead we get a lot of exposition from their father, Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey – House Of Cards, The Good Wife) about how important it is for the four of them to help each other and the good they are able to perform for humanity. And then there is Victor Von Doom, so incredibly downplayed by the otherwise talented actor Toby Kebbell (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), who here is nothing more than a dropout genius whose lifestyle is almost hippy like, and virtually none of his royal Latverian connections are on display. Here we have an overly extensive look at these individuals as simple humans. Gifted, but still humans, with the exception of Ben Grimm as played by the overly talented, but sorely underused, Jaime Bell (The Adventures of Tintin, TURN: Washington’s Spies). They, along with the equally talented actor Miles Teller (Whiplash, Divergent) as Reed Richards, are given protracted storylines which instead see them working in labs and staring at computer screens with little action to propel the story.
At times this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. During the time when Richards, Doom, and the Storms are working on building their transporter the film almost feels like it could be a hard science fiction, but when the movie takes our crew, and us, to another dimension the tone shifts to one of almost sci-fi horror. It isn’t until Doom is brought back to Earth that the tone shifts yet again and becomes quite a bloody horror movie with a death count that bordered on gratuitous. Doom as a character at this point bears little, if any, resemblance to the comic book character that fans love to hate. His powers in this movie are off the scale elevating him to almost that of sorcerer, but more than that he’s 100% insane. Instead of wanting to control and rule the world, he simply wishes to destroy it so that he can be the sole human survivor in that alternate dimension where he had been trapped. This alone does not make him a worthwhile villain for moviegoers to want to root against. Perhaps the writers should have taken a good look at the movies Thor and The Avengers to see how to write a proper villain when it came to Loki. This Doctor Doom is just one ugly mess.
If there is anything good to be taken from the story in this movie it would be the sense of despair that some of our people feel as a result of the accident that transformed them. This is especially brought home in the almost tragic direction the relationship between Richards and Grimm, now The Thing, has gone. Once best friends, now there is only disappointment, sadness, and even anger between them. While this character development can be considered worthy in a movie like this, it takes too much time wallowing in this despair, and by the time the movie ends there has not been an equal amount of effort spent in bringing about redemption. It is here that the movie leaves its viewers with a very hollow feeling when the house lights come up. The movie also fails to deliver an appropriate payoff scene. The Avengers succeeded in that iconic moment where we see all of our heroes standing in a circle as the camera pans around them while they examine the monstrous threat that is facing them. That scene is so powerful that people couldn’t help but feel it resonate in some way, causing cheers and fist pumps in the air with excitement. However we get no such moment in this movie. Even when the heroes learn to come together as a team to take out Doctor Doom it is so brief that the fight is over almost as quickly as it began.
This movie is just bad. While there are some good elements scattered throughout there are just too many mishaps and misfires. The writing is exceptionally poor for a movie of this scale, which again speaks of the real tragedy here, and that is this cast. Our four heroes, and even Doom, are exceptional actors. The tragedy is that they were all given less than subpar material to work with. They all deserved much better. Then again, so did we. Let me reiterate here; I did not hate this movie. I am, however, enormously disappointed with it.