The Rare 510-Word Review: Fantastic Four
By Sean Collier
August 11, 2015
It’s tough to understand why Fantastic Four, the latest comic adaptation from Marvel (though very much not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they’ll have you know) was even released. The product unleashed today is half-cooked — unfinished might be more like it — and has been nearly disowned by its overmatched director and cordoned off by its studio.
It seems to be a cinematic result of the sunk cost fallacy: At some point, Marvel must’ve known they had a lemon on their hands, but muttered, “Well, we’ve come this far, might as well finish it.”
Sort of finish it, anyway. Fantastic Four’s credits roll at about 94 minutes, stunningly brief for a comic flick; despite 50-plus years of stories, screenwriters Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank (who also directed, in his sophomore effort after Chronicle) simply had nothing to say.
This Fantastic Four, somehow less lively than the also-disappointing 2005 version, once again introduces audiences to Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). They’re recruited to work on a... tech thing involving teleportation and alternate dimensions, eventually traveling to a parallel world themselves. Von Doom sticks his hand in some goo, there’s some explosions and now everyone has superpowers (including Sue, who was back on Earth behind bulletproof glass, but who’s counting).
This all happens far too late into the film’s meager running time, by the way; Fantastic Four is the absolute worst sort of origin story, one that completely discards any enjoyable plot structure in favor of a trudging biography of its characters. It’s not until the final moments that any sort of real threat or objective is introduced, and even when it is, it amounts to the quartet arbitrarily deciding to go to a place and beat up a bad guy for no reason whatsoever.
It’s hard to overstate how stupid it was to tell this story in this way. Those unfamiliar with the team will not be interested in where they came from, particularly when the script and direction are this dreadful; fans of the characters already know (and I’m told that essentials of the team’s origins are fundamentally changed here, which is always a great way to please comic book fans).
The performances can be mildly recommended; Teller, Mara and Jordan are all fine actors. I just wish someone would’ve given their characters, uh, character. On the other hand, the less said about the special effects, the better; The Thing looks like an extra from The Neverending Story.
If Age of Ultron and Ant-Man piqued your interest in the Marvel Universe, Fantastic Four will make you swear off of comics and their big-screen counterparts indefinitely. You might even walk out liking movies themselves a little less than you did before. I was tempted to give Fantastic Four a two-out-of-ten rating on the basis of its performances, but that might accidentally convince someone there’s some quality to be found here. For the love of god, stay away.
My Rating: 1/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark