'Fantastic Four' Review: Empty promises
MANILA, Philippines – There is simply no doubt about it. Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is a noisy, hideous, and viciously cumbersome movie. However, there is something more to the movie than the obvious fact that it is quite awful. Amidst the abominable crafting, the movie proves to be a reboot that adds a certain flavor to the decades-old superhero team that makes it fit perfectly within a market that is grossly addicted to tales of teens rebelling against authority.
So Trank’s version sees all of the 4 superheroes in their twenties, struggling to make a mark in a world that is dominated by greedy and uncaring adults and the oppressive institutions that they have built to ensure the status quo. If the Fantastic Four reboot is starting to sound just like another one of those Hunger Games-type flicks, that's maybe because it is.
The movie’s protagonists and single villain have their respective talents to harness and apprehensions to contend with, resulting in an adventure that pits youth’s virtues with its disastrous follies.
It is only when the movie starts to unravel itself as a superhero flick that it forgets everything it initially aspired to be, turning itself into a woeful extravaganza of special effects and corny clichés gone awry all for the sake of pomp and circumstance.
A tale of orphans
Believe it or not, Fantastic Four actually starts out promisingly.
Boy genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has just invented a machine that can send objects to another dimension and back. This becomes his ticket to the think tank of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who endeavors to build a contraption that can send an expedition to that other dimension with the help of his collection of youthful protégés, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who is as brilliant as he is dangerously unpredictable, Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Dr. Storm’s adopted daughter who has a thing for patterns, and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), Dr. Storm’s irresponsible son with unsubtle daddy issues.
The movie does not stray too far from the original. The experiment ends up with all of them, including Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Reed’s best friend who he drags along into the other dimension, exhibiting unnatural powers after a very narrow escape.
Gone are the familiar dynamics of the original team, where Reed and Sue seem to serve as parents to a largely irresponsible Johnny, while Ben, with his grisly features, provides comic relief. Instead, all 4 superheroes appear to be orphans, both desirous and wary of control and supervision from the adults that never saw them as children deserving of love and affection.
Tweaking the lore
It is interesting how Trank and his screenwriters managed to tweak the lore behind the famous superhero team to evoke a palpable wall between the generations that compose the movie’s world. It is Victor’s distrust of humanity that resulted in his eventual downfall. It is Dr. Storm’s immaculate trust of the youth’s capabilities that becomes the team’s inspiration for goodness.
The movie is brimming with all the classic tropes that pervade young adult literature. Trank strays far enough from the source material to rationalize the reboot, but not far enough to make it totally unrecognizable.
For the most part, Fantastic Four, in a way, has more similarities to Trank’s own Chronicle (2012), where teenagers are suddenly faced with unique challenges after getting their superpowers, than most superhero flicks.
Sadly, Trank does not fully commit to the idea. As soon as Reed and his gang turn into superheroes, the film is barraged by a need to act like a superhero flick. Trank thus exhibits all his embarrassing deficiencies, including his ineptitude in directing action sequences and special effects. A lot of the film’s action sequences are ineptly rendered, looking more like the found footage that was acceptable in Chronicle than respectable spectacles.
Trank’s failure is his inability to follow through. There is enough in the first part of this Fantastic Four to create a truly divergent beginning for the aging team of superheroes. By establishing the characters as bewildered youth who barely have the maturity to truly harness their superpowers for the greater good of mankind, Trank has opened avenues for a franchise of 3-dimensional heroes who do more than wisecrack with each other.
Unfortunately, the movie ends up as dumb and uninspired as its predecessors. Its blatant lack of any real humor to give way to portraying its characters as angst-ridden young adults is all for naught. In the end, the movie just purports to be more of the same, a tired melodrama of good versus evil, only this time, with special effects and action sequences that look like they belong in a horrid nightmare rather than in an expensive blockbuster. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios