When superhero movies go wrong, they generally go wrong with their villains. Josh Trank’s ill-fated FF reboot certainly has that issue – in bloody spades — but that’s only the final rainbow sprinkle on top of the miserable dirt sundae he serves up as the rest of the film.
Fox clearly needed a full reboot after the disastrous Tim Story-helmed edition of the Marvel standby superteam, and that much, at least, they get. Instead of venerable, middle-aged Reed Richards and co., we get the super-babies version, with the crazy kids just out of high school before embarking on a fateful, booze-fueled incursion to the primordial, jagged planet that eventually leads to their receiving their amazing powers.
The cast is certainly improved, with the quintet played by Miles Teller (Reed Richards), Jamie Bell (Ben Grimm), Kate Mara (Sue Storm), and Michael B. Jordan (Johnny Storm), but they’re all given precious little to do other than look startled at their new-found abilities. Still, they get a veritable smorgasbord compared to poor Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbel), who goes from being the king of a powerful Eastern Bloc country in the comics, to a pasty-faced computer nerd who spends his time in a darkened basement in front of a bevy of screens. When he returns from this mysterious planet, loaded with powers never even explained, and starts wantonly killing everyone around him, you’re not even sure what’s he’s meant to be so angry about.
Trank, whose previous yeoman work on Chronicle suggested a young director with a good deal of promise in the action genre, seems to have very little to do with this edition, other than the scene in which Doom swaggers through a top-secret research lab and makes everyone’s head explode in a gash of red splatter. Rumors of a troubled production dogged every stage of this film’s creation, with Trank believed to be in over his head, so it should come as little surprise that the final result seems so stilted.
All of this is plenty bad enough, but the film’s real fatal flaw is in its horrendous pacing. Clearly, the suits at Fox were decidedly displeased about early footage of their new would-be tentpole franchise, and decided to essentially pull the plug on the second half of the film. The only life it ever exhibits is in its first hour, where Richards and von Doom work together in a space-age tech lab run by Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey), father to Johnny and Sue.
As soon as the team receives their powers, it’s as if the producers couldn’t rush through to the end credits fast enough. Something happens involving Doom trying to destroy the planet, and the team thwarting him in a couple of ridiculous minutes, and next we know they’re standing around cracking wise at one another and staring off at their new headquarters like it’s been a job well done. Maybe we shouldn’t solely blame Trank for this disaster; perhaps this franchise is just cursed. As a friend put it, Fantastic Four plays out like the inverse of a mullet: Too long in front, too short in back, and no party of any kind.
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Featured image is a screen grab from the trailer.