Overall verdict: 5/10
The Good: Intriguing premise, opens up fascinating concepts, replaces typical superhero styled story with hard science fiction horror,
The Bad: Mediocre music, stale lead characters, undeveloped concepts, incoherent plot, underwhelming climax, some questionable casting, special effects quality does not fit the budget
3D Readiness: None
Much has been revealed about the fiasco that was FANTASTIC FOUR 2015. I'll leave the details of the isolationist director, close shaves with angry cast members and a studio's overboard executive meddling for your Internet search engines. Let's get down to the movie. Caught in-between the deep and gritty of Warner/DC and then kid friendly comedy of Disney/Marvel, FANT4STIC FOUR (as it is stylised in promotional material) is a curious creature which tried to do both and ended up.......not so successful. It tried to go for the "grounded fantasy" of DC, all angsty, deep and tragic, while still wanting to maintain the appeal to youngsters with witty jokes and superficial laughs.
Many have slammed this movie for its lack of action and deviation from the explosive norm that has become superhero films. I feel that audience have just become spoiled by the action heavy formula of modern blockbusters. FANT4STIC FOUR is not a superhero movie in that sense. It would be more in line with the "science gone wrong" genre of movies that were real big in the late 1980s through 90s; David Croneberg's THE FLY was cited as the main inspiration for this movie, SPECIES, the film SPLICE for a more recent example, the most famous being HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS (which, once you cut out the humour, is the kind of science horror story that ANT-MAN was supposed to be before getting squeezed through the mighty marvel movie maker machine). And yet, it's many flaws came in the execution.
What FF lacks first of all is coherence. The story starts off as a kind of "science fiction Harry Potter". It's the story of boy genius Reed Richards and his childhood pal Ben Grimm. Reed creates a teleporter and thanks to a convenient meeting with doctor Franklin Storm, Reed gets recruited into the "Baxter institute"; essentially a brain trust of genius young adults. Among the geniuses, There's Doctor Storm's adopted daughter Sue and his biological son Johnny who joins Reed in the teleporter experiment. There's the nihilistic jerk rival (Victor), benevolent mentor (dr Storm), the morally ambiguous military head honcho and a lack of Ben. So the teleporter is finished, Ben appears, the bunch of drunken friends boldly go where no man has gone before to explore the Planet of CGI wonders. Something goes wrong, tragedy strikes, science Mumbo jumbo and boom, new superpowers. From there the tone whiplashes into a Syfy original with the four friends captured and experimented on. Guilt ridden Reed escapes, and we get another tone shift into a fugitive movie with Reed on the run and his former friends trained by the military to take him down. But wait there's more! A new teleporter is completed which brings back a powerful new foe who wants to destroy the world leading up to a climax right out of Dragonball Evolution. You see where this is heading? From science fiction Harry Potter to Star Trek substitute, then to a poor man's Incredible Hulk with super soldiers, and then to Dragonball evolution. It's 4 movies spliced haphazardly into one.
FANT4STIC FOUR (FF) had intriguing ideas that I could get behind with enough twists from the original comic to make it fresh. None of those ideas get developed at all! Second big mistake. Sue and Reed being intellectual rivals is something new but it just gets turned into......not even a romance or a friendship for that matter. Johnny not being able to live up to his father's expectations. Yes he acts out, yes he finally gets to step out of daddy's shadow by using his new powers to make a difference to American peace keeping efforts......but that is only implied with some dialogue and never brought up again as if Johnny were a token minority character.
Then we got Ben who could have turned out most refreshing. Unlike his comic counterpart who is was a baseball champion, US marine, pilot and an all round big tough guy, Ben in this movie is a scrawny loser picked on by his siblings, living in a junk yard and with little future to look forward to if not for his friendship with Reed. What an intriguing character arc it would have been for Ben who goes from wimp to rock covered Captain America. He becomes a war hero in the service of his nation all the while despising the inhuman Thing he had become. Do we get to explore that internal dissonance? No. His grudge against Reed for turning him into a monster? Forgotten in 5 minutes. Ben who was shown to never hurt a fly has been made to kill for his country, but no single mental ramification at all. No regret? No crisis of conscience? No character development, pure and simple. The 2005 movie, Heck, even the cartoons managed to give Ben Grimm a more developed character than this movie showing him grappling with the loss of his humanity going from all American hero to ugly Monster with all that entails. Mishandled and miscast, Ben Grimm as the Thing looks great in all his motion capture rock encrusted glory. But every time he speaks and that wimpy TinTin voice comes out, it's almost hilarious.
Boasting a budget of $120 million, one wonders where all that money went. I've already mentioned how good The Thing looks great thanks to the motion capture expertise of Weta digital, the guys behind Lord of the Rings. But everything else looked cheap. From the CGI Baxter building to a CGI monkey likely reused from Dawn of the Planet of The Apes to the entire CGI "planet zero" looking like a video game.
Throw all that in with a climax that is all to short and sloppily edited and you have FANT4STIC FOUR. The best example of wasted potential in a superhero movie. It had great ideas, bright new concepts open to exploration and development but alas got caught up in all the behind-the-scenes debacles. The drama during production overshadows the lack thereof within the actual movie. Who knows? To recoup on the loss Fox may release "the making of" feature and makes tons more money capitalising on the controversies involving director Josh Trank.
Replay value: B-