What a great job Josh Trank did helming low-budget superhero flick Chronicle. Such a great job, in fact, that it makes his efforts with the Fantastic Four reboot all the more baffling. A few months out from its release there’s been plenty of time to dissect what’s gone wrong (read: everything), it’s taken its critical mauling and licked its wounds, with sequel plans quietly put to sleep. Its drubbing has been very public and very brutal. I’d love to say that there’s been some sort of mistake, but the truth is, it’s just as bad as you’ve likely heard.
It’s not even like it had tall heights to scale if it were to better the efforts of the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films. There weren’t exactly hoards of fans clamouring for sequels to those movies. This wasn’t a Spider-Man situation, where a massively popular director in Sam Raimi was ousted, and the series was rebooted, leaving poor old Marc Webb with the unenviable task of convincing fans that it was the right move to bring him on board and start afresh. Josh Trank did, in fact, seem like a good choice. And rebooting Fantastic Four made sense. You can blame studio interference all you like, but surely that can’t excuse for the plainly sloppy filmmaking on show throughout Fantastic Four?
We’re talking continuity issues, with seemingly zero effort made to cover them up, along with plot holes, hokey dialogue and shoddy special effects. There’s little on show here to suggest that it’s anything more than a cynical, rushed attempt to cash in on what could be a major franchise, but it falls flatter than Johnny Storm’s “momma” jokes. By far its biggest issue though is just that it’s all so, so, dull. Its grim tone, compounded by a misplaced sense of humour, in unison with lifeless characters doom it (pun intended) from the outset.
So who are the Fantastic Four (who, incidentally, are never called the “Fantastic Four”, though the name is teased at the end of the movie in what is essentially a carbon copy of the Age of Ultron ending)? Well we have the geek genius, Reed (Miles Teller) – he’s the stretchy one. Then there’s the brother and sister duo of Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) – Mr. Cool, street racer (the rubbish sibling), who can set himself on fire, and Susan Storm (Kate Mara), the one who can turn invisible, and who offers noting else to the film. And finally, we have Grimm (Jamie Bell), aka The Thing, a big ol’ pile of rocks, who prior to being a big ol’ pile of rocks was Reed’s less-clever friend.
Together, they’re cracking inter dimensional travel. Or at least Reed and Susan are. I’m not so sure why Johnny is allowed to get involved, he’s massively underqualified. These are people who are being relied upon not to kill everyone by creating a black hole with their inter dimensional machine, and they’re letting the guy who stalls his car in a street race near it. Meanwhile, Grimm, who was there with Reed as a teeny-tiny kid helping him to build his machine isn’t allowed anywhere near the place apparently. The smarty pants, lives in the shadows, you should have known he was evil, Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) on the other hand is an integral part of the team.
With the technology cracked through the power of montage, inter dimensional travel now possible, and the machine thoroughly tested (one time), the team seem to decide that the rule is that they built it, and therefore they must be the ones who travel. Not, as is suggested, NASA astronauts…you know, the experts. Rather than heeding the advice of those clearly more intelligent than themselves, the intrepid team decide it’s best all round for them to hop into the machine and transport themselves to an unknown planet, where Reed – the smart one – unwittingly sets in motion a series of explosions by sticking his hand in a mysterious, green glowing pool of…stuff, leaving Victor trapped on the volatile planet, and with Reed, Johnny, Grimm and Susan manifesting new powers.
We barely get to see the powers though, let alone find out if they’re fantastic or not, with the film whittling through its second half at a blink and you’ll miss it rate. Nothing’s earned, short cuts are taken, there’s no dramatic build up, no crescendo, just a few fleeting action scenes and you’re home and dry. Don’t go to the loo or you’ll miss everything the film has been “building up to”. What it all boils down to is that Doom gets stuck on a planet, decides that he quite likes it, and that he wants to destroy Earth as a result. It’s like an extreme version of when you’ve been on a really great holiday, and upon your return can look upon your home town with nothing but disdain.
If the previously planned sequels have indeed been cancelled, we can all consider ourselves fortunate. There’s a cautionary tale to be taken from Fantastic Four. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Bleak, grim, sloppy and un-fun in every respect.
Rating (out of 5):