Film

Published on August 5th, 2015 | by Brad

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Fantastic Four – Review

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It’s been quite strange these past couple of years, watching fan opinions on Fox’s new Fantastic Four reboot. After the unmitigated disasters inflicted on the world by Tim Story in 2005 and 2007, one would think a move in a different direction would be welcomed. Josh Trank, hot off his excellent directorial debut Chronicle was an interesting, forward-thinking choice of director and, with the possible exception of Miles Teller who was somewhat of an unknown quantity, the cast seemed like excellent choices. And yet, Fantastic Four has been subject to some of the most sustained vitriol I’ve seen for a film which, when the campaign against it started, we hadn’t even seen a frame of.

Sadly, the hatred seemed to start around the time that Michael B. Jordan was cast as the Human Torch. Traditionally Johnny Storm has always been portrayed as white, though that might have something to do with the fact that he was an astronaut in the 1960s. Johnny’s race has never been part of what defines him as a character – the Human Torch is tempestuous and hot-headed, that’s his deal. There’s a whole article to be written on why colour-blind casting is important and why modernising works from a less enlightened time by diversifying their cast is a good thing, but that’s for another time. Here’s what’s important; Michael B. Jordan is one of the most talented young actors out there right now, and is more than good enough to play Johnny Storm.

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Then rumours started flying around about a troubled shoot, and divisions at Fox between those who thought they had a good movie on their hands, and those who couldn’t see Avengers or X-Men in it and started screaming bloody murder. Trank’s high-profile departure from the Star Wars Anthology film which turned out to be Boba Fett didn’t help matters, with rumours of brattish behaviour on the Fantastic Four set soon circulating. Then for some reason Fox embargoed all reviews until the first public screenings, held last night in the UK and France, amongst others. That’s the type of decision which sets serious alarm bells ringing.

For the life of me, I can’t see why they did it. Fantastic Four is a perfectly enjoyable science fiction extravaganza, well-acted, gorgeously shot and consistently entertaining throughout its very quick-feeling 106 minutes. In an age where superhero blockbusters are consistently breaking the two hour thirty minute mark, it’s a relief to have a film which isn’t so drawn out. If anything, Fantastic Four could actually stand to be a little longer; the final conflict with Doctor Doom feels a little rushed. I have a couple of criticisms about Doctor Doom generally, which I’ll get to in a second, but otherwise there’s very little to fault.

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Fantastic Four’s biggest asset is its cast. The aforementioned Jordan is a bundle of charisma, absolutely nailing Johnny Storm. Miles Teller and Kate Mara do the majority of the heavy lifting throughout as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, and they’re great as a pair of frustrated geniuses who bond over the notion that they might not be the smartest person in the room any more. Jamie Bell is solid as Ben Grimm, if a little underdeveloped after he’s transformed into The Thing. The big standout, though, is Reg E Cathey as Franklin Storm. Father to Sue (adoptive) and Johnny (biological), Franklin discovers Reed and Ben at a science fair, and brings Reed in to help his team crack interdimensional travel. As a rule Franklin likes to bring in younger, more creative minds and inspire them to reach their potential. Cathey is a brilliant actor, and as Franklin he provides the heart and soul of the film.

As I said, I have some issues with Doctor Doom. Fortunately the rumours about him being a hacker named Victor Domashev proved to be false, and Toby Kebbell is really good in the role. My chief concern is that the film takes the same approach as the older efforts, having Doom be changed and given powers by the same accident which bestows our heroes with their abilities. To me Doom is a disfigured scientist who wears a mask and dabbles in sorcery. Here he comes out of the accident very deeply and darkly changed, with what seems to be a pretty gruesome power set in practice. The final confrontation with him is over a little too quickly, and doesn’t quite have the requisite punch.

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Overall, though, Fantastic Four is a good movie. Eschewing the traditional superhero set-up, this is a science fiction adventure which, despite its departures in content, is a very strong adaptation of the spirit of those early Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues on the original comic. It’s really nicely shot, never stops moving and is just generally a good time. I could have stood ten more minutes spent developing The Thing and Doctor Doom a bit more, but that’s a minor quibble. Of the three live-action superhero films to come out this summer, Fantastic Four is the strongest. Who would have thought that?

Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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  • I’m glad to read a positivr review of this. The hate for this movie makes me think I’ll end up liking it (I call it John Carter Syndrome). However, I really liked the 2005/2007 movies, my only issue with them being they chickened out on giving us a proper Galactus. Should this movie survive as a franchise, I wonder if they will right that wrong.

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