Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Michael B Jordan
Director: Josh Trank
There are four brainy people with big dreams. They build thingmummies that can transcend barriers of space and time. They sit aboard thingmummies and go to a new planet in different dimension. Stuff happens in this new world that alters their physical forms forever. They then save the world from a cloak-wearing all-powerful villain. By the time it ends, you are bored beyond belief.
Fantastic Four is a film starring Marvel superheroes, albeit on loan to 20th Century Fox, minus any of the rib-tickling fun and sense of wonder that you expect from those films. In fact, Marvel has made millions with films having half of that plotline and fan following. But Fantastic Four has had a bad run at the BO three previous times it was attempted. This one is even worse. With an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 3.9 on IMDB, this probably is one of this year's biggest duds.
The pacing is so bad, we hardly get to see the Fantastic Four in their superhero avatars.
The reasons are not hard to find. The film's director Josh Trank disowned Fantastic Four much before it released. He also accused that the studio, 20th Century Fox, of majorly fiddling with it. The deeply troubled production went in for bouts of reshoots. The end product has all the scars and no charm - it is messed up, poorly edited and jerky.
Picture this: In one scene we see the prospective Fantastic Four lying on hospital beds, helpless after their short sojourn in another dimension. Now we expect to see them come to terms with what they have become and learn to use their powers -- those juicy scenes which form the mainstay of any film in this genre. Instead, the film jumps a year and we meet them as full-fledged superheroes. The shift is without any magic, any self exploration or appeal. They behave as if they have got a bad bout of cold, not superpowers.
The film opens well though. It places Reed Richards (Miles Teller) firmly in the nerd-budding scientist territory who tells his school class that he wants to build a machine that can teleport humans. Kids and teacher laugh alike but he piques the interest of one classmate, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell).
The films climax seems rushed and without any thrill.
Fast forward seven years and Reed has managed to build his machine. He is teleporting matter and gets a visit from Dr Franklin Storm (Reg Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara). They are doing the same research but have hit a wall - Reed has all the answers. Storm's son Johnny (Michael B Jordan) and has-been wonderboy Viktor (Toby Kebbell) make the quartet of scientist who goes on to build the real-deal teleporter.
Enter Mr Moneypants Harvey Elder (Tim Nelson) who now wants to hand over their tech to NASA. To stymie him, Reed, Viktor, Johnny and Ben become the first travellers on the teleporter. Things go south real fast on the new planet. Viktor is left behind while the other three, and Sue who is present in the lab, get superpowers.
Reed become Mr Fantastic - the man who can stretch and retract his limbs like a lizard's tongue, Sue is Invisible Woman who can also throw stuff around with her mind's power, Ben is The Thing who's made entirely of stone and Johnny is the Human Torch (ok, that needs no explanation).
The film's villain fails to justify his name, Doom.
For a film that boasts of a love triangle between Reed, Sue and Viktor, there is absolutely no romance or chemistry. While we are at it, the film is absolutely devoid of wit, charm and humour as well. You can't expect much when dialogues run on these lines -- 'Don't do this Viktor', 'This better work' and 'Viktor don't do this'.
The actors seem to be lost in another dimension too. With no guiding hand, they seem to be at loss about what to do and how to do it. We blame poor direction and lack of a cohesive story for this. The cast spend all their time either looking at computers or tinkering with nuts and bolts. The villain Doom is given so little time on screen, he fails to scare or menace. The climax also feels rushed and without any sense of doom (pun intended).
Just getting the teleporter up and ready takes one hour of the film, with precious little time left to show the cast as superheroes.
Even The Thing's action scenes come to you as newspaper clippings or online screenshots. Whatever action you see is in the last 10 minutes of the film. By then, you neither care nor want it. Even the message of corporate greed and the need to save Earth is so forced that you are practically being spoon fed.
The only comfort is that this will keep the studio away from thinking about a sequel to this ill-advised $120 million film. Oh that waste of money should give us all visceral, physical pain. And from a film about how the human race is squandering its resources!
PS: What's with the horrendous blonde wig Kate Mara?
Read: Fantastic Four is not a disaster, claims producer
Read: Fantastic Four director claims studio destroyed his film