In terms of quality, Marvel’s selection of superhero films has always been something of a crapshoot. The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to wow me, but I had a great time with Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Thor: The Dark World. Sadly, Fantastic Four, while not an egregious and unforgivable blight on mankind, is an incompetent movie at best. The special effects are spectacular, but it’s not enough to redeem the film. Fantastic Four’s whale is stranded on a beach made of boredom and sloppy pacing, and reputable marine biologists doubt that it’ll be returning to the sea anytime soon.
In Fantastic Four, child genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller) invents a device that can send matter to another dimension, and retrieve it. With the help of his friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Reed’s device gets noticed by scientist Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), and Reed finds himself working with Dr. Storm’s children: Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), as well as the young genius Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebell). Together, they build a dimensional teleporter capable of sending humans to the other world. However, when they learn that they won’t be the ones travelling with the device, Reed, Victor, and Johnny decide to go on their own. Reed ropes Ben into it, and after things go predictably awry, Victor is lost in the other dimension while some kind of energy gives superpowers to Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny.
If that plot sounds promising and you have an allergy to disappointment, avoid Fantastic Four. In a bold and unpredictable choice, Marvel decided to make Fantastic Four as thrilling as finding a hole in your pocket. It’s the pacing that really kills the movie and makes it so painfully dull. Nothing feels linked, it’s like watching a Sparknotes version of a movie. Sure, there’s a plot, but it keeps changing the focus throughout the movie. First it’s about scientists poking and prodding the superpowered kids against their will. Then, Reed escapes, time jumps forward, and suddenly Ben Grimm is working for the company that’s been studying him. Johnny and Sue seem far less bothered by the assortment of experiments done upon them, while Reed’s been laying low. But wait, it turns out that Victor is still alive! And now he’s crazy…and wants to destroy the world! So the Fantastic Four have to travel to another dimension to fight him. Then later, they… get their own humongous laboratory?
Does that sound like a disorganized mess? I hope so, because that would make my previous paragraph a great representation of Fantastic Four. The shifting focus of the film doesn’t come across as an exciting twist, it feels disorienting. Fantastic Four can’t decide what it wants to be about, and in trying to address several different plot points, the movie fails to produce a single interesting story arc among its chaotic menagerie. I can’t shake the feeling that the single purpose of the story is to justify the use of impressive special effects. To the film’s credit, the effects were spellbinding. Reed’s stretchy body looks unsettlingly realistic. Johnny looks truly fantastic when he’s burning, as the flames dance and flicker realistically. The Thing’s rock-like body is believably animated, and Sue Storm’s invisibility has a nice little “ripple,” as though she’s smoothly sliding in and out of reality.
But Fantastic Four’s pretty effects can’t save it any more than a bandage could’ve fixed the Titanic. The pacing is so confusing, and the writing, while not remarkably terrible, isn’t all that great either. It’s simply lukewarm, and the music won’t blow anyone away either. Do you like string instruments, drums, and repetition? Then congratulations, the soundtrack to Fantastic Four will be right up your alley.
Everything about Fantastic Four is either bad or average, and the movie is not even close to being greater than the sum of its parts. The effects are fantastic, but the rest of Fantastic Four is a huge letdown. It’s such a yawn, despite the visual spectacle. If you’re hankering for a movie about a team of heroes, there are far better options out there. Watch Guardians of the Galaxy or, if you don’t mind animation, check out Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. But don’t watch Fantastic Four. It isn’t the absolute worst movie ever made, but it’s easily the worst Marvel film that I’ve seen. Do yourself a favor and don’t watch this movie.
*images from nextprojection.com, thecriticalcritics.com, and comicbookmovie.com. Trailer from 20th Century Fox.