*. Fantastic Four is perhaps too easy a movie to trash. But what else can one do with it?
*. The director, Josh Trank, trashed it even before it was released, which is always a bad sign. He thought the studio (Fox) had wrecked it with cuts and reshoots. I have trouble crediting this. Everything about this movie is wrong and I don’t see how a director’s cut would be any better.
*. Apparently Trank alienated not just the producers but his cast and crew as well. This certainly shows in the performances. I can’t think of a movie I’ve seen where the entire cast so clearly seems to have checked out. As Christopher Orr remarked in his review in The Atlantic: “everyone in the otherwise talented cast appears resolutely uncommitted to their roles.”
*. But it’s not just in the performances. The Gang of Four (or Five, if we’re including Victor “Dr.” Doom) are just a collection of sullen assholes. Basically, aside from the unfortunate Ben Grimm, they’re a bunch of Silicon Valley nerds who are into tech and hacking and building game-changing technology in their garage. Or drag racing without bothering to put on a seatbelt. They also don’t joke around (there are no laughs in Fantastic Four). Though close personal relationships are suggested, none of them seem even remotely interested in anyone other than themselves. I thought Robbie Collin made a good point saying that there is so little chemistry on screen that during the dialogue scenes they don’t even seem to be talking to one another, and that maybe they weren’t and that a lot of this was done later in reshoots. It certainly has that feel.
*. Surprisingly, and I mean that it was an unpleasant surprise, the team become even less likeable after their transformations. Their new conditions are less wonderful powers than a depressing curse they have to learn to endure. Only the Human Torch seems to think he got an upgrade.
*. The set-up takes forever. Indeed, the film is half over before we get to the action. These origin stories are hard to handle even in the most skilful hands, and such hands were not present here. I also question the need for making such comic book stuff more character-driven. When has that ever worked?
*. If the beginning of the movie is a drag, the ending is painfully perfunctory. Once again a gate is opened to another dimension threatening all life on Earth. The team are whisked off to CGI-Land to do battle with Dr. Doom, who isn’t at all like the comic book villain but is instead another God-like power. He doesn’t even look interesting. Doom beats the team individually, but when they all come together they are able to swiftly dispatch him to a place beyond sequels. Meaning back over to Marvel Studios, who immediately promised a reboot.