With every new discovery, there is risk. But we are stronger together than we are apart. - Dr. Franklin Storm
Walking into the cinema...
Does this franchise need another re-boot?
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the original Fantastic Four film, but in 2015 we are introduced to a new and younger foursome. Director Josh Trank (Chronicle) takes on the retelling of this familiar graphic novel tale, but takes it all the way back to a youthful time in the lives of the team. The central focus is Reed Richards (Miles Teller), from his misunderstood child genius stage to his recruitment into the Baxter Corporation. He is sought after by the group for his technological abilities and his affinity for quantum transport. As he is introduced to the fateful pack of geniuses, a journey begins of building their friendships and the technology that would provide their eventual powers, the quantum transporter. At the conclusion of the project, Richards and the crew take a harrowing journey in their transporting creation. In the process, they find themselves on the new planet, Zero, and come in contact with its mysterious transformative properties. They experience a series of events that lead to the loss of a counterpart and find themselves with unexplained physical abilities. The four contemporaries have to learn how to manage their new skills while the government attempts to find a way to get back to this new planet of possibilities. Over time the youthful bunch learn to use their new found skill sets and develop a partnership to defeat a new enemy, Dr. Doom (Toby Kebbell), that comes from similar origins as the powerful foursome.
If Josh Trank has proven anything throughout his short directorial career is his ability to recruit some of the best young talent in Hollywood. In Fantastic Four he assembles a wonderful central cast for this origin story. At first glance this re-boot seems to offer a trailblazing experience on a well-worn trail of super-hero legend. Miles Teller (Whiplash), Kate Mara (House of Cards) & Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) provide the new legs that a proper re-franchising needs. The story has promise through the first half of the origins journey until the initial transport journey and then something goes horribly wrong with the script and direction. Primarily that they lose the central character, Reed Richards, for the whole second act. Without their leader at the helm, the story becomes rudderless and loses its heart, even with the potential development of their transformative abilities. In the third act, the writing becomes merely elemental and cliched. What should be a tension-filled climax to the inevitable battle between the four friends and their enemy, Dr. Doom, proves to have little more than a forgettable conclusion to a misguided narrative. The Fantastic Four is disappointing in that with the potential strength of the first half of this film could not translate into a better second half.
Trank may have a knack for young talent, but fails to provide the right players to perform the menacing government officials and that of the villain. He is the primary disappointment of this cinematic adventure. In the beginning, Toby Kebbell plays the brooding loner well, but cannot act his way out from behind the bad make up and effects. This is not a reflection on his acting abilities as much as a poorly crafted script that fails to provide a formidable foe for the four young heroes. This comes down to being a lesson for a young director of super-hero film: the heroes are only as interesting as the villain they must battle. The expectation for Fantastic Four would be to provide fresh chemistry in this overworked genre, but the results never seem to make their way out of the laboratory.
Even in a less than satisfactory package, there are a multitude of different ideas to ponder. This team-focused story bodes well to the discussion of unity and the value of each part of any community, but the heart of the story is a discussion of belief. The father-like force of Dr. Franklin Storm talks about his belief in the young Fantastic Four. As would be expected, this belief is misplaced, because this small band of young scientists do eventually fail him. Which consistently proves to be the case when you put all of faith into humanity, mankind will let you down. Yet, the discussion of belief does not have to be hopeless, there is more to consider on the topic of belief or faith. Is it in humanity or is it in something outside of ourselves that faith should be placed? Should belief be in another super-hero franchise or should it be in God? Something fantastic that is worth considering.
Leaving the cinema...
Interestingly, I think The Incredibles and The Avengers ruined this franchise. Director Brad Bird took the finer dynamics of Fantastic Four concept and made a better film. Originally, I wanted to become a believer in this new Fantastic Four, but ultimately this belief was misplaced. If you want to see a better super-hero choice this year, go see Ant-man or The Incredibles.
Reel Dialogue: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. What really matters when it comes to heroics?
2. Can we become better as humans?'
3. Can mankind's hearts change from evil to good?