Fantastic Four (2015)
Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson. Directed by Josh Trank.
The 2015 reboot of Fantastic Four was presumably supposed to rejuvenate the franchise. It seems instead to have used the 2005 film as the baseline for finding new ways to be bad. While some aspects are certainly better—Miles Teller as Reed Richards the most striking—this new attempt is good where the first film was bad, and bad where the first film was good. It’s not a winning approach.
Reed Richards, a high-school student who’s been working for years with his friend Ben Grimm on a teleporter, enters his project in the school science fair. Although the exhibition is a failure, he’s worked out one detail that’s been evading Franklin Storm and his teenaged science prodigies at the government-sponsored Baxter Foundation. Dr. Storm and his daughter Sue somehow happen to be at the science fair, and seeing that Richards’s machine brings things back from wherever they’re teleported, offer him a scholarship.
The Baxter Foundation is what Richards has always yearned for: not only access to expensive equipment and time to work with it, but a social admiration for the talents that have always alienated him. We’ve seen this same setup before, with Harry Potter and Ender Wiggin (for example), so there’s good dramatic gold to be mined here, but the film instead hurries through a rivalry with Victor Von Doom and a romantic interest in Sue Storm to get the bodies into the transporter and the mutations into the bodies. We get cursory character development (although Sue’s proclivity for recognizing patterns is an intriguing idea that could have worked) and absolutely no meaningful sense of place or wonder. Nor do we get any real emotional buildup for Richards.
What we get instead are ridiculous visual effects, a dumb story, and worst of all, no relationship development with the heroes. The one visual effect that’s cooler than in 2005 is the rendering of the Human Torch, which looks pretty much just like the comic book character.
The acting is somewhat better, but the actors aren’t given enough to work with. Miles Teller is a Reed Richards I could have believed in, if only the film had made an effort to let Teller do what he does, which is relate. There is nothing between Sue and Reed except a vaguely defined intellectual admiration that never turns into a spark, which is another waste, because although Kate Mara is no Jessica Alba, she could have been sexy in a completely different way for the likes of Richards. Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm is fine. Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell as Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom are completely forgettable.