At one point early on in Josh Trank’s woeful reboot of Fantastic Four, Sue Storm (Kata Mara) tells Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), “I gotta say it’s fun having you here,” as she’s doing scientific things in the science lab she works in. It’s delivered directly and without irony, but it lands like a punchline; at this point in the movie, there’s nothing fun about Fantastic Four, and this is before the movie takes a maudlin nosedive. Once our superheroes accidentally obtain their powers, they spend much of their time complaining about them. Fun is, and remains, the last thing on anyone’s mind.
It feels like Trank went for classic and ended up with childish. Nothing in this movie is particularly well explained—when Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) sees a demo of the science project of high school student Reed Richards (Miles Teller), he declares, “I think you’ve created inter-dimensional travel.” Oh, OK. Everything about the movie—its plot, its acting, its dialogue—is so flat, it’s as though Trank and his co-writers Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater attempted to cinematize a piece of paper in a comic book in lieu of what’s on it. “Let’s check it out,” says one of our supposed heroes after being teleported to a planet in another dimension by the big machine they’ve all been working on. “Well let’s do it quickly so we can get out of here,” replies another. Zzzzzzzzz. If only they actually cared that much about us suffering from our seats. Multiple scenes end on beats regarding lab coats (“They actually wear lab coats here”; “I’m not wearing a lab coat”) that I think are supposed to be funny? The most interesting thing about Sue is that she enjoys listening to Portishead (and Dubstar, too, I think I detected at one point). Hearing “Roads” was the highlight of the movie for me and it sounds like shit as it plays from her just-removed headphones.
But what is most mind-boggling is the $120 million that supposedly went into the movie’s CGI, which is uniformly terrible. There’s a chimp that looks less like a chimp and more like the feces a real chimp throws. The green energy on the next dimension’s planet could light a garish ‘80s pool, the green screen technology seems to have been ported over from Alien3, and Dr. Doom, who’s often shot standing in front of a screen glowing a uniform color and nothing else, reminds me of Skeletor from the Masters of the Universe movie, which was cheap and kind of dreadful but way more flavorful than Fantastic Four. Its palate and skies are also reminiscent of those in the ‘80s Flash Gordon and Clash of the Titans movies, while making those films seem like high art in comparison. At one point, our heroes travel up to another dimension while riding in a bubble. They look like idiots.
If you aren’t yet suffering from spandex fatigue, be prepared to start yawning. Franklin espouses trite platitudes like, “The failures of my generation are the opportunities for yours,” and, “We can’t change the past but we can change the future.” I wish Hollywood would take this failure on the chin and not see it as an opportunity. I wish those in control would change the future and treat movies as movies, not poles in a giant franchise’s tent. But what do I know and who cares about my wishes: a sequel to this movie will be released in two years.