Director Josh Trank drains the life out of Marvel’s First Family
20th Century Fox’s reboot of the Fantastic Four hit theaters last night and the reviews are streaming in. They are not good reviews. Fans of Marvel’s First Family have had low expectations for this reboot for a long time, with a steady stream of bad news about this troubled production for months. The most recent troublesome news hit earlier this week after the film’s release in the U.K. as we learned that they made Ben Grimm’s battle cry into a story of an abusive brother – Following is Kwame Opam’s review from Verge.com:
How do you solve a problem like the Fantastic Four? Created back in 1961, Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing were Marvel Comic’s first great superhero team, predating the Avengers by two whole years. They’re the foundation, paving the way for icons like Spider-Man and the X-Men in pop culture. So it’s incredible that, despite the series’ pedigree, there has never, ever been a good Fantastic Four movie. One completed in 1994 never saw theatrical release. Two more in the mid-2000s were both critical failures.
In 2015, Marvel’s “First Family” is ready to try again. Director Josh Trank takes the team in a new direction for the big screen this year, offering up a darker origin story that’s more mad-science-gone-wrong thriller than comic book blockbuster. Trank already managed a subtle but effective deconstruction of the superhero genre with Chronicle in 2012 by grounding his characters in the ordinary, so when he took the reins for Fantastic Four, it was easy to assume his approach would breathe new life into the franchise. But stepping out of the shadow of the past has been difficult, and the film’s troubled production, hampered by reshoots and marketing problems, has been well documented. Despite all the heartache, does Fantastic Four finally succeed where others have failed?
A FRANCHISE WITH A TROUBLED PAST
I wish I could say it does. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of its cast, Fantastic Four fails to come together because Trank seems so unwilling to make anything resembling a Marvel superhero movie. And that would be fine, if not for the fact that it’s not very clear what he does want to make.
The movie begins on Long Island in 2007, where a grade school-aged Reed Richards shares with his class his dream of being the first person to master teleportation. It’s a quiet scene that introduces us to Reed’s world and his ambitions, and we learn quickly that he’s uniquely gifted. He and his best friend Ben Grimm actually manage to build that teleporter out of spare parts in his garage, and when they manage to actually teleport a toy car, an aghast Ben says, “Reed, you’re insane.” It’s then that we realize that this Richards boy is both a genius and potentially dangerous.
This, then, is Reed’s movie more than any other character’s, and that’s Fantastic Four’s first problem. Fast forward to the present day, and Reed (now played by Miles Teller) is still working on perfecting that teleporter with Ben (Jamie Bell). He’s still a genius. He still wants to change the world. And, on his own, he’s not especially interesting. The movie gives him a personality only as it relates to his being a solitary intellectual devoted to bettering mankind, without offering much depth beyond that. It even goes out of its way to liken him to Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, but we never see him reach for Nemo’s intensity. Teller does manage to bring some quirky, affable charm to the role, but there’s a drabness about the character that Teller never overcomes.