Review: Fantastic Four

fantastic-four-reboot

DIR: Josh Trank • WRI: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank  • PRO: Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Robert Kulzer. Matthew Vaughn • DOP: Matthew Jensen • ED: Elliot Greenberg, Stephen E. Rivkin • DES: Molly Hughes, Chris Seagers • MUS: Marco Beltrami, Philip Glass • CAST: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson

 

Seven years after the last Fantastic Four film, or to put it another way, the maximum amount of time that Fox could stall without losing the rights to the characters, we’re given a reboot of the series with fresh new faces and a new origin story to boot.

Based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, this film sees our would-be heroes preparing to travel, not into outer space, but across dimensions, leading to the accident which imbues them with their marvellous powers… eventually. There’s a serious amount of build up and character development exploring Reed Richards’ (Miles Teller) sense of isolation growing up as the only super genius in town and we’re given some rather briefer glances into Ben Grimm’s (Jamie Bell) early home-life, Victor Von Doom’s (Toby Kebbell) volatile personality, Johnny Storm’s (Michael B. Jordan) rebellious streak and Susan Storm’s (Kate Mara) intellect and discerning nature. Even with the sheer number of superhero origin films over the last couple of decades, it’s rare and refreshing to see so much detail given to who these characters are as people, until you realise that you’re quickly running out of movie. The pre-super powers part of the film takes its sweet time and feels like a richer film, but this makes everything afterwards feel forced and rushed.

When the inevitable happens and things go slightly wrong, leaving our titular characters stretchy, invisible, rocky and fiery, all character development stops and we’re rushed through several defining moments. The plot can be quickly summed up with

1- the government gets involved and tries to control the FF.

2- Reed escapes. The others don’t.

3- Reed returns and they learn to fight as a team in one of the most rushed superhero fights to make it onto the big screen.

Given the saturation of superhero cinema at the moment, it’s a little surprising to see another origin story on the screen, particularly when audiences are generally at least a little familiar with who the Fantastic Four are. While some would argue that seven years is more than enough time for some kids to grow up with no knowledge of the previous Fantastic Four films or media, it’s worth noting that the darker content and occasionally strong language in this film really do appeal to an older audience than its predecessors.

With a truly great cast, this film could have probably benefitted from another forty five minutes to really stretch its legs and give us a different type of superhero film. What we’re left with is something that strives for a thought-provoking character piece about isolation, family, trust and responsibility… and then quickly remembers people will want some explosions and punches and tacks on an underwhelming last-minute fight just so nobody can say it didn’t have one. The obligatory villain, Doom, really feels like a missed opportunity. While visual effects shouldn’t be a major priority in a film like this (and I’d have to actually say that the CGI Thing and Human Torch avoid major issues), there’s something that feels a little cheap about Doom’s slightly plastic mummy-like appearance and there’s no hint of character development leaning towards his turn to supervillain. His character was an ass before becoming a super-powered fiend, but there really isn’t enough time given to explain his plans or motivations for villainy.

Is this film better than the last two Fantastic Four outings? Probably. It’s a more mature and carefully made film, without the camp gags and cheesy lines that plagued the others. Unfortunately, it’s no longer 2007. We’re now living in the post-Avengers age of superhero films and audiences have learned to expect it all; humour, action, style and snappy dialogue. Fantastic Four might be the best film we’ve seen made with these characters, (unless you harbour a secret fondness for the ludicrous 1994 film), but it sacrifices humour for darkness and then almost forgets it’s supposed to be a superhero film at all.

It’s fairly good.

It’s fine.

Fantastic? That might be a stretch.

Ronan Daly

12A (See IFCO for details)
97 minutes

Fantastic Four is released 7th August 2015

Fantastic Four – Official Website

 

Share

Cinema Review: The East

06c6f38b3449ee93_east.preview
DIR:  Zal Batmanglij  WRI: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling  PRO: Michael Costigan, Jocelyn Hayes, Brit Marling , Ridley Scott , Tony Scott • DOP: Roman Vasyanov  ED: Bill Pankow, Andrew Weisblum  DES: Alex DiGerlando • CAST: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Patricia Clarkson

  

When Sarah (Brit Marling) gets a pair of Birkenstock shoes from her ice cool uber-boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), she knows that this is her shot at the big time – a chance to be a real player in the shady world of corporate private intelligence. Soon enough she’s lying goodbye to her boyfriend Tim (Jason Ritter) at the airport, dying her hair in the bathroom and coming out another door – she’s not going abroad, she’s going deep undercover to find out about The East, a group of media-savvy anarchists who are targeting major corporations.

 

Soon enough she’s hanging out with hippies, travelers and crusties, but then she meets Luca (Shiloh Fernandez), who takes her to a secret hideout in the woods – the home of the charismatic Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), suspicious Izzy (Ellen Page), sympathetic Doc (Brit actor Toby Kebbell) and others – all of whom have a taste for real revenge and, despite the cult-like air and some bizarre “bonding exercises,” are no lentil-chomping dropouts: they have some serious “jams” in the planning.

 

The first corporate victims get a dose of their own medicine – literally – and then a pair of industry bigwigs are forced to take a swim in their own polluted lake. It’s an eye for an eye, and though Sarah is quickly getting close to calling in the FBI, she’s found a bond with these people – and even has some sympathy with their ideas, and the evidence she sees that made them come to the conclusion their attacks are the only way the public will take notice. It helps of course that she’s attracted to Benji, but when one of the jams costs the life of one of the members, the group goes their separate ways – but you just know Sarah is going to be asked to go back under again. Only now does she want to go back for the right reasons?

 

Marling – who also co-wrote and co-produced this with director Batmanglij (and has written two other films including the cult hit Another Earth) – is clearly a roaring talent, and here she inhabits the role of the cold-hearted, all-business operative well, perhaps too well, as this is rather a cold movie, the only person you ever really feel remotely sympathetic to being the shaky-handed, brain-damaged Doc. Also, Sarah doesn’t really have as much at stake – or has lost as much – as everyone else, which makes her harder to care about.

 

It’s also perhaps a slight disappointment when it emerges that the jams are all targeted at the parents of The East members; it’s spoiled rich kid revenge to a greater extent then, something that explains the reason they can afford high-tech gear, a nice Mercedes and walking around money: high speed web access can’t be found when you go dumpster-diving.

 

That said, the film manages to walk the line well in what’s a controversial set-up. It doesn’t fall back on such easy clichés as explosions or choose a lazy reliance on sexual jealousy/romance re: Benji, but whether it will have you cheering for revolution when you see one of the victims of their jams – a cameo by Julia Ormond, who looks so extraordinarily like Marling that I thought that would be the late twist – is another matter.

Yes the chemical companies will undoubtedly and happily sacrifice all of us in return for profit, but just as tragic is the fact that we continue to elect corrupt politicians who are enslaved to the very same companies, and so do nothing about it. And as we know, resorting to terrorism only leads to more dead and wounded, and who needs environmental protection anyway?

 

James Bartlett

116 mins

15A (see IFCO website for details)

The East  is released on 28th June 2013

The East – Official Website

 

 

Share