How to Analyze: Why Can’t ‘Fantastic Four’ Be Fantastic?


To be perfectly honest, this Fantastic Four  reboot does not measure up, and frankly, I’m not sure why they can’t get this story right. Like Spider-Man, 20th Cent. Fox had to quickly do a reboot of FF,  so soon after the original 2005 film and its sequel, because they were in danger of losing the rights to the Marvel comic. Fox might still lose them to Marvel if this FF tanks… and unfortunately, I think it’s going to.

The 2005 version — which starred Ioan Gruffudd (as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic), Jessica Alba (as Sue Storm/Invisible Girl), Chris Evans (as Johnny Storm/Human Torch) and Michael Chiklis (as Ben Grimm/Thing) — was moderately enjoyable, mostly due to Evans’ hilarious performance as Torch and Chiklis’ wry sense of humor as Thing. But it had a lot of problems, too, and certainly couldn’t compare to The Avengers brilliant ensemble or other successful comic-book adaptations. 

This current Fantastic Four is even worse. They tried to capture a younger audience by casting leads Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Micheal B. Jordan and Jamie Bell, but the cast is wasted. It starts off intriguingly enough, with a kids-in-space-camp mentality, masterminding this machine that takes them to an alternate universe. But once things go awry, Bell literally just grunts most of the time as Thing, while Mara mostly sits at the computer, without any emotions or expressions at all. If they had let Teller play Reed a little more cocksure, more to the type Teller plays best, then it would have worked. Jordan is simply not the right Torch, and poor Toby Kebbell. His Victor Doom has a lot of potential at the beginning of the film, a misunderstood genius with a chip on his shoulder who also has an unrequited crush on Sue. But when he becomes the villain Dr. Doom, all of that is gone and we’re left with a run-of-the-mill megalomaniac who seeks world dominance. Yawn.

On top of all that, ALL the humor is lost. This FF wants to be dark and brooding but why? The tongue-in-cheek is what makes the comic so great — the back and forth squabbling between Torch and Thing, the brother-sister camaraderie between Sue and Johnny, the lighthearted love story between Reed and Sue, and so forth. And don’t get me started on the CGI in this version. The alternate universe looks like one of those bad alien planets from Star Trek, and the climactic battle at the end completely fails. Come on, folks, the bar keeps rising on this stuff; you can’t go backwards.

So, if Marvel does take the rights back and brings the Fantastic Four into the Disney fold, would they be able to successfully translate the story to the big screen? I think the first order of business is to find the right cast. A group of actors that gel together and who fit the roles more succinctly. Also, just stop with the origin premise. If you do another one, start with the Fantastic Four already in full swing, ribbing each other as they try to save the world from another Dr. Doom attempt to take over.

Anyway, I discuss Fantastic Four in the ScreenPicks podcast, along with other openers this weekend, including Ricki and the Flash and Dark Places.

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