Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fantastic Reboot

I'm glad that Twentieth Century Fox gave Fantastic Four (2015) another try, after it bombed the last time. As I've said before, I'm a big FF fan - they might be my favorite strip (until little Franklin came into his powers). I actually really liked the last two, which everyone else hated. Well, everyone hated this one and I kind of agree.

It starts very slow, with Reed Richards as a science fair kid, and Ben Grimm as his skinny little friend. OK, first point: of course Reeds Richards was a child genius, but Grimm was a jock - the transformation is supposed to strengthen existing characteristics, not opposite ones. Anyway, this seems to go on forever, and it's not that interesting.

Eventually, Reed gets recruited by the Baxter Foundation for graduate work. He is now played by Miles Teller, and looks quite nerdy. Now, my idea of Reed Richards is soap-opera handsome, with silver hair at the temples. But, OK, maybe it makes more sense for him to be less photogenic. The foundation is run by Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), whose adopted daughter is Kate Mara. Her "characterization" is that she spends a lot of time under headphones - how does that relate to the power of invisibility?

Her brother Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan from Chronicle, also directed by Josh Trank) is a hotshot streetracer and rebel. When Director Storm brings him in on the project, he bonds immediately with Reed, which is kind of sweet, but there is nothing to motivate it. Still, I think I liked him best of all.

I didn't mention the project, which is a dimensional transporter, and it was started by Victor von Doom, not a Latverian aristocratic, but an American hacker (Toby Kebbel). This does not make him more interesting.

And what about Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell)? Oh, he gets left out of this part of the movie - He doesn't get called in until it is time to try out the transporter. And then Sue gets left behind.

The movie is more than half over, and they are just now getting their powers. In an uninspired turn of events, the army plans to use them as weapons (dear scriptwriters, the Fantastic Four are not the Hulk nor Ant-man). So Reed escapes and goes to live in the same hideout Bruce Banner used, while Ben sulks and skulks in the corner. The reason turns out to be: he has become a not-very convince CGI monster with no pants, and hardly any hips. It all ends up - SPOILER - with a big fight with Dr. Doom (did he ever even get a doctorate in this movie). The transformed Doom's design is very silly, a leather mask with a zipper mouth and glo-stick fluid highlights.

But I have to say, other than the extremely misguided character development and casting, and the wrong-headed plotting, this wasn't so bad. I actually enjoyed it more than, say, Man of Steel, another movie characterized by a dark and dingy tone. I thought the Storms were interesting, especially the casting of Franklin and Johnny as black and adopted Sue as white. Remaking Reed as more authentically nerdy was a nice touch - I always felt that his style was hubristically sure of his genius, but unsure of himself as well. Jamie Bell was just wasted as Ben Grimm, but all in all, I didn't hate this movie.

But I prefer the last two.

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