Film review: Fantastic Four is an unmitigated disaster that threatens franchise’s future

Josh Trank's reboot of Marvel's Fantastic Four hits cinemas this weekend. Can it really be as bad as everyone says?

The Fantastic Four’s Thing takes a swing, but there’s no saving this superhero flop. Twentieth Century Fox via AP
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Fantastic Four

Director: Josh Trank

Starring: Miles Teller, Michael B Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell

1 star

It's something of a poisoned chalice to review the Fantastic Four reboot a week after it opened in US cinemas and attracted some of the worst reviews of any recent blockbuster movie.

Just like you should never kick an injured puppy – or a healthy one, for that matter – you actually find yourself desperately hoping to find some positives in a movie that has already been roundly booted all over the international press. Can it really be that bad? The answer is a resounding “yes”.

There may be some mitigating factors for director Josh Trank (Chronicle), who famously went on a since-deleted Twitter diatribe slating the movie on the eve of its US release. For more on the behind-the-scenes production problems that reportedly plagued the film, see our story elsewhere on these pages – but it's notable that insiders have said Trank was removed from the editing suite by the studio before he had a chance to work on the final act, which was completed in his absence.

This would explain why it is so utterly out of step with everything that had gone before.

Watching the film, though, you can’t help thinking that Fox, which is said to have removed three massive action sequences from the script shortly before filming began, may have been right to cut its losses on a rapidly tanking (could “Tranking” become a new word for blockbuster movies that flop spectacularly?) project that still left it US$120million out of pocket.

The movie spends a good 70 minutes of its running time on an overblown origins story (no doubt with an eye on a now-unlikely-looking series of sequels), yet still somehow fails to establish any believable relationships between the central characters.

In fact, there is not even a comprehensible version of their back-stories – which is surely one of the main points of an origins story.

From the lack of any tangible evidence of a relationship between supposed childhood friends Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm/The Thing (Jamie Bell), to some poorly explained pseudoscientific guff involving interdimensional portals, the movie is a narrative disaster from the start.

It transforms two thirds of the way through the running time into a hastily arranged “save the world” scenario, with no real explanation of why, or how, the Four’s nemesis, Doctor Doom, was planning to destroy it in the first place. The plot makes increasingly little sense as it stumbles from one apparently unrelated scene to the next.

If anything good comes out of the disaster that is Fantastic Four, it will surely be that studios will learn that you can't just recycle, reboot and retell the origin of every comic-book superhero over and over again and expect audiences to lap it up and turn out in droves to buy tickets like compliant drones.

With Marvel's more successful Avengers-related films still going strong, along with Fox's expanding X-Men universe, and as DC Comics finally starts to ramp up production on its expanded shared universe of characters, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Lantern, comic-book movie adaptations do seem to be reaching critical mass.

We can only hope that the studios will at least check themselves in the wake of this cinematic disaster and ensure that their superhero movies reach at least basic levels of quality and competence.

They need to remember that, ultimately, a good movie is a good movie and a bad movie is a bad movie, regardless of which Marvel, DC or other banner is attached to it.