They crashed and burned in the 90s. They were laughed out of theaters in the 2000s. Now Marvel’s First Family is back for one last chance at a good movie.
Fantastic Four features the titular characters as they discover their powers and use them to save the world from Doctor Doom. Is it as fantastic as the title claim, or is it only mediocre? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? Miles Teller of Whiplash plays genius Reed Richards. Kate Mara of Transcendence plays Sue Storm. Her brother Johnny is played by Michael B. Jordan of Chronicle. Reed’s best friend Ben Grimm is brought to life by Jamie Bell of The Adventures of Tintin. And the villainous Victor Von Doom is played by Toby Kebbell of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
The director is Josh Trank, who achieved stardom for directing Chronicle, also a tale of teenagers gaining superpowers. Look for his style to be a little on the dark side, but as realistic as possible. He also helped write the script along with Simon Kinberg of X-Men: Days of Future Past and Sherlock Holmes, so I’m expecting some smart writing coming out of this film.
The trailer begins as Dr. Franklin Storm holds a meeting with some very powerful people who have given him “six years and millions of dollars” for no apparent return. They want to know what the difference is this time around. This time we won’t spend all your money at Comic Con. No, this time they have Reed Richards, who “knows the answers to questions we don’t even know to ask yet.” Questions like “Where does belly button lint really come from?”
Reed arrives at the soon-to-be-famous Baxter Building, where Dr. Storm tells him, “This is our chance to learn more about our planet and maybe even save it.” Since they’re working on interdimensional travel and journeying to places far away from our planet, I fail to see how that applies here. Storm introduces Reed to his daughter Sue, and it occurs to me that people went into a rage over Johnny Storm being cast as black, when in truth they really should have been upset about Sue being cast as white. Since Storm Sr. is African-American, she’s the odd one out, but I haven’t heard a peep about her. Double standards, anyone?
Anyway, Sue asks Reed if he wants to be famous, and Reed tells her, “I just want my work to make a difference.” One day, rush hour traffic will expand beyond the highways to become interdimensional. Johnny introduces himself, and the guy who will be Dr. Doom (is his name actually Victor Von Doom in real life, and if so, whose bright idea was it to bring in the guy with the obvious villain name?) says Johnny doesn’t take orders well. “Especially from people who say I don’t take orders well,” says Johnny. So the trick to getting Johnny’s obedience is to treat him like a mindless robot. Got it. Though I’m impressed by his car; from the foreshadowing flames coming out the tailpipe, it seems his atomic batteries are to power and his turbines are to speed.
Ben Grimm tells Reed not to let the scientists give him any trouble, and Reed says if they do, he’ll call in Ben as the muscle. Our hero, the guy who has his thugs beat up helpless lab technicians. Sue tells Reed it’s fun having him here, and then immediately takes it back. Stop sending out mixed messages, woman! The scientists and military officers gush over Reed’s teleporter while the audience cringes over his inability to fist-bump. The team suits up, and Ben asks if Johnny and Von Doom are in good enough shape to be taking on interdimensional travel. They both agree, and Johnny adjusts his seat in a bouncy way, which is supposed to make us question his aptitude because . . . whatever. I laughed.
The team of five takes off and teleports into an alternate dimension, which basically looks like your average volcanic landscape. It’s another dimension; you could have gotten a little more creative than that. Unfortunately, the mission blows up in their faces–literally. Dr. Storm asks where the kids are, and we see that they’re in some kind of military facility being monitored. According to the men in charge, four of the travelers survived (probably should have checked that fifth one out more carefully), but they’re changed. Reed is a real-life Stretch Armstrong, Johnny goes supernova, Sue turns see-through, and Ben becomes Rockbiter from The NeverEnding Story.
Reed isn’t happy with these changes. “I just want to fix my friends,” he says. You all have incredible powers now; you’re not broken! But Ben tells him, “You can’t fix this,” and I’m having a hard time picturing that soft voice shouting, “It’s clobberin’ time!” Johnny says they should use their powers to help people, and I’m surprised that the most carefree member of the team is the first person to come to that conclusion. We’re not all going to be mopey about our powers, are we? That went out of style in the 90s.
But Von Doom has survived after all, and tells them they can’t close the door they’ve opened, implying that the other dimension might be bleeding into this one. The screens tell us that something’s going down in Panama, and Von Doom warns us that, appropriately enough, doom is coming. We get a glimpse of his face, which has been scarred and metalized beyond recognition, and suddenly I’m feeling nostalgic for the old Dr. Doom mask.
As the action montage begins, we see a shockwave in New York, Johnny Storm “flaming on” down an air shaft and soaring over mountains, and Doctor Doom with his cape billowing out behind him and looking ninjawesome. Johnny attacks Sue for some reason, who uses her energy shield to protect herself from his fireball, Reed slingshots himself across a room, Ben shows off his new bulletproof body, and Dr. Storm tells his kids, “If you want to stop him, it’s going to take everything you have.” Good thing we went and got superpowers before taking him on, then. Sue cradles Johnny, Reed does some stretches, Sue and Johnny crash into a giant rock pillar (or that might be Doom and Johnny; not sure), and Ben pulls back his arm to clobber somebody.
And the trailer ends with Ben being dropped into a combat zone. It’s an awesome scene, but all I can think about is the plot point this brings up. Other trailers have confirmed that the military is seeking to weaponize the Fantastic Four, which is something we’ve only seen in every sci-fi movie including the military ever, even as recently as Jurassic World. Does the military in movies actually do anything besides weaponize scientific discoveries and conduct covert cover-ups? All I’m saying is I could have gone for something more original.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m cautiously optimistic, mainly because of the scenes of humor that make these guys really feel like a family. If they go too dark and brooding, we risk losing our ability to relate to them (though I understand the reaction to the more comedic FF movies of the past). I’ll miss the evil genius dictator Dr. Doom of the comics; I know they’re going for a more realistic take, but he’s one of the most iconic villains in Marvel canon. But the film has a talented cast and creative team, and I’m hoping they can come together to make something . . . fantastic.
Come on. You knew it was coming.
Fantastic Four is owned by 20th Century Fox.