Fantastic Four (Josh Trank, 2015)

While I’ve been able to successfully distance myself from superfluous behind-the-scenes nonsense, the production timeline for Fox’s latest attempt to reboot the Marvel staple was unfathomably spotty and downright laughable at times. With rumors running amok regarding writer/director Trank’s actual stamp on the film, sketchy last-minute re-shoots and an increasingly listless cast, this trainwreck seemed to epitomize everything unprofessional in the proverbial Hollywood machine that yielded the abortion of an end result we have before us. Yes, Fantastic Four is as bad as you’ve heard, and to be honest, its oppressive lack of quality does more than merely confirm suspicions.

I first aired my grievances about origins stories back when Man of Steel failed to reinvent the wheel that invariably kick-started the impending DC cinematic universe. The Fantastic Four – being just as long in the tooth as the Kryptonian himself – need not be subjected to the tragic re-imagining on display, no matter how earnest Trank was in his initial efforts to properly reboot the franchise. Everything laid out before us is mostly a lazy, subtly tweaked regurgitation of the team’s ill-acquired superpowers that exists in tandem with characterizations that run parallel to glaringly listless performances.

Even young Reed Richards, playing the typically misunderstood child prodigy, fails to sound interested in the pseudo-scientific nonsense he’s spouting off at regular intervals until VOILA! Comparably misunderstood teenage Reed (Miles Teller) and soft-spoken BFF Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) find salvation at a science fair of all places. Undying faith is bestowed upon Reed, drawn-out exposition ensues and inexcusable drunken dimension-hopping lands three-quarters (as in the gang’s NOT all here) of the team in hot water. Don’t worry, the Fantastic Fourth is still part of the picture, they’re just an unfortunate victim of stupidity-induced collateral damage.

For the squad’s inception a la booze-addled debauchery to even exist is insulting in its own right, however the proceedings exude an omnipresent dullness that irredeemably infects everything on display. Poor chemistry serves as an obvious detriment to the familial bond the four are famous for upholding, and the fact that all of the key players phone in their respective performances doesn’t help matters any. A discernible lack of clever or even marginally engaging dialogue and exchanges is even worse still, what with a palpable lack of general excitement failing to inject the slightest semblance of life into such a continuously floundering slog.

Words escape me as I consciously try to avoid malicious hyperbole, yet Fantastic Four deserves to be chided for how insultingly lackluster it is from start to finish. For Marvel to unceremoniously pull the comic from shelves adds the utmost insult to injury given the disaster we have before to us serving as the last rendition of the superheroes’ (now tarnished) legacy. Whether the planned sequel is or isn’t out of the question, the fact of the matter is – oppressive studio intervention aside – the powers-that-be need to do much more than merely reinvigorate this already spotty sect of the Fox-piloted Marvel canon. As a sloppy, unenthusiastic and entirely vapid trudge through the muck and mire that is all-encompassing cinematic lethargy, Fantastic Four is an especially poor excuse for a film of its type in an era of increasingly sink-or-swim uncertainty regarding the Marvel brand.

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