Saturday, August 15, 2015

In theatres: Fantastic Four (2015)

11 years ago, acclaimed writers Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Millar sought to create, or, actually, recreate Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's seminal super-team, The Fantastic Four. Bendis & Millar lasted just six issues on the book, but their initial story is part of the framework of Tim Story's 2005 adaptation as well as Josh Trank's version. What Bendis & Millar sought to do was update the classic origin story for a new, more contemporary audience, substituting dimensional travel for stealing a rocket bound for the stars.

In their vision, Reed Richards is a child genius who, by the 5th grade, had already developed a teleportation device. It gets him laughed out of class. Ben Grimm is Reed's best friend, but in the books, they had a mutually beneficial partnership. Ben would be Reed's bodyguard, protecting the boy scientist from bullies, whilst Reed served as Ben's math tutor, suggesting that Ben wasn't as bright as the more traditional version.

The experiment that unfolded in the book takes place in the movie when Reed is presumably 19 instead of 21. He'd been disqualified from a science fair because of a disbelieving teacher who thought Reed and Ben were attempting magic. Oh, that would be a bad omen, wouldn't it, now?

Undaunted, Reed (Miles Teller) is offered a scholarship from the Baxter Foundation by Dr. Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter, Sue. Son Johnny is a bit of a rebel, preferring to race cars, specifically in a game of chicken in one case. What Dr. Storm discovers is that Reed has unwittingly created the final piece of a project started by another prodigy, Victor Von Doom.

One night, Reed, Victor, Johnny, & Ben use the teleporter to enter another dimension. Sue is left behind, but discovers their covert operations too late to stop them. When she brings them back, the results create the familiar personae........!

So, then, where did Trank and co-authors Simon Kinberg & Jeremy Slater ("X-Men: Days of Future Past") go wrong? If you believe Trank, per a since deleted tweet issued on the film's opening day, Fox suits got in the way. "Fantastic Four" clocks in at a relatively speedy 100 minutes as opposed to the 2005 version, though the movie does actually drag in spots. Trank had been hot off his debut effort, "Chronicle", three years ago, but he'd lost out on an opportunity to direct a pending "Star Wars" movie due to some "issues", if you will.

The problem is two-fold. On one hand, Trank, Slater, & Kinberg updated Millar & Bendis' original story, pushing things forward by a few years in order to fit it into the present time, which is understandable, but there are holes in the plot. Particularly, the need to obsess with details over how the team came together in the first place. I get the idea of appealing to the casual moviegoer, but this is filed under too much information.

The other problem is the performances of the cast. Jamie Bell (Turn: Washington's Spies) and Teller lack charismatic screen presence. Kate Mara gave an interview several months back stating that Trank didn't want the cast researching their roles, if you will, by referencing the source material. She & Michael B. Jordan ("Chronicle") did the best they could with the script they were given, but that's really about the best way to describe it. Of course, Ms. Mara, one of the heiresses (with sister Rooney) to the New York Football Giants franchise, could light up a room just by being there.

Millar had a hand in the production of the film. Bendis didn't. Big difference.

The following trailer has some scenes that looked like they were edited out of the final product:

Like, couldn't they have given The Thing pants?

Other trailers:

"Deadpool" (February): Ryan Reynolds toplines a spin-off from 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" as the "Merc With a Mouth", Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, who is now nothing more than a mutant court jester at Marvel.

"No Escape" (Aug. 26): Owen Wilson and Lake Bell in a thriller, the teaser of which doesn't tell us much.

"The Martian" (December): Matt Damon & Jeff Daniels in a Ridley Scott sci-fi epic.

"Point Break": A reimagining of Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 action film. The original starred Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze. This edition? As they say in the carnival, you pay your money, you take your chances.

"The Last Witch Hunter" (fall): Vin Diesel and Michael Caine star.

We've previously talked about trailers for "Everest" & "Goosebumps".

"Fantastic Four" gets a C--.

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