"Fantastic Four" Review: Good Until Third Act

Fantastic Four

I tend to skip reading reviews for films that I’m going to see, but I couldn’t help myself with “Fantastic Four.” I read both of the negative reviews from Hollywood Reporter and Variety. I also read on HitFix how Miles Teller, the star of the film, was expecting it to tank on Rotten Tomatoes. It did: a couple of days ago, the Tomatometer was in the low teens with a dozen reviews, even though there’s an embargo until the film opens.

Before the early reviews, there were also reports of erratic behavior from director Josh Trank during the shooting of the film, which eventually prompted Disney to yank him from directing the forthcoming Star Wars VIII.

On top of that, the screening I went to was media only, which is rare in Sacramento. Tentpoles like “Fantastic Four” are usually promotional screenings filled with fans the studios hope would later spread the word. Their absence is an indication that the studio wanted to curtail the potential bad word-of-mouth.

Before the film started, I tried to empty all of that from my mind and give it the benefit of the doubt.

And for the majority of the film, it works. I was engaged and invested in the characters, as they come together to build a teleportation device that can take them to another planet. I like the little touches. When these characters finally arrived at Planet Zero, the other planet in another dimension or alternate universe, one of them looks at the ground and picks up sand and small pebbles, which is like what we see from the images of Mars taken by the Curiosity rover; despite being a distant planet, it’s still made of the same materials we find here on Earth. Like Devin Faraci wrote on Birth.Movies.Death, it’s “a cracking good science fiction movie.”

For much of the film, all the way to the point when they got their superpowers, it’s grounded in reality. It’s the Chris Nolan Batman approach to telling a superhero story. “Fantastic Four” is also just as dark and serious, too, but not as foreboding and menacing.

After seeing the quartet of superheroes in complete shock, pain, and misery when they got their superpowers -- something not often seen in these movies which makes this an interesting moment -- the Oscar music suddenly comes on, and everyone involved in the film quickly does whatever they can to end the film. That mad rush resulted in yet another end-of-the-world, mass destruction, CG-fest that’s pretty weak. You don’t even get good mass mayhem, you just get five guys throwing extraterrestrial rocks at each other in another planet -- like watching little kids throwing sand at each other in a playground. Weak stuff.

The problem with a film with a slow and long buildup is it’s got to pay off in the end; otherwise, all of it is for naught. “Fantastic Four” doesn’t pay off in the end, far from it.

In terms of box office, this version doesn’t appeal to anyone. Those looking for action and fun will be bored because there’s not much of it, except for what’s already shown in the trailer. And those looking for a different take on this franchise will be let down by the ending.

This might be the first film in the franchise to not gross $100M by the end of its run. I see it opening big on Friday, dropping steeply on Saturday, and ending the weekend with less than $40M. Then disappear from theaters in a couple of weeks.

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