(Photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

Superhero Franchise Reboot Far from Fantastic

AUGUST 13, 2015

Jakarta. Is ten years too long to wait for a franchise reboot? We may quickly answer no, but in the case of the Fantastic Four, there were plenty of chances to make it better. After all, they are a beloved team of superheroes from Marvel Comics. In the previous two film adaptations by Twentieth Century Fox, the stories fell flat and mediocre at best. And even though it boasts characters with the most unique abilities — flying flame boy, invisible girl, man with stretchy body parts — computer-generated images failed to make the blockbuster look convincing and extravagant.

Dull and underwhelming were my memories of the previous Fantastic Four production starring Jessica Alba and Chris Evans. Unfortunately, the lack of well-guided creative developments in the new 2015 reboot by Josh Trank ("Chronicle") sinks the franchise even further down.

(Photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

In the script written by Trank, Jeremy Slater ("The Lazarus Effect") and Simon Kinberg ("X-Men: Days of Future Past," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "This Means War"), the story starts when little Reed Richards and Ben Grimm become buddies and together they build a prototype of a teleporter. As they grow up, Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) keep working on their machine and they eventually win the support of Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cather), director of the Baxter Foundation who is looking to sponsor young scientists.

In the Baxter laboratory, Reed and Ben are joined by Storm’s son Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan),  daughter Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and his reluctant mentee Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). After a successful experiment in sending an object to a parallel dimension called Planet Zero, top management of the foundation expresses the intention to hand over the project to NASA.

Feeling discouraged by this call, Reed, Ben, Johnny and Victor decide to send themselves to Planet Zero. After a life-threatening disturbance in the other dimension, Sue manages to bring them back to Earth. Unfortunately, strange substances from the planet have affected their DNA and left them with uncontrollable super powers. When Reed escapes government custody, he makes it his next mission to find the cure.

On paper, a story about a group of young scientists embarking on a journey to find a parallel dimension sounds like a promising premise. When Fox announced Trank as director for the Fantastic reboot, many were cheering for him. Trank's "Chronicle" was a memorable, low-cost superhero movie made in footage style featuring three boys who just wanted to have fun with their powers. Naturally, people expected the reboot to be something as fun, laid-back and well-put together, but on a bigger scale.

F4-30

The script is the biggest flaw in this movie. From portraying Reed and Ben's friendship to the making of evil antagonist, it seems to spend a significant amount of time presenting things that do not pay off in the end. Not only does it fail to build up viewers' interest in the final part, it also disregards the ensemble cast with proper material to work on. Filmmakers probably just expected the audience to believe things based on surface level — he said, she said — without actually investing enough time for spectators to feel sympathy toward the main characters.

Audience who are familiar with Teller's performances in "The Spectacular Now" or "Whiplash," or Mara in the Netflix series "House of Cards," will not be able to resist scratching their heads. Teller tried his best to cast his dorky charm and we find ourselves rooting for Reed, even though his experiments nearly kill the power supply for the entire neighborhood. Unfortunately, the script forgets Reed's  enthusiasm in science when it refuses to tell of his struggle as a fugitive obsessed with finding a cure for his friends.

Mara as Sue is left without any back story that warms up her relationship with the Storms. The dynamic between the three is practically invisible. We are left with nothing but Franklin's word to understand her existence in the story: she was adopted. Even Jordan, who was reliable as comic relief in "Chronicle," fails to do the same in "Fantastic Four," a role that was greatly embraced by Chris Evans in his pre-"Captain America" days.

"Chronicle" got away with low-cost visual effects because the story engaged viewers and the chemistry between the actors made the team appear fun and solid — even when something went wrong. "Fantastic Four" sadly has none of that.

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