The Not Even Sort of Special Four

Fantastic Four wants to make discovery palpable again. It seeks out science, whirls through other dimensions, and plants an American flag on an alternate primordial Earth. People and chimps are projected into new realms and our Earth is altered when super humans appear. Discovery happens when people come together in pursuit of a single goal; as individuals we’re not as capable. That’s Fantastic Four speaking bluntly and with an admiration for human potential.

In some sense, this film is beaming with excitement, but is tonally wrecked by arduous emotional ties. No one developing Fantastic Four appeared to realize they were making a superhero yarn starring a stretchy person, rock monster, invisible psychic, and man on fire. Those tethers of discovery are warped by a near maniacal distrust in government – which leads to the Four working with the government. Weird.

Home studio Fox did not care. Expiring rights were powering Fantastic Four’s development as opposed to an inventive vision. The Four fail to become a full team until 83 minutes of a 92-minute movie. What comes before should be character and origins. That’s sort of what Fantastic Four is doing, casting Miles Teller as glasses-adorning science nerd Reed Richards, lured into a matter transporting program. Personality becomes something he is never allowed to show.

It’s nihilistic and ferocious in a way which dodges any sense of canon for a grisly finish of exploding heads and truncated Earthly mayhem.

Marvel is smart – they’ve disowned this muck. Their dynamic red and white logo doesn’t precede the opening frames. Fantastic Four avoids Marvel’s plucky spirit. Even if the genre’s humor is growing lanky and worn, it has spunk. Fantastic Four is moody, dirty, dour, and miserable. If Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel beaming with happiness and joy, Fantastic Four is symbolic of their aggravating depression. It’s nihilistic and ferocious in a way which dodges any sense of canon for a grisly finish of exploding heads and truncated Earthly mayhem. Fantastic Four proves incapable of feeling comfortable in its own skin – it wants out, much as with the trite, unfinished narrative arc of the film. The foursome merely want their freedoms through a cure.

Much of this film feels terrified of stepping forward. Fantastic Four appears fond of sitting in a dull, uneventful holding pattern which sucks up any of the potential excitement. A studio-bound editor sat somewhere trying desperately to avoid the inevitable heroic reveal which, when it comes, is not a grandiose celebration of comic book weirdness. Instead, Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and CG-clad Jamie Bell (finally) stand together in another dimension 80+ minutes in, as far apart from one other emotionally as they were in the beginning.

Integral to the Fantastic Four as characters is acceptance – being okay with differences, making the most out of what you are, even if that is “fantastically” unique. Here being different means being confined to rooms or being forced to hide out in a secluded forest until an inter-dimensional madmen opens a black hole. For what they were, the mid-2000 Fantastic Four films made the title heroes superstars. They were loved and appreciated by society at large for their unique qualities. The reboot reviles their existence, treating them like disabled animals in cages to serve an agenda of authoritative paranoia. What a travesty. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Great blacks @ 55:43

Great blacks @ 55:43

Cinematographer Matthew Jensen – who paired with director Josh Trank for the exceptional Chronicle – has little to do with this outwardly ugly movie. If Fantastic Four isn’t predictably gawking at CG landscapes, it’s sitting in steel rooms slathered in pale blues. Only a few frames of this movie escape the overwhelming color timing which dull any life in the presentation.

Depth is held by the black levels alone. They’re impressive. Shadows have weight and respect detail. Even with a muted contrast (again, except for a handful of shots), black levels are strengthened enough to give the visual side a bit of power.

Clean digital source material produces no impediment to fine detail. For the most part, facial definition is resolved. An all-digital Thing features some firm rock textures. Note that Kate Mara is smoothed over in a majority of her close-ups. The effect is distracting and creates a notable inconsistency while appearing sexist. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]

If there is any reason to partake in this near total disaster of a movie, it’s the audio mix which presents tremendous power from the outset. The LFE is used with spectacular frequency. Reed’s matter transporter creates a wonderful effect as it charges, starting with a low electrical hum and rising to a dominating jolt as it engages.

Without much in the way of action, Fantastic Four needs to rely on a swell of ambiance or channel tracking. A street race will push into each speaker as cars drift between positions. When inside the alternate dimension, eruptions occur throughout the soundfield under the dialog. When they turn prominent to a key scene, explosions fill the stage. Extra surrounds in this 7.1 mix are utilized with awesome frequency. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Fox no longer sends screeners, but did take the time to create a separate rental edition on which this review is based. That means there are no bonuses to consider, as if someone would rush out and buy this dud after a weekend viewing for the extras. Fox has clearly become oblivious in their marketing efforts. [xrr rating=0/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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