Cinematic Releases: Fantastic Four (2015)

It can't be that bad, can it?

"Hey, Sue. Do you see the plot over there somewhere?"
"I'm sorry, what? I wasn't paying attention."

In my lifetime, I don't think I've ever been through an hour and forty-six minutes of anything that felt this unproductive. I could have been pulling weeds, paying bills, or just staring at my wall for two hours and come away satisfied that I had accomplished something or gained some kind of inner enlightenment. That's one whole hour and forty-six minutes I have shaved off of my life that could have been spent doing any of those things. Fantastic Four (2015) spends nearly its entire running time doing... well, I don't know, really. It was one of the strangest movie-going experiences I ever had. It felt like listening to a dementia patient rambling in circles about something vaguely interesting, and you're trying--out of respect for the patient and everything she's been through--you're honestly trying to give her your fullest attention, but nothing comes out except slow mumbles and drooling. Then they wheel her off before she gets to any kind of conclusion and you're just sitting there wondering if there really is a meaning to life. The film had something, there was really something there, but I can't even tell you what that is. At least I... think... there was something there, right?

What happened to this film? What happened to Josh Trank? The entire cast and crew seemed to be operating on a slow drip of sedatives. I have to imagine the cast is tied up in a producer's basement somewhere, ball-gagged, and despondent. The convincing cyborgs they've been replaced with were programmed with a rudimentary concept of speech and emotion just good enough to finish production. This is the best answer I can come up with as to where in the hell $120 million went. Seriously. Where did it all go? 90% of the film is spent in laboratories, and monochrome corridors. This is no exaggeration. My memories of the film playback to me like looking out the window of a moving subway train. Just a lot of black, gray, and metal looking things like pipes, dark walls, maybe some electrical boxes, and white neon lights. The film spends so much of its time developing almost nothing at all that by the time anything remotely cool starts to happen, you've been dulled to a numb feeling of who gives a shit?

"Sup? I'm Dr. Doom, but I can only 
stay for like 10 minutes."
When the final--excuse me--only major sense of conflict starts to come to fruition, it's over. Fantastic Four is an almost two hour single act film with no resolve or payoff. When it felt like it was about to end, I was like, nah, this isn't how it ends, right? The rug is going to be pulled from under us, they'll surprise us with one last setpiece, and we'll at least get a real ending to this thing. And... no. They wiped the drool from its face, spun it around in its wheelchair, and rolled it back into its sad room of mediocrity.

I feel so sorry for the gobs of talented actors they baited into this useless project. There's no heart to the story. No chemistry between the actors. No passion on display. Most importantly, no fun. I think Trank might have wanted to make a dramatic, Nolanized version of Fantastic Four, but someone (or everyone) in this production, maybe Trank himself, played everything way too safe. It barely dips its toes in some darker themes, pathetically attempts to shoehorn in a sense of family and snooze-worthy comic relief, scarcely has any action, and has what can not be a categorically legitimate story arc. It's more like a story plateau. It reaches its pathetically low high point early in the film and proceeds to drag us slowly across a barren dusty plain, then carelessly tosses us off the other end. There! That's your Fantastic Four movie! Thanks for your time! The cinematography is serviceable at best, the score forgettable, the acting robotic, the story uneventful, the humor flaccid, and the visual effects tired and uninspired. What makes this so bizarre is that not one element is inherently bad on its own. They've somehow managed to perfect mediocrity with such surgical, masterful precision that I'm legitimately amazed by it, mind-blown. 

To try wrapping your mind around it is futile at best, questionably psychotic at worst. Upon leaving the theater, I couldn't find the words to describe what I had just seen. As if the words hadn't been invented yet or my brain forgot all of them. I felt like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, somehow incapable of averting my eyes from the screen, while medical staff watched from the projection booth in hopes that this cruel experiment will warp me into never wanting to see another super-hero movie again. Fantastic Four has left me empty inside, comatose. I'm not sure I was the same person I went into the theater as. I'm not sure who my family is. Or how long I've been gone for. Did I miss Batman V Superman? Have I died?


- J.G. Barnes

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