|'Whoever signed off on the film's final cut suddenly realises there is far too little time to do everything needed to satisfyingly conclude the story, but goes ahead with trying to squash it all in anyway no matter how much damage it causes'.|
When a film receives such a comprehensive critical mauling as that suffered by Josh Trank's rebooted Fantastic Four, perversely this can in time end up working in its favour. The subsequent lowering of any expectation to virtually zero can often allow the second wave of opinion to feel a lot more favourable than the first. It's quite possible that Trank's film has already benefited from such an effect, as on first inspection Fantastic Four is not the cinematic multi-car pile-up many have condemned it as.
Indeed, for the first half, Trank presents the set-up for a perfectly acceptable if somewhat unremarkable comic book adaptation. As with the post-First Class entries into the X-Men franchise - the other Marvel franchise still under Fox's control - the film takes a somewhat grittier approach to establishing the titular tetrad than Tim Story's colourful and cartoonish brace of features released a decade or so ago. Following Fantastic Four's poor reception, it's a tone that has in hindsight unfairly been labelled as dull. But it's hard not to think that, had Trank's film been more positively received overall, his more grounded approach would have been praised, being as it is not all that far removed from the feel of his debut feature Chronicle.
The casting also work in Trank's favour. Miles Teller as Reed Richards proves his credentials as one of the most consistent members of the current crop of young leading men, and whilst the rest of Fantastic Four's central figures lack the same level of development, having other reliable young talents as Michael B. Jordan and Toby Kebbell in the roles helps a great deal.
The narrative initially feels unhurried, spending around half of the film's one hundred minutes building to the point at which the eponymous Four become Fantastic. Unfortunately, things begin to unravel alarmingly quickly and drastically from this point onwards. It's almost as if Trank (or, if you believe the director's post-release comments, whoever signed off on the film's final cut) suddenly realises there is far too little time to do everything needed to satisfyingly conclude the story, but goes ahead with trying to squash it all in anyway no matter how much damage it causes to Fantastic Four as a whole. Plot points are lazily skimmed over, characters behave with neither sense nor explanation behind their actions, and the script steadily becomes one big exposition dump after another.
The film's gravest error during its woeful second half, however, is the treatment of Victor Von Doom (Kebbell), hurriedly reintroduced to the narrative as a villain devoid of any credible motivation or indeed interest and undoing any good work from Kebbell seen earlier. Most frustrating of all is the fact that Doom's return is entirely unnecessary. Instead of clumsily cramming the character into the final twenty minutes of Fantastic Four, why not tease his return and save him for the sequel? A decision such as this may have gone some way to rescuing both Trank's film, and the aforementioned sequel from its current position firmly on the scrapheap.