John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Fantastic Four Movie Poster

Fantastic Four

Genre: Action and Adventure

Director: Josh Trank

Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: August 7th, 2015

There are some shows that succeed right out of the gates— leading audiences to question why they’ve never seen a production like them before. Scream Queens is one of those shows. Ryan Murphy, patient who created the show alongside Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk, pharm seems to have combined the two genres he has excelled in (horror and comedy) into a delicious mix of maliciousness, viagra sale mayhem and murder.

The new Fox show is a playful mix of Mean Girls and Scream. The cast is led by Emma Roberts, who plays Chanel #1 on the show. Yes, she is so vain that her best friends—who she refers to her as minions— go by Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin). Don’t ask what happened to Chanel #4.

Chanel #1 is the leader of a college sorority house for Kappa Kappa Tau. She is nasty. She is vicious. And she is one of the most over-the-top (in a good way) villains you’ll see on television this year. Roberts delivers all of her lines in such a vicious cruel way that it’s hard not to be impressed that she kept a straight face during filming.

When an eclectic group of students show up at her sorority house as possible pledges, Chanel is excited to trash their looks, their lifestyles and their lives but unfortunately for her, there’s been a major administrative change. The Dean of students— played tongue-in-cheek by scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis— has mandated that Kappa Kappa Tau accept all of the wannabe pledges.

That seems to be a bigger tragedy for the Chanels than the fact that people start getting murdered around them one by one. Some of the murders are accidents but otherwise seem to be the work of a serial killer who walks around wearing a devil mask.

In this horror-comedy mash-up, the focus seems to be more on the comedy side of things. The biting wit seems reminiscent of Sue Sylvester’s best one-liners from the early seasons of Glee with most of the show’s best one-liners belonging to Roberts. Murphy though fills his quirky world of misfits and monsters with a few hilarious supporting characters, including a Taylor Swift wannabe and a candle vlogger.

Unlike the Scream television series that premiered this summer, the murders here are treated less like actual homicides and more like inconveniences for some of the main characters. Death can be such a drag. When characters are accidentally killed in the first episode, there is little talk about the victims’ family or friends. There’s only talk about how this changes the social order of things or how much of a pain getting rid of a dead body is.

Despite its morbid focus, the two hour premiere of Scream Queens is one of the funniest pilots I’ve ever seen. The cast— especially Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis— are brilliant as rivals who actively despise each other. “I hate sororities and I hate you,” Jamie Lee Curtis says without a tone of irony in her voice. The acerbic wit of the two women is one of the show’s highlights as both actors remain nonplussed even when their attacks on one another are deliciously over the top.

Rounding out the cast are a great group of supporting players who manage to stand out, even in a show that Roberts and Lee Curtis clearly dominate. As two “bros” who have an open bromance with one another, Glen Powell –who dates Chanel #1 only when it improves his social standing– and Nick Jonas are fun to watch (although both are given limited screen time in the pilot). As some of her Chanel’s sisters, Lea Michele (coming off Murphy’s Glee), Keke Palmer and Nasim Pedrad are also incredible supporting players, who manage to create quirky characters with limited screen time.

It’s definitely going to be tricky for Murphy to maintain the momentum that he creates in the fantastic two hour series premiere. The pilot is a fun, exuberant and fresh piece of work but if the show can maintain this level of quality throughout the season, it could become one of the best shows of the year.
“The failures of my generation are the opportunities of yours, information pills
” states Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey)  in the new film Fantastic Four. If only such opportunities were seized.

Ten years ago, the critically-lambasted film Fantastic Four arrived in theaters starring Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis. Although the movie did well at the box office, critics lambasted it. A decade (and one unfortunate sequel named The Rise of the Silver Surfer) later, the 2015 Fantastic Four  had the opportunity to restart the franchise but instead of using that opportunity, the filmmakers behind it botched it, creating— what once seemed impossible— an even more creatively-inept film.

Director Josh Trank took the helms of the new franchise after his successful low-budget superhero movie Chronicle showed what he was capable of. With such a great young director and a strong cast that included Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, it looked like this film could be the launching pad this franchise truly deserved.

Instead, this reboot flounders under a script credited to Trank, Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg. The opening scenes offer promise— introducing Reed as a nerdy elementary school student who is trying to create a device that would transport matter from one location to another. But as the characters grow up, the charm dissipates.

It’s soon enough though Reed (now played by Teller) has grown up and made his dreams of moving objects through space come true. When a drunken mission to another dimension backfires though, a quartet of young people realize that they have gained superhero powers. Reed can stretch his body beyond imagination. His friend Ben (Bell) has turned into a rock-shaped formation with incredible strength. Sue (Mara) can make things invisible while Johnny Storm (Jordan) has the power of fire built within his bones. The power they all lack though: personality.

Normally, these four actors would display their usual charisma and charm onscreen but here they are trapped in a by the numbers production. The actors are given characters to play who lack any interesting qualities. Reed is smart. Johnny is a rebel. Sue’s character is given so little to do here that the only personality trait I remember her having is that she likes to listen to music when she works. That’s it.

Teller, who was previously charming even in his worst movies, can’t manage to wring even a few smiles out of his performance as Reed. Late in the film, the fantastic four is tasked with taking on Dr. Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), a scientist who gained powers himself during the botched mission and believes that the Earth isn’t worth saving. In the clichéd climax, Teller is left with the thankless role of noting that Dr. Doom is stronger than any one of them but he sure isn’t as strong as the four of them.

Well, this movie isn’t strong enough for any of the actors to leave it unscathed.

From the poor special effects to the awkward expositional dialogue to the lame villain, the Fantastic Four is an abysmal reimagining of these characters. Because Marvel’s formula has worked so long (to varying degrees of success), it’s sometimes hard to remember what terrible superhero movies looked like. Well, here you have one. This is a mess of a motion picture.

When Johnny Storm, who starts training for the military halfway through the movie, notes “We should use these powers to do something,” the sentiment feels honest enough. But instead of using this story to build something unique and interesting, the filmmakers settled for the lowest form of entertainment they could find.

This was a missed opportunity indeed.

Review by: John Hanlon