REVIEW: Fantastic Four

5 08 2015

Fantastic FourIn an world where comic book adaptations are becoming bigger and louder, “Fantastic Four” stands out.  Somehow, it manages to turn exciting material – which worked just fine a decade ago, I might add – into a dull movie that arrives stillborn and never gains a pulse.

Despite a cast of rising stars whose accomplishments and skills easily outweigh their counterparts in the 2005 iteration, writer/director Josh Trank never lets them achieve liftoff.  Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell are all better actors than “Fantastic Four” lets them be.  Every scene plays out like they were each slipped an Ambien right before the camera started rolling, inhibiting chemistry and numbing emotion.

Their energy would have served as a necessary component to make the film pass as even remotely serviceable.  Trank, working with frequent “X-Men” writer Simon Kinberg as well as Jeremy Slater, essentially stretches the plot of a typical Marvel first act to feature length.  What should take about 20-30 minutes plays out over 100 minutes in “Fantastic Four,” and the pace feels appropriately molasses-like.  Trank’s big climax would function as a precipitating event in a normal film.

Apparently no one at Fox paid attention to the cratering of fellow Marvel property “Spider-Man” when Sony rebooted it in 2012.  The diminishing returns of that franchise are largely attributable to the fact that audiences do not want to sit through a slightly altered retread of a story they liked just fine ten years ago.  “Fantastic Four,” like “The Amazing Spider-Man,” returns to the tale of heroic origins to issue a slight corrective that will eventually set the series on a different course.

There is simply too much vying for audiences’ attention, not only on the silver screen but also on televisions, tablets, and mobile devices.  If the creative minds that be want to do something new with familiar material, they had better go ahead and do it.  No one wants to wait around for them to get their act together as they rejuvenate it.  So, naturally, “Fantastic Four” inspires listlessness as it makes us consciously realize the drain on our time as it slips away from us.  D1star

REVIEW: Chronicle

13 12 2012

Oh, found footage movies, whatever are we going to do with you?  With every new movie, you seem to reinvent your own rules.  Everyone just has to be an iconoclast, I suppose.

In “Chronicle,” the story of three teenagers magically endowed with superpowers, the camera begins as a small handheld camera documenting the mundane happenings of life.  But then the perspective widens. By the climactic fight scene, we are taking it in from every lens possible, be it a police car or a building security camera.

In a way, it makes sense for the number of cameras to grow as the magnitude of these three high schoolers’ decisions with their powers begins to affect people beyond the personal scale.  In a movie like “Project X,” the action never really expands to such a wide scope, and it feels a little odd when the cameras begin to act as such.  Yet even with a relatively justifiable reason to switch up the shooting style, “Chronicle” widens its lens at the expense of some of the intimacy that the found footage subgenre is designed to provide.  And as such, it loses the punch of an “End of Watch” or “Paranormal Activity.”

But in terms of pushing the form beyond a single camera, I don’t think anyone has done it better than director Josh Trank.  His “Chronicle” doesn’t hide behind the format as a front for lazy filmmaking.  He uses the camera to provide a naturalistic portrait of high schoolers struggling with their issues, just on an extremely heightened scale.  With close-ups and tight framing, Trank is able to pierce the psyche.

Trank is also fortunate to not only have the camera as his only weapon.  “Chronicle” also features a thoughtful screenplay by Max Landis that resists mere surface-level discussions and childish gimmickry.  He manages to make the relationships feel authentic and the events feel real even when they delve into the realm of the fantastic.

Much of the success of the film can also be credited to the trio of young actors, Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan, who establish relationships that we feel extend far beyond what we see on the screen.  They make the film feel as if we just happened to stumble into their friendship on any ordinary day … and then it just happens to turn extraordinary.  B2halfstars