Not so fantastic
– They say every dud has its day (really, they do), and in the Marvel film catalog, and the not-so-“Fantastic Four” is the one that will be remembered as the nadir for superhero films. Just when the summer was swimming along with one well-executed blockbuster after another—MAD MAX:FURY ROAD, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, JURASSIC WORLD, INSIDE OUT, ANT-MAN, MI: ROGUE NATION—along long comes a film that turns out to be as bad as the rumors suggested.
Perhaps the curse lies with the franchise itself. Was anyone actually clamoring for a re-imaging after the already forgotten 2005 and 2007 installments? Is Marvel really at fault for even trying to restore the good name to the first superhero team created (in 1961) by legendary writer-editor Stan Lee?
Whatever the reasons, “Fantastic Four” commits the cardinal sin for any action film: It’s not fun. While origin stories are an integral part of great superhero movies, without one you can’t, in fact, have a great superhero movie franchise, “Fantastic Four” goes overboard with a narrative that is 80% back story and contains almost no action sequences. This glaring defect is particularly disappointing because even though the cast members are a little too young for their roles as originally depicted in the comic books, they are good-looking and with obviously talented.
Reed Richards and Ben Grim (Miles Teller and Jamie Bell) are childhood friends in Long Island, and Richards has a rare proclivity for science. When visiting scientist Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) takes notice, he offers the high school student a full scholarship to Baxter University. There Reed will meet other young scientists, including Storm’s adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) and Storm’s non-adoptive son, the crafty but rebellious Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). Cyber hipster and brooding former Storm student Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) is also recruited and the team is charged with building a teleportation device that will take them to an alternate universe.
While all films of this genre require some suspension of disbelief, the science here is boldly suspect—witness only one successful trial of a chimpanzee before it is deemed safe for humans to board. Eschewing the mission’s transfer to NASA jurisdiction, our young heroes decide to take the first teleportation journey. Thus begins the disaster on the green-energy producing “Planet Zero,” but which has an upside: everyone comes away with superpowers, leading to the birth of “The Fantastic Four.” This includes Victor, who will eventually use his powers for villainy, as Dr. Doom.
“Fantastic Four” might satiate the curiosity of die-hard fans who will find interest in how this re-boot combines two comic-book series, but compared to recent superhero films, this film pales. Those new to the franchise will likely be bored by the film’s lack of wit, excitement or visual stimuli.
Director Josh Trank (the excellent “Chronicle”) has already pointed the blame at 20th Century Fox for not letting him make the movie he wanted, while early reviews of “Fantastic Four” are putting this in the “Cat-woman” and “Daredevil” level of filmdom ignominy.
“Fantastic Four” is not unwatchable by any means – the cast, with better material, could have soared. But as important as this series is to the Marvel legacy, it deserved a much better adaptation. Three failed film attempts is three strikes and maybe that means no more “Four.”
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief nudity.
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