Filmmakers have successfully aped Christopher Nolan’s blueprint for nihilistic, downtrodden superheroes so many times (and with relative ease), it’s tempting to fall into a repetitive trap. So, FOX must have felt assured when they brought in indie darling Josh Trank to essentially ape Bryan Singer’s style and the first X-MEN movie specifically. If they wanted a Bryan Singer movie, why not get Singer to make it? The result is a well-cast group of actors, all dressed up with nothing to do.
Fantastic Four stars off with a really captivating prologue. We meet Reed Richard as a schoolboy giving a lecture on teleportation. His classmates scoff and his teacher is indifferent but, Ben Grimes listens intently. That night Ben catches Richards attempting to steal a power converter off the junkyard lorded over by the Grimes. The boys make a pact to try the experiment together. These opening moments raised my hopes that the negative buzz was just fan-boy blowback. This sequence plays like something from the Explorers or the Spielberg-universe circa 1982. Then the movie jumps to the present and everything goes down hill, rapidly.
The teenage version of Reed (Miles Teller) is still palling around with Ben (Jamie Bell) as they continue to toil away on their device. After catching the eye of Franklin Baxter at a science fair, Reed is recruit as a student to work on special projects deep within the Baxter Institute. It’s there he meets Franklin’s children, Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan). Also present is Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, an egotistical scientist with a dislike for Richards and a crush on Sue.
In a series of scenes that range from silly to interesting and then outright bad, the four youngsters are teleported to another universe. Their visit to the outer dimension curses them with shocking transformations to their physical form. Reed becomes able to stretch and contort his limbs, Johnny can burn as hot as the sun, Sue becomes invisible and Ben gains rock-like skin and massive strength. Now, banded together through their cosmic mishap the ‘Fantastic Four’ must use their newly acquired abilities and physical attributes to prevent Doctor Doom from destroying the Earth.
The much publicized battles between director Trank and the studio aside, this is a dour unimaginative retelling that comes off as television level (Gotham is doing this stuff weekly on Fox TV). The cast seems up for the task but are straddled with a story that is slow-moving and then alternately quick to wrap up. I guess, my favorite thing about Fantastic Four is the relatively brief 100 minute running-time.
Director: Josh Trank
Stars: Miles Teller, Jaime Bell, Michael B. Jordan