In Cinemas Now

Fantastic Four

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 100 minutes approx

Reed Richards - Miles Teller
Sue Storm - Kate Mara
Johnny Storm - Michael B Jordan
Ben Grimm - Jamie Bell
Victor Von Doom - Tony Kebbell
Franklin Storm - Richard E Cathey
Doctor Allen - Tim Blake Nelson

Directed by Josh Trank
Written by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinsberg & Josh Trank


Reed Richards is smart, the kind of smart that solves the problems of interdimensional travel whilst still at high school. He then joins the Baxter Institute where he meets Sue Storm, Victor Von Doom and Johnny Storm, all as smart as he is. Together, they make a trip to the world on the other side of the dimensional portal a reality, but it is a reality that will leave Reed, Johnny, Sue and Reed's childhood friend Ben Grimm with life-altering changes, such as being invisible, super stretchy, able to generate forcefields and become a human torch. Handy traits to have around when the future of the Earth is unexpectedly put in doubt.

Back in 2005 and 2007 the films FANTASTIC FOUR and FANTASTIC FOUR:RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER appeared. Though derided by comic book fans, they were bright and shallow, but more importantly they were fun. With the likes of Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis and Jessica Alba in the blue lycra suits, they had identifiable characters who were entertaining to be around and did entertaining things, often in highly destructive ways.

Only eight years after the second film, the franchise has been rebooted to ride on the coat tails of the incredible success that Marvel Studios has been having with all its comic book franchises. A new gritty look, four new young faces and a whole new origin story and the money will be rolling in. What could go wrong?

As it happens, quite a lot. What was once a simple radiation storm in space has now become a trip to a whole new dimension, a whole new reality, and the task of getting there in order to give the four their powers takes up most of the movie. The four don't get fantastic for ages and then they don't do anything fantastic for ages after.

That's OK, though because this is a film about the characters. Except that there are no characters. Reed Richards is a paper-thin sketch of a naive science geek and Miles Teller fails utterly to give the character any depth at all. Not only is he not the beating heart of the team, holding things together, but he goes missing for a chunk of the middle act. Kate Mara manages to make some impact as Sue Storm, but Jamie Bell's role as Ben Grimm is so underwritten as to be not worth the time he took to show up and deliver his lines. Michael B Gordon and Tony Kebbell are equally forgettable as Johnny Storm and Victor Von Doom.

Still, we can always get by on the sheer spectacle. Michael Bay has made a directing career out of no substance, but tons of destruction filming. Sadly, FANTASTIC FOUR fails there even more utterly than on the character level. The scenes in the alternative dimension are nicely done and give a few moments' action, but once fantastic, the heroes are called upon to do precious little on screen until right at the end and when the big punch-up finally arrives it's over before you've even realised that it's started.

FANTASTIC FOUR is perhaps not the trainwreck that its 3.9 rating on imdb or 8% on rotten tomatoes (at the time of reviewing) might suggest, but to label it as disappointing would be to understate the case significantly and, whilst never boring, it is a particularly joyless experience. Compared with the output of Marvel Studios, it is clear that the makers here just don't get what comic book movies are all about.

Expect another reboot in a few years.






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