Having already been battered with two unremarkable attempts in the past, the Fantastic Four series’ potential remains unharnessed by film, with the latest reboot featuring cheesy lines and clumsy pacing.
Miles Teller stars as Reed Richards, a shy boy genius who, with his friend Ben Grimm manages to create a teleportation device in his garage. At a high school science fair, the pair are spotted by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara). After it is revealed to them both that Reed’s machine actually teleports objects into another planet, Reed is enrolled at the Baxter Academy, a government-funded ‘college’ and think-tank for bright young scientists. Joined by Sue’s rebellious brother Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), the gang decide to test out the now-ready device to explore the new planet. The somewhat cranky planet, with its neon green gunge and barren landscape, ends up consuming Viktor, who becomes the notorious Dr. Doom, whilst Reed, Johnny and Ben Grimm (no girls allowed, apparently) barely escape with their newfound powers of Elastigirl-style limbs spontaneous combustion and rock armour, respectively. It’s now up to them (and Sue, who conveniently by exposure gains force field abilities) to stop Dr. Doom from destroying Earth.
The film’s slow pacing means that the group dynamic and character developments are given their due attention, with Mara and Jordan standing out as strong leaders of the pack. However it all seems to go a bit downhill when the characters actually become superheroes, since it’s pretty obvious what will happen between them and Dr. Doom, who seems to be given more off a horror angle instead of super villain, exploding people’s heads as he saunters round the Academy looking like an angry metal egg.
Loyal fans will appreciate the film’s serious tone, but competing against the self-deprecating humour trend from its competitors, Fantastic Four feels out of place and coupled with some weak plot labelling (‘He’s going to destroy the world!’ Reed helpfully points out as a giant black hole gobbles up trees and civilians, with Dr. Doom conducting) the dramatic moments fall flat. Despite Jordan and Mara’s performances, the young cast are unmatched to the film’s attempted dark, grisly tone. After so much focus on the quartet’s friendships and rivalries, the more fantastical elements of the film, including the superhero abilities, feel half-baked and ignored, with some paltry last-minute fight scenes struggling for gravitas, particularly from Teller as he squeaks out ‘No, don’t do it!’ lines to Dr. Doom, generating giggles rather than tense anticipation from the audience. The set design on Planet Zero also seems laughable, similar to Schmidt’s ‘bad trip’ from 22 Jump Street.
Apparently a sequel has been scheduled for 2017, but competing against the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and X:Men Apocalypse, Fantastic Four is running out of chances to win over the crowds.
Dir: Josh Trank
Scr: Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater, Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey
Prd: Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Robert Kulzer, Hutch Parker, Matthew Vaughn
DOP: Matthew Jensen
Music: Marco Beltrami, Philip Glass
Run time: 100 mins
Fantastic Four is in cinemas now via 20th Century Fox.