Fantastic Four review: so very far from fantastic

Fantastic Four will likely teleport viewers right back to 2005 when the original movie was released. Back then, Marvel wasn’t in the business of creating”Cinematic Universes”, so superhero flicks were something of an unknown quantity. Up until then, films based on Marvel properties were usually terrible.

Recently, it seemed that Marvel could do no wrong with movies based on left-of-the-dial comics like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, holding their own next to marquee blockbusters like Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers.

Even the properties that Marvel doesn’t hold the rights to make films out of seem to be on track; 20th Century Fox created something great with X-Men: Days of Future Past, and, although polarising, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 by Sony and Columbia wasn’t half bad.

So when it was announced that Marvel was going to reboot Fantastic Four , we were hopeful. Then we sat down to watch it and, almost immediately, our hopes were dashed.

For starters, the plot is rather silly, even for a film that features a man who is basically a walking structure made from orange brickwork.

Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a young genius who manages to crack the formula for inter-dimensional travel which, we are told, is the only way to save the Earth. He teams up with Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), his sister Sue Storm (Kate Mara), childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and the not-at-all-sinisterly-named Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to construct a machine and travel to a dimension called “Zero”. This dimension, we are told, has the resources to save the polluted Earth.

As one would expect from a superhero origin story, the outing goes horribly awry and ends up gifting the inter-dimensional travellers superpowers.

The film’s first big problem is that the build-up to Reed and his mates transforming into the Fantastic Four (and Doom becoming, well, Dr Doom) feels positively glacial. If you glance at your watch at the moment everyone receives their powers, you’ll note that the film has very little time left to run.

To make matters worse,  there isn’t a single character in this movie worth any attachment or development. Teller’s young Mr. Fantastic is one of the most boring, soulless characters we’ve ever had the displeasure of watching. As the supposed leader of the team he spends most of his screen time grimacing. We’ve eaten steaks more lively than him. 

The rest of the main cast is equally dour. Bell as The Thing gets enough screen time to cement his status as “that kid from a broken home”, and when he becomes his rocky self, his brooding even surpasses Teller’s. Jordan and Mara as the super-siblings Human Torch and Invisible Woman are probably the best out of the lot, being able to play off of each other and their strained relationship with scientist father Dr. Franklin Storm (played by Reg E. Cathey). 

The plot that surrounds the team doesn’t really help matters much, as its filled with contrivances – some of which border on laughable.

Okay, so we can just about accept that only Reed Richards – a kid fresh out of high school with very little formal training – has succeeded where countless scientists, quantum physicists and engineers have failed, and discovered a means to build inter-dimensional machine. Oh, and the only person who can help him do this is his old high school chum, Ben Grimm.

However, there’s plot point in the movie where even our yearning to believe in a world where superheroes exist couldn’t keep us on track.  It occurs when the FBI and the CIA ask Sue Storm to help them track down a fugitive. Why do they ask her to do this? Because she’s interested in patterns and music.

That’s right, the FBI and the CIA turn to a teenager for help finding someone because of her love of patterns and music. Leave your brain at the door.

So the plot’s a mess and the performances aren’t great, but these aren’t necessarily deal breakers – especially if the special effects and action set pieces are up to scratch. Sadly this isn’t the case here as the CGI used to represent the Fantastic Four’s superpowers is rather mediocre.

The Invisible Woman’s powers look the best, but that’s a bit of a cheat considering all the editors and artists needed to do was erase recorded footage.  The Human Torch is deeply disturbing to watch as the CGI makes him look like a human being burned alive in front of our eyes rather than a character who can wield fire.

Dr.Doom has a set of nebulous, mind-exploding powers, that were interesting to watch even if his character wasn’t. The Thing is a pile of rocks. And then there’s Mr. Fantastic. He looked ridiculous in 2005 and he looks even worse in this serious setting. Some of the scenes involving him using his powers border on slapstick.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a movie fail on so many fronts. We’re sure those more knowledgeable of the comics will find an entire new list of problems separate to our own, but we try to judge a movie on its own merits and in this instance, the Fantastic Four is found wanting.

Verdict Not worth the time or money to see it. If you feel have to, we suggest waiting for DVD… or streaming media… or YouTube. 10%


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