See, here’s what other people — fanboys and critics — missed in condemning those earlier film incarnations of “Fantastic Four.”
They were childish, and intentionally so — aimed at a younger audience. Action pictures with training wheels, they were a gateway experience for smaller children looking to get hooked on comic book movies. As such, they were jokey, self-mocking, a perfectly pleasant riff on “comic book movie,” because the filmmakers didn’t take them so life-or-death seriously. You’ve got characters named Victor Von Doom and Johnny Storm, for Pete’s Sake. It’s a lark.
Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis got this. The rest of the casting wasn’t great, the stories were lame, but the tone worked — at least in the first one.
The new “Fantastic Four” fails even in those modest ambitions. It’s a joyless relaunch/re-imaging of the origin story of four folks given fantastic powers thanks to their encounters with an other-dimensional “beyond.”
We meet Reed Richards as a child genius, whose “teleportation” science projects no one will take seriously, especially his dork science teacher.
Cut to his teen years, and Reed (Miles Teller of “Whiplash”) and his still-faithful friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) have made that project work. That’s when Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) discovers him and recruits him for his team. Kate Mara is Sue Storm, his adopted daughter, Michael B. Jordan is Johnny Storm, his son, and Tobey Kebbell is Victor Von Doom, the misanthropic genius of the group.
They’ll crack this “Quantum Gate” gadget, travel to another dimension and “save the Earth” with what they discover there.
Tim Blake Nelson is the financier/overlord of this project, the first guy to sell out when the government gets interested.
But there’s an accident. Five (including Ben) are impacted, given ruinously disruptive powers — invisibility, flying in flames, invincibility and…stretchiness.
They are put to work by the government, special operations, learning to tame their powers, etc.
But one “fantastic” figure hasn’t come back. And when he does…
I like the prologue, with Ben Grimm’s abused childhood in a junkyard (His bully brother is the one who invented “It’s CLOBBERIN’ Time!”). But the moment the kids show up at Professor Xavier…Dr. Franklin’s “Baxter Institute,” it’s all “Let’s just get on with this so we can all go home” dull.
The fanboy outrage over this one began with the casting of a black actor as Johnny Storm and continues with the “ruining” of Dr. Doom. Please.
This is merely the most comic booky of the piffle that’s being churned out by Marvel and anybody else who gets their hands on this material. “Four” distinguishes itself from its far superior pulpy fiction brothers and sisters in its utter lack of gravitas and wit. Not that co-writer/director Josh Trank (“Chronicle”) realized that.
“I just want to make a difference.”
It’s got weak villains and graphic violence, and a cast that seems content to collect a check. Expectations were low, across the board, and Fox has met them.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language
Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B.Jordan, Jamie Bell, Tobey Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson
Credits: Directed by Josh Trank, script
Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank. A Marvel/Fox release.
Running time: 1:42