“Fantastic Four” lowers the bar for superhero movies, features half-baked ideas, provides zero satisfaction

Charles Liu

The “Fantastic Four” reboot flat-out sucks.

It’s a shame, too, because the film possesses a great cast and the director, Josh Trank, helmed the surprisingly effective “Chronicle.” The pieces of an excellent picture are there. But, bizarrely enough, “Craptastic Four” plays as if it has been hacked apart and desperately re-cobbled together to make its release date.

The movie begins with Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (Miles Teller), a young prodigy who develops teleportation technology. He shows off his teleporter at the high school science fair with his best friend, Ben Grimm/the Thing (Jamie Bell), drawing the attention of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter, Sue/the Invisible Woman (Kate Mara).

Franklin recruits Reed to join an elite group of scientists working on teleportation into another universe. Among them are Sue, her hot-headed brother Johnny/the Human Torch (Michael B. Jordan) and the arrogant Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell).

The slow-paced first act focuses more on the creation of a teleportation machine rather than on the characters. Much of their dialogue concerns using the teleportation machine to find humanity a new home and save it, but they never say what Earth needs to be saved from.

The cast does what it can with a shoddy script. Jordan fares best, oozing charisma while Teller, Mara, Bell and Kebbell fail to stand out. The movie assumes viewers will accept that their characters have become friends by the midway point, neglecting to establish their relationships through little more than a quick montage.

When the characters complete the machine, the government steps in and prevents them from operating it. Reed, Johnny and Victor get drunk and decide to use it anyway, inviting Ben, who had nothing to do with the project, to join them while inexplicably leaving Sue behind. Perhaps she’s invisible in more ways than one.

Things go wrong when the guys travel into the parallel universe and Victor apparently perishes. The remaining three return to Earth, causing an explosion that gives them and Sue their powers.

Trank frames the aftermath in terrifying light, demonstrating how scary it is for the characters to harness their abilities. Only during these scenes of body horror does “Freaky Fantastic Four” become briefly, genuinely compelling.

Then it skips ahead one year.

Any sense of discovery and adventure is absent; the characters’ adjustment to their powers is entirely ignored. Instead, the film gives them 20 long minutes to continually whine about their lives while the military studies their bodies. It’s understandable for the characters to be emotionally damaged, but the script fails to deeply explore their trauma.

The half-hearted attempts at human drama are so boring that viewers will desperately wish for something — anything — to happen.

They’ll have their prayers answered when Victor/Dr. Doom finally shows up during the last 20 minutes. Don’t expect to be afraid of him, though – this iteration of Doom looks like a Tim Burton rendition of C-3PO.

The film doesn’t properly explain why Victor has turned evil, but the filmmakers clearly don’t care enough to distract viewers from his murky motivations with some good action: There’s only one actual fight in “Un-Fantastic Four.”


One awful fight.

Unconvincing, “video-gamey” special effects drag down the already uninspired choreography. The battle’s setting is bland and uncreative, and it’s obvious the actors are standing in front of a green screen.

“Fant-Four-Stick” is an undisputed failure. Its overly serious story is only partially formed and the characters don’t learn anything. As a result, there’s no real sense of triumph at the end.  The movie spitballs ideas about scientific arrogance, fame and family, then drops them in favor of a dumbed-down climax. It attempts to be a hard sci-fi, horror, and action film all at once, and ends up being none of those things.

Don’t waste your money on this. Want to see a real “Fantastic Four” movie? Go watch “The Incredibles.”

Title: “Fantastic Four”

Running Time: 100 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Score: 2/10