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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 11, 2015

Fantastic Four Review: Not Fantastic At All

THE QUARTET of Marvel comic book mutant superheroes created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961, “Fantastic Four”, got its big movie version in 2005, with Chris Evans, Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd and Michael Chiklis in the title roles. It’s not really that good but it made money so there was a sequel in 2007, “Rise of the Silver Surfer”, which unfortunately was not as successful at the tills as the first one, so there were no more sequels after that.

Now, ten years later, they do a reboot of the “Fantastic Four” origin story with a new cast, a new director. And it’s just awful. The story begins with a 5th grade boy science whiz, Reed Richards, trying to invent a teleportation device with the help of his friend, Ben Grimm, with hilarious results. Cut to 7 years later. At their high school science fair, Reed (Miles Teller of “Whiplash”) presents his invention and his demo impresses Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey, the ribs restaurant owner in “House of Cards”) and his adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara.)

Dr. Storm offers Reed a scholarship to continue his research in the secret Baxter Institute for brainy kids. There, he meets Dr. Storm’s problem son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and the weird computer genius, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbel). Reed succeeds in perfecting his teleportation device and successfully sends a monkey to a planet in another dimension then also succeeds in bringing it back.

When they learned that government people want to send astronauts through Reed’s device, Reed and Victor decide to be the pioneers themselves, along with Johnny and Ben (Jamie Bell). As maybe expected, things go dreadfully wrong while they were on the alien planet. Only Reed, Johnny and Ben are able to comeback and Victor is left behind. It’s Sue who helps bring them back and the explosion upon their return also affects her.

They become mutants, with Sue becoming invisible, Johnny becoming the Human Torch, Reed having a rubberized body that can be stretched to various lengths and Ben transforming into the Thing that is made of various rocks. The government, represented by Tim Blake Nelson, wants to use them as military weapons.
The four mutants decide to go back to the alien planet and they find out that Victor has become a super villain with amazing powers and wants to destroy Earth. Of course, it becomes the mission of the four mutants to join forces and, together, save our planet.

The movie is directed by Josh Trank, who was more successful in the smaller film, “Chronicle”, about a group of kids who acquire super powers that they have to learn how to deal with when one of them runs amuck. It’s obvious that the new “Fantastic Four” is very similar to the story of “Chronicle”, which has its own merits. The problem is that Trank seems to have run out of new ideas when given the chance to do a big mainstream film like Marvel’s new version of “Fantastic Four”.

More than anything else, his reboot is just limp, tedious viewing. Very slowly paced and told without much humor, it just takes so long for him and his co-writers to set up and develop the story and nothing exciting really happens in the movie’s first half. Also, aside from Reed and Ben, they’re not successful in establishing a bond between the four characters who become superheroes. When Victor Von Doom returns, it’s not fully explained how he exactly gained his own very special powers that can make him pop humans like in the movie “Scanners”.

Add to this the fact that the actors they employed all have lackluster presence and give unimpressive performances. Teller might be a good drummer in “Whiplash” but he’s certainly not that convincing as a super smart science geek who doesn’t even know how to do a fist bump. Kate Mara is so miscast as the Invisible Girl as she simply has a boring screen presence, while Jamie Bell is quickly eclipsed by his own CGI alter ego when he becomes the Thing. Michael B. Jordan (who was in “Chronicle”) is the most appealing of the four but his role as a rebel son is badly written. And yes, Chris Evans did much better in the same role. Toby Kebbel as Dr. Doom is simply not scary enough.

All told, this uninspired adaptation simply misses the mark in these days of fast-paced, action-filled slambang superhero flicks like “The Avengers”. It fails to entertain and we won’t be surprised if what Dr. Doom failed to do, destroy the Fantastic Four, this movie has succeeded in doing.