MOVIE MAN

‘Fantastic Four’ is hardly fantastic

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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Oh, my. The advance buzz was right about the “Fantastic Four.”

While the Movie Man had some hope based on previews, negative rumblings began months ago – and, boy howdy, were they right.

ABOUT THE FILM

Sometimes it takes a while to get a superhero movie right.

The Hulk went through a few efforts before studios finally figured it out.

“Reboots” have already brought two Spider-Man series, and a third is being made. Batman and Superman have also been reimagined. All those heroes, however, had been popularly and critically admired in earlier films.

Then there’s what – for decades – was Marvel’s most beloved comic, The Fantastic Four. It was Movie Boy’s favorite by far.

Yet, studios have never hit an FF movie out of the park.

Before superhero movies became hip, a cut-rate version of FF crept into theaters. Today it’s a cult hit – B king Roger Corman was involved, taking over a 1994 movie that once had a gigantic budget but was eventually made with just $1 million.

The first real FF effort came in 2005 (MM No. 621, 6); it’s a middlin’ Marvel movie. “Fantastic Four” spawned a sequel, “Rise of the Silver Surfer” (2007, MM No. 723, 6), and it was more of the same.

True believers awaited a bona fide, Iron Man/Avengers-like upgrade to launch the FF where they belong, into the upper levels of the pantheon of the Marvel universe.

This latest FF is terrible and has set Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben back years. Someday it’ll get done right – but that day looks far away.

THE PLOT (SPOILERS)

Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a boy genius who gets recruited by Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to work along with his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) to crack inter-dimensional travel.

A former rough around the edges scientist who had a go at it earlier, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebell), comes back and so does Cathey’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan).

The group succeeds, and then the men decide to not let others get credit for being the first to use their machine but hop in it themselves – after Teller calls childhood friend Ben (Jamie Bell) to come along, too.

Things go very wrong on a planet in another realm. Mara brings the guys back – minus Kebell, who falls into a glowing power source – but she gets a dose of the energy, too. Soon, the four on earth exhibit super powers – the ability to stretch (Teller), invisibility/force fields (Mara), flying fire man aka The Human Torch (Jordan) and a rocky powerhouse, The Thing (Bell).

Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) wants to use the quartet militarily. Teller runs off, Bell is already wreaking havoc on foreign battlegrounds, the Human Torch is next up and Mara hates all of it.

Kebell is not dead and Doom gets back to Earth to create a black hole to destroy the world. The Fantastic Four assemble to stop him.

WHAT WORKS

Kebell stands out as Doom. Initially a deadbeat genius who burns out to live alone and play video games, his transformation into evil is pretty good, and it looks better once the energy planet gets through with him.

There’s a quick scene of the black hole sucking up trees and cars off a bridge that’s kinda cool.

BEST SCENE

Doom is back at the laboratory where the inter-dimensional machine was created. He marches through the complex, dispatching everyone in a gory manner; the exploding heads are straight out of the beloved horror movie “Scanners.”

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

The dialogue in this movie is horrible. The Movie Man was hoping it was aping lines from actual early comics; but no, it’s just bad writing.

The film looks like it was made for a junior high class project. Director Josh Trank helmed a very good debut – “Chronicle” (2012, MM No. 968, 7) – and he swears this version of FF is nothing like he had created before the dreaded “studio interference.”

Even worse is the computer generation. The movie resembles an early ’80s second billing/straight-to-video effort with its penny-ante effects. Fox abandoned earlier planned 3-D, and that was a wise move. Bad CG in 3-D would really be bad.

The first real set piece, on the other planet’s surface, is laughably amateurish. And the climactic battle might be the worst superhero versus nemesis confrontation of all time.

None of the actors seem to fit their roles. The Movie Man loves Tim Blake Nelson, but, like the others, he’s just not good.

THE RATING

There are just a couple of naughty words. It’s the “Scanner”-esque shots and the creepiness of Doom that merit the PG-13, but it’s a mild one.

SUMMING UP

This FF is bad, really bad. If it wasn’t for “Ted 2” (MM #1145, 1), this superhero movie would be in the running for Worst of Year.

NEXT UP

The Movie Man is curious about “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” but “Straight Outta Compton” looks terrific. A tough choice.

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