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Fantastic Four | Film review - Relaunch of Marvel's superhero quartet comes crashing to earth

THE FANTASTIC FOUR
(Image credit: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fo)
(Image credit: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fo)

A successor to Roger Corman’s unreleased low-budget 1990s effort and a brace of mediocre big-budget movies from the mid-2000s, the latest attempt to re-launch the Marvel Comics' quartet comes crashing down with a resounding thud. Fantastic Four (opens in new tab)? Fantastically poor more like.

A rebooted origins story, the film drains the spark from four talented young actors – Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, Kate Mara and Michael B Jordan – with clunky dialogue and a crushingly dull narrative. The special effects aren’t that special, either.

Teller, so charismatic playing a young music prodigy in last year’s Whiplash (opens in new tab), is surprisingly bland as a young science prodigy here. He’s geeky high-school whiz Reed Richards, whose invention of a matter transportation device offers the possibility of inter-dimensional travel. Unfortunately, director and co-writer Josh Trank, maker of the far more inventive low-budget sci-fi thriller Chronicle, takes an age to put the gizmo to use.

THE FANTASTIC FOUR

(Image credit: Ben Rothstein)

After a good deal of ponderous scene setting, Reed and his childhood buddy Ben Grimm (Bell) eventually embark on an unsanctioned trip to newly discovered Planet Zero, along with a couple of young colleagues from the Baxter Institute to which Reed belongs, hot-rodder Johnny Storm (Jordan), son of the academy’s dean, and tetchy rival Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell).

Of course, the mission to the energy-rich planet goes wrong. Von Doom gets stranded there and the other three barely make it back. When they do, they discover that they now possess strange superpowers, as does Johnny’s adopted sister Sue, who stayed behind in the Baxter lab.

Sue has the ability to become invisible, Johnny can turn himself into a human torch, Reed’s body has become incredibly elastic and Ben, drawing the short straw, has been transformed into hulking rock creature The Thing.

But Trank has spent so long getting to this point that when the foursome finally start flexing their powers, the action feels perfunctory and unexciting. The previous Fantastic Four films could hardly have set the bar much lower, yet Trank barely clears it.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 100 mins. Director Josh Trank. http://youtube.com/v/wuV4BCYv-YY

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.