‘Fantastic Four’ (2015) review: Flame out!

‘Fantastic Four’ reboot a catastrophic misfire, despite its stellar cast

There’s a charm hidden deep within the latest reboot of “Fantastic Four.” I mean center-of-the-Earth deep, but it’s there, adding a spark of life to an otherwise lackluster superhero-origin film. And it’s a shame, because you really want to root for these young heroes, but all you actually end up doing is rooting for the film to end.

Drawing not from the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby source material (the duo created the superhero team, their first, in 1961) like the 2005 film but rather from the “Ultimate Fantastic Four” comic series from 2004, the film spends a great deal of its first half explaining how a group of nerdy teenagers came to have incredible superpowers. It then proceeds to squander that serviceable beginning, replete with charming performances and somewhat-believable backstories, with nonsense action sequences and outlandish plot lines. (Yes, it’s a Marvel film, but that’s no excuse for trying to pass off garbage as a gourmet meal.)

But before we get to the black hole that is this story (oh, and there’s an actual black hole in the story), we have to return to a time of precocious children and advanced science. A fifth-grade Reed Richards dreams of teleportation, and he lets us know he’s already working on a machine to make that dream come true. Enter classmate Ben Grimm. His parents own a junkyard, which serves as a perfect source of material for our young engineers.

Jump forward seven years. and Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) are ready to show their work at a science fair. Their “cymatic matter shuttle” is, to say the least, unimpressive. However, it does attract the attention of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg. E. Cathey), the dean of the Baxter Institute, which serves as a kind of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters but in the “Fantastic Four” story.

At this point, the rest of team starts to come into the fray: Storm’s adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara); her always-getting-into-trouble brother, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan); and Victor “I’m not going to turn evil, I promise” von Doom (Toby Kebbell). You can see the future unfolding as you read this, I’m sure.

The ragtag group soon turns its attention to Reed and Grimm’s project, now called the “Quantum Gate Project,” which can teleport people to another world in another dimension. Here, apparently, lies the answers to everything ailing Earth. Of course.

Up until now, the film, while far from award-winning, possessed some charm. Its talented young cast, clearly eyeing a lucrative franchise future, bring some believable earnestness to the screen and allowing for some audience connection. But that only lasts until the situation turns comically ridiculous.

Because, if you didn’t see it coming, something goes horribly wrong with all this teleportation to other dimensions. In short notice, our spunky adventures find themselves imbued with superhero abilities: Reed becomes the stretchy Mr. Fantastic; Sue now is the Invisible Woman (with self-explainable powers); her brother, Johnny, ignites into the Human Torch; and Grimm gets the short end of the stick with his less-than-appealing transformation into the Thing. As for von Doom? His last name is von Doom. Enough said.

At this point, the wheels of the entire film start to fall off. Gone is the quirky story of friendship working together toward a common goal. Now we have poorly animated fight sequences and a plot that forgoes any critical thinking. Oh, and for reason our charismatic leads turn leaden and awkward, and it has nothing to do with them being teenagers. For having newfound powers, our heroes couldn’t really seem to care less, except when fighting for their lives in some of the worst special effects of the year. You’d think 20th Century Fox would be able to spring for something that didn’t look like a Saturday morning cartoon. Speaking of fighting: The final sequence, with the Fantastic Four using their abilities to save the world, is outright dull.

In the end, there’s little reason to watch past the first half of “Fantastic Four.” And it’s a shame, because there’s more than a bit of charm in that first half that deserved to be given a chance to breathe in the second. But sloppy scripting and terrible action sequences mixed with the boredom that permeates the film’s second half ruin whatever good will the franchise had left. It’s not until the end of the movie that the foursome adopted the moniker of the Fantastic Four, but if this is all they offer, they’d be better off calling themselves the Fantastic Bore.

One “These powers aren’t spread out evenly” stars out of five.

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