Family Movie Review: Fantastic Four (PG-13)

FantasticFour ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview

FantasticFour ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 100 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. Some cursing, some violence (a fight between humans with otherworldly powers, video footage of one of the Fantastic Four killing bad guys with a tally in the dozens, and a bad guy goes on a murder spree where he blows up people’s organs/brains with his mind, leaving each victim a bloody mess), and some body horror, such as one character’s limbs stretching to a grotesque length and another bursting into flames.

‘Fantastic Four’ is a nothing of a movie, squandering intriguing promise with a plot that totally falls apart and makes barely any sense. Suffer through it at your own peril.

By Roxana Hadadi

This summer blockbuster movie season has been full of superhero movies, and all of them are better than “Fantastic Four.” This is an obviously tampered-with movie, a film that starts out one promising, darker way and ends in a meaningless, stupid, inconsequential way, a film where you can tell exactly when its talented young cast gave up. “Fantastic Four” is, in all the ways that matter for a would-be blockbuster, useless.

There’s a barely explained plot, forgettable characters, terrible CGI and special effects, and no real action sequences to speak of. There’s a bad guy, but he doesn’t really do anything, but the heroes don’t really do anything, either. So really “Fantastic Four” is just a bunch of people standing around looking confused, mirroring the same confusion you’ll be feeling. “Why did I do this?” you’ll wonder. They’re wondering it, too.

The film, the third featuring Marvel characters this summer (after “The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man”), focuses on a group of young adults working on teleportation. The first duo is nerdy, awkward Reed Richards (Miles Teller, of “Insurgent”) and loyal outsider Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell, of “Man on a Ledge”), friends since childhood who present their teleportation device at their high school science fair and are promptly disqualified. But their work is discovered by genius scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey, of “St. Vincent”), who with his daughter Sue (Kate Mara, of “Transcendence”) has been working on the same theory at the think tank the Baxter Institute.

They’re close to figuring out their understanding of teleportation, but they need Reed, so he joins them and Storm’s son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan, of “Chronicle”), and Franklin’s old protégé, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), in working on the project. Then, after months of work, they succeed—and a joyride with Ben to another dimension called Planet Zero ends in disaster. A member of the group is left behind, and the others develop strange powers: elasticized limbs, invisibility, fire, and impenetrable skin and super-strength.

How do they live with these new abilities? Are they the same people they once were? What is the horror of being unable to control your body? How close do you dance to madness? Those are clearly the questions director Josh Trank, who directed the 2012 sci-fi indie “Chronicle,” wanted to explore, because they’re the same ones brought up in that previous film. But “Fantastic Four” has about three minutes of probing at that moodiness and existential despair, and then it switches gears entirely—narratively and visually—and you can tell where the studio-forced reshoots and reworking of the film began. And none of it is successful.

It doesn’t help that the characters are barely characters: Reed is smug, Johnny is reckless, Ben is abandoned, Sue is smart, and Victor is angry. That’s all they get! And for everyone’s initially good performances, Mara and Teller clearly check out of the film midway through, and it’s unclear whether Bell did any of the acting or voice work for the Thing after he transforms because the CGI is so sloppy. All of these characters should be so sympathetic, but everything about their presentation is muddled and half-thought. And the less said about the bad guy and his plot, the better, since how the film handles both is idiotic and embarrassing.

There are glimmers of what “Fantastic Four” could have been, and that makes what it is even worse. The point of teleportation to Planet Zero is to find “answers to questions we don’t even know to ask yet,” Franklin Storm says, but the real question is why this movie was made at all. “Fantastic Four” is an unforgivable mess.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.