The latest attempt to reboot the Fantastic Four, courtesy of Chronicle director Josh Trank, is neither fish nor fowl. The film tries to be too many things and fails to be any of them in a truly satisfying way.
For one thing, the origin story feels painfully slow. At least the previous, not particularly fantastic Fantastic Four movies got the science-y accident that turns them into superheroes out of the way quickly. By contrast, here our fantastic leads Reed Richards aka Mr Fantastic (Miles Teller), Johnny Storm aka Human Torch (Michael B Jordan), Sue Storm aka Invisible Woman (Kate Mara) and Ben Grimm aka The Thing (Jamie Bell) seem to take an age to hop into that alternative dimension – a dimension that also turns their other science chum Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) into super-villain Dr Doom. Incidentally, this Dr Doom looks like an evil version of Bicentennial Man with a convenient cloak he presumably found whilst in inter-dimensional exile.
Yet the film somehow manages to feel rushed as well. A staple of origin stories is to mine scenes depicting superheroes coming to terms with their new found powers for comedy (as in Superman, Spiderman, etc). Here we are offered no such pleasure, merely a “one year later” caption, implying much footage may languish on the cutting room floor as a casualty of the troubled production history.
Although the film contains a clutch of acting talent, the screenplay never really allows them the opportunity to shine. Instead it tries at first to evoke teen indie drama, before evolving into science fiction movie with hints of Cronenbergian body horror, then settling for a brief and frankly rather anaemic conventional superhero action finale. Overall, this feels like a film that wants to be much darker, but isn’t allowed to be.
It isn’t terrible exactly. We aren’t talking Michael Bay levels of ghastliness. But this Fantastic Four is wildly uneven; lacking pace, wit and action. It is, at best, deeply, deeply average. Certainly it fails to follow through on any of the promise Trank displayed in Chronicle. If you want a superhero fix this summer, go and see Antman instead.