Friday, June 3, 2016

Fantastic Bore

Fantastic Four (2015): based on the comic book created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee; written by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, and Josh Trank; directed by Josh Trank; starring Miles Teller (Reed Richards/ Mr. Fantastic), Michael B. Jordan (Johnny Storm/ Human Torch), Kate Mara (Sue Storm/ Invisible Girl), Jamie Bell (Ben Grimm/ The Thing), Toby Kebbell (Victor Von Doom/ Doctor Doom), and Reg E. Cathey (Franklin Storm):

A truly misguided effort sucks all the fun out of Marvel's first family of superheroes. Writer-director Josh Trank got this gig on the basis of Chronicle, his found-footage film about teen-agers with super-powers gone horribly wrong. And there are moments in Fantastic Four that would make for a great superhero movie just so long as it wasn't about the Fantastic Four. Our heroes were some of the first whose origins were presented straightforwardly by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee as moments of Body Horror. Some of that remains here, and it's the best thing about the movie.

Unfortunately, the movie is slow, ponderous, and weighed down with characters who seem to have been written to be as annoying as possible. Following the lead of Marvel's revisionist Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book (not by Lee and Kirby), our heroes are all teen-agers now, while Doctor Doom is only a few years older. None of this helps. The actors, especially Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, do their best with the awful material. This isn't their fault. 

The movie pretty much throws away everything that made the original FF awesome, from the bickering, nearly soap-operatic melodrama to the low-comedy hi-jinks of The Thing and The Human Torch to the looming menace of Doctor Doom, here reduced to an angry crash-test dummy with ill-defined super-powers. The FF no longer get their powers by being heroic in a very early 1960's way (they want to beat the Soviets into manned orbit). Now they get drunk and take their goofy-ass transdimensional Stargate out for an ill-advised test drive. What larks, Pip!

It's all really pretty terrible, and as boring as Hell for long stretches. I think Josh Trank could do a great job on certain revisionist superhero properties -- or preferably on his own creations. This movie made me long for the goofy mediocrity of the early oughts FF movies. And I had to read 200 pages of classic Kirby/Lee Fantastic Four to get this movie out of my head. Also, whoever thought taking away The Thing's blue shorts was a good idea should be fired. Now. Forever. Not recommended.

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