No part of this superhero flick is enjoyable, none of the characters are fleshed out and the vague plot leaves “Fantastic Four” (now playing in theaters) a sputtering and disappointing mess of a summer blockbuster.
In short: Young genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller) joins a research project to open a portal to a parallel dimension, a place that gives him and his friends superpowers. Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell also star. (watch the trailer)
It’s hard to imagine how or why anyone could genuinely enjoy this lumbering and muddled mess. The tone is too relentlessly grim to relax and enjoy. The characters are too flat to garner much, if any, empathy from the audience (most of them time the actors appear bored, as if they are simply reciting lines of dialogue). Which just leaves the plot — which is little more than a vague, aimless excuse to give the characters their superpowers.
“Fantastic Four” does succeed in accomplishing one impressive feat: it gives the audience zero reason to care about a single one of the five main characters (the four and their friendly rival Victor von Doom). Richards is supposed to be a genius – but the only evidence of this brilliance is the built-in plot point of Reed building an advanced machine in high school. Nothing else about his character indicates his genius-level intellect. Sue Storm (Mara) is a personality-devoid researcher who pretty much spends the movie hammering away at her keyboard in front of a computer screen. Her adopted brother Johnny Storm (Jordan) offers the closest thing to charisma in this movie – but even he’s reduced to a mechanic. Ben Grimm (Bell) is simply Reed’s friend – he has no other obvious role in the movie. Then there’s Doom – a smug and jealous genius who, for no clear reason whatsoever, makes the massive and unjustified leap from disenfranchised computer scientist to megalomaniac. And this iteration of Doom only barely resembles the Doom of the comic books – this version is just a grab-bag of odd superpowers and lacks any clear character motivation.
Any movie that so firmly insists on following with such dour, shallow characters slogging through a grim journey should at least have an overall plot that at least makes sense — and here too, “Fantastic Four” fails. The entire movie centers around the goal of traveling to “Planet Zero,” a vaguely defined parallel universe planet. In the laziest bit of writing of any film this year, Planet Zero gives the Fantastic Four their super powers — for some reason. It likewise gives Doom his powers – and turns him into a crazed villain intent on destroying Earth (again, for some ill-explained reason).
And these are just the broad strokes of this movie’s many, many problems – nevermind the jarring one-year time jump in the middle of the movie or the fact that Ben Grimm and Dr. Doom are grossly mishandled characters or the thud of an unsatisfying ending. “Fantastic Four” is a disappointing and dull waste of time – it’s simply not a fun movie to endure.
Final verdict: It’s hard to care about any movie that gives its characters zero motivation and little personality as they trudge through a bizarre and meandering series of events. The only compliment that can be paid to this debacle: at least it’s a mere 100 minutes in running time.
“Fantastic Four” is now playing in theaters nationwide. The superhero flick is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language.