Screening locally at Alnwick Playhouse on Saturday, September 26; and Berwick Maltings on Saturday, September 5, and Saturday, September 12.
If at first you don’t succeed, please gracefully admit defeat.
That would be my heartfelt advice to filmmakers, who have been striving for decades to bring Marvel Comics’ longest running superhero team to life on the big screen.
A low budget Fantastic Four shot in 1993 and produced by Roger Corman was never released and a vapid 2005 blockbuster starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis spawned an equally dull sequel two years later.
Now Josh Trank, who helmed the slick sci-fi fantasy Chronicle, attempts to reboot the franchise with a hip, young cast but similarly depressing results.
The opening chapters of most superhero film series only have to illuminate one origin story but Fantastic Four has the unenviable task of putting flesh on the bones of a quartet of distinctly different protagonists and their mentally unhinged arch-nemesis. Regrettably, the three scriptwriters don’t possess the powers of brevity or wit, daubing characters in broad strokes in between high-volume, low-thrills action set pieces. The only thing remotely ‘fantastic’ about Trank’s film is that he has limited our suffering to 100 minutes.
Be exceedingly grateful for small mercies.
Miles Teller, who was mesmerising in Whiplash, squanders his talent as Reed Richards, an inquisitive student from Oyster Bay, New York, who creates a “cymatic matter shuttle” with best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) that transports objects between two realms. Dr Franklin Storm (Reg E Cathey), Dean of the Baxter Institute, offers Reed a scholarship to realise his dream of inter-dimensional travel as part of a privately funded team that includes Storm’s adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), hot-headed son Johnny (Michael B Jordan) and computer scientist Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell).
Disaster strikes during the first teleportation and Victor is lost, presumed dead. The survivors recuperate with “aggressively abnormal conditions” at a classified facility known as Area 57. Reed can stretch his human form to outrageous lengths and Sue can become invisible and generate force fields. Johnny can set himself ablaze and take flight while Ben is cocooned inside stone armour and can perform feats of incredible strength.
Baxter Institute board member Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) intends to sell the survivors to the highest military bidder but US government subterfuge is a trifling distraction from the destruction wrought by Victor, when he returns to our world as megalomaniacal super-villain Dr Doom.
Fantastic Four delivers a soulless blitzkrieg of wanton destruction, hung limply on an undernourished screenplay. The good-looking ensemble cast struggles to be seen and heard above the digitally-generated din and Trank’s film is devoid of jeopardy, even when Dr Doom conjures a black hole to bring about mankind’s downfall.
Part of us secretly hopes he succeeds. Total annihilation is a small price to rule out the possibility of a Fantastic Four sequel.