Geez, “Fantastic Four,” that was disappointing.
At 100 minutes, this reboot spends the vast majority of its time laying out an origin story, and then with about 15 minutes left, seems to remember it’s supposed to be an action movie. The film manages to feel both drawn out and truncated at the same time.
Which is unfortunate because there’s nothing seriously wrong with the first five-sixths of the film (OK, it’s a bit slow, but most origin stories are). Your average “Avengers” or “Batman” flick goes on for 130-150 minutes. “Fantastic Four” takes its time establishing its heroes and then lets them throw only a few punches before saying goodbye, see you at the sequel.
To be honest, “Fantastic Four” has some problems built right in. Getting The Thing, with his orange-boulder exterior, to look realistic in any way seems to still be beyond the bounds of movie magic. And the super-stretchy powers of Mr. Fantastic are more than a bit cartoony.
Still, this movie fails simply in terms of execution. Directed by Josh Trank — who only has one other feature, “Chronicle,” on his resume —and co-written by Trank, Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater, the film’s dynamic is completely off, offering too much build and too little payoff.
Miles Teller stars as Reed Richards, a bright young boy who’s trying to build a teleportation device. Befriended early on by tough kid Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Richards succeeds by the time he’s in high school and earns a scholarship to The Baxter Institute (who’s Baxter?), where he comes under the tutelage of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and makes friends with his adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara).
It turns out Reed has been teleporting things to another dimension. Now they want to teleport humans there (suuuch a good idea). Brought in to help with the work are Sue’s occasionally bad-boy brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), and brilliant ex-student Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). Everybody who’s ever met someone named Von Doom raise your hand.
Anyway, they get their contraption working and the guys decide to take it for a joy ride. Reed calls up his old pal, Grimm, and asks if he wants to take a trip in an experimental gizmo to an unknown dimension for fun. Uh, sure, Ben says.
So zap, they go to the place, and things go wrong. Victor gets left behind, the tainted Reed, Ben and Johnny come back to Earth, but their contraption explodes near Sue, so she gets covered in inter-dimensional cooties, as well.
And voila, now they’re the Fantastic Four. Johnny can light up like a torch, Sue masters invisibility and force field bubbles, Reed is all elastic and Ben is a super-strong rock collection.
And that’s most of the movie. Meet our heroes. Now say goodbye to our heroes.
Let this be a cautionary example for super-hero filmmakers (looking at you, upcoming “Spider-Man” reboot): It doesn’t all have to be about the origin story. The Fantastic Four have been around since 1961. A whole lot of people already know the background story and probably even more don’t care.
Just get down to things. We will understand the big orange-rock guy is strong. We’ll get it when the other guy bursts into flames. It’s a super-hero world. But apparently, not necessarily a super super-hero movie world.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, violence and language
Running time: 100 minutes