‘Fantastic Four’ actors are likeable, believable

Ron and Leigh Martel Movie Reviewers, The Friday Flyer.

Ron and Leigh Martel
Movie Reviewers, The Friday Flyer.

Here we go again. After Hollywood created a seemingly endless string of blockbusters with comic book superheroes (and their sequels), it seems they have exhausted their supply. So, it’s time for another reboot; or, as they now call it, re-imagining.

Released a full decade after the last Fantastic Four, this new generation of charismatic actors are prepared to anchor this flagship enterprise back to the future.

Led by Miles Tellers (“Whiplash”) as brainiac Reed Richards, Michael B. Jordan, as Johnny Storm, Kate Mara, as his sister Sue Storm and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm, they are ready for this week’s battle of the century. However, this is mostly an origins story of how they came to be. It starts out fascinating enough, but for some reason, the story plods along, a little too sluggish and protracted to be as effective as it could be.

The actors are talented, likeable and believable, so the audience is drawn from the outset. Young Reed shares plans for a teleportation device on career day and then demonstrates a working model at his high school science fair with buddy Ben by his side. Of course, the teachers make every attempt to stifle his creativity and imagination.

Fortunately, Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), from the Baxter Foundation, and his daughter Sue attend the fair and understand the potential for Reed’s invention. They offer him a full scholarship at their institute. Sue asks Reed, “You want to be famous?” Reed responds, “I just want my work to make a difference.”

The Foundation Board is losing patience, saying, “Dr. Storm, we gave you six years and billions of dollars, and you gave us nothing. What’s different, now?” The good doctor responds, “Reed Richards knows answers to questions we don’t even know to ask.” At the school, the benevolent Dr. Storm laments the past, but challenges his students, “The failures of my generation are the opportunities of yours.”

Needed to complete the project is former student Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). Victor is moody, temperamental and resents authority but trusts Sue, on whom he seems to have a crush. Needless to say, Victor resents Reed as a threat but grudgingly works toward their mutual goal. Upon completion, the government is ready to take it over.

To ensure credit for their invention, Reed, Victor, Johnny and Ben hop in the machine and teleport to the alternate universe. Unexpectedly, an unstable energy force physically alters each in a different way. As a result, Reed’s limbs are flexibly extended, Johnny can fly and ignite at will, Ben has turned into a monstrous “Thing,” (of CGI rocks) and Victor is left behind. Upon re-entry, Sue gains an ability to turn invisible.

Changed forever, they must learn to harness their new powers and work together to save Earth. Dr. Storm encourages them, “With every new discovery, there is risk, but we are stronger together than apart.” The government is not convinced, saying, “You put a lot of faith in these guys.” Dr. Storm quickly responds, “I put all of my faith in them.”

Actor Michael B. Jordan explains this a story of “a bunch of kids that had an accident and have disabilities that they now have to cope with, and try to find a life afterwards.” This is more of an adventure and sci-fi drama than a superhero action film, which draws a certain appeal. But for some, the deliberate (slow) pace detracts from the story.”

“Fantastic Four” is 100 minutes and rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language. This is Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team. Director Josh Trank (“Chronicles”) who co-wrote with Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater, struggled with the producers of this film and was ordered to reshoot much of the film after initial cuts.

Trank reportedly abused funds and displayed erratic and isolated behavior on the set. Apparently, he was unable and/or unwilling to offer a clear direction for the story he wanted to tell, which continuously delayed production. Although made by Fox, Marvel was so upset, they portrayed likenesses of the cast members in their recent comic getting blown to smithereens in an explosion. Yikes, comics are serious business!

Ron’s Rating: C   Leigh’s Rating: A-

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